OTPIC Officially Retired

As of December 2, 2005, the Online Training Program on Intractable Conflict (OTPIC) has been officially retired, and is no longer open to new registrations.

The successor to OTPIC is a course called Dealing Constructively with Intractable Conflicts (DCIC). The new curriculum is built around one of our major projects, Beyond Intractability, and offers a much more extensive and informative set of learning materials than that available through OTPIC.

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International Online Training Program On Intractable Conflict

Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, USA

Conflict of Interest Rules

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Conflicts of interest arise whenever an individual's private, personal interests conflict with their other conflict-related responsibilities. A conflict of interest arises when a supposedly neutral intermediary benefits personally from an agreement or decision which resolves a dispute in a particular way. In a dispute between labor and management, for example, a mediator who owns stock in the company would probably benefit from a pro-management decision. As a result, he or she would be tempted to act in ways which favor management. Even in cases where the intermediary took their responsibilities seriously and acted in a professional and impartial manner, there would still be an appearance of bias which would lead many to conclude that the decision or agreement was unfair. Conflicts of interest  arise with a variety of conflict-related roles including mediator, arbitrator, judge, legislator, advisor (to one of the parties), and, even, news reporters.

If not corrected, this problem can substantially reduce public support for efforts to handle conflicts more constructively. To avoid this problem intermediaries with potential conflicts of interest are commonly asked to withdraw from the dispute and turn their responsibilities over to someone who truly has no personal stake in the outcome of the dispute. In some cases, there may be formal legal requirements which prevent conflict of interest from arising by providing parties with a mechanism through which they can force the removal of the biased (or, potentially biased) intermediaries. In other cases there are voluntary, though still strongly supported, ethical standards are relied upon the prevent conflicts of interest from arising.

There are also cases in which intermediaries with such a strong reputation for fairness are accepted by all parties even though they have a personal stake in the outcome. This form of "insider partial" mediation is actually more common than the outsider neutral model in many parts of the world.   In these cases the conflict process tends to shift away from one focused upon neutral intermediaries and toward one focused upon solid, interest based negotiation between the parties., facilitated by an intermediary who is well known and trusted by the people on all sides.

Links to Examples
Norway's Back-channel Success Story
One of the reasons Norway succeeded in these negotiations while other mediators (such as the U.S.) had not, the author suggests, is its lack of any conflicts of interest such as those the superpowers have.
John Paul Lederach --  Central American Conflict Resolution
This article discusses the Central American approach to conflict resolution, including insider-partial mediation.
John Paul Lederach -- Who Mediates in Developing Countries?
This short article also discusses the Central American approach to mediation, supplementing the information in the previous article.
Clem McCarthy -- Conflict Resolution In Northern Ireland: Reconciling Form and Substance
This is a short article about a Northern Ireland peace process that was carried out by insider-partial mediators, rather than outsider-neutrals.
John Paul Lederach -- From War to Peace

Links to Related Solutions

Utilize a Skilled, Credible Third Party

Insider-Partial Mediation


Links to Related Problems

Third Party Not Effective or Credible

Vested Interests


Copyright 1998 Conflict Research Consortium  -- Contact: crc@colorado.edu