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

Crisis Management

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There are at least three main strategies for dealing more sensibly with crisis situations. First, mechanisms can be put into place which provide decision-makers with much quicker access to reliable information. Crisis control centers offer one option.   In order to reduce the risk that military confrontation would result from misinterpreting the meaning of military force movements, opposing countries can establish crisis information centers with access to up-to-the-moment information about the status of their respective military forces. Direct and instantaneous communication links between the two centers provides a mechanism for correcting potentially dangerous misunderstandings and negotiating crisis reduction steps.

Another common approach is contingency planning, in which the parties carefully think about everything that could happen and then develop detailed plans for responding to each situation. While it is important for the parties not become overly committed to these contingency plans and retain a willingness to modify plans as the situation requires, contingency planning can  give the parties more time to identify and evaluate alternative strategies. This prior evaluation can also make it easier to identify and avoid strategies which can lead to crisis situations without good options.

Also important are steps which deliberately slow down the pace of the confrontation and give the parties the more opportunities to carefully consider their options.  For example, military forces might be re-structured in ways which automatically impose delays in crisis situations. In a situation where military forces are fully mobilized and facing each other on the border, all-out hostilities could develop in a matter of moments--denying the parties a chance to think things through carefully. This situation might, however, be avoided by an agreement to station troops far from the border and placing limits on the ability of each side transport soldiers to likely areas of combat. This would create a more lengthy mobilization period in which the parties would have to reassess the situation before before deciding on a course of action.

The introduction of delay-producing mechanisms is more problematic in situations where delays might allow one or more parties to expand their power base sufficiently to alter the outcome of a dispute. A classic example involves military units which are on the brink of defeat. In this case, a cease-fire might give them the time to strengthen their defenses, secure reinforcements, or mobilize world opinion against their opponent. The party on the verge of victory might, understandably, oppose such delays.

Simulation exercises (often referred to as "war games" in the military context) can also play a useful role. Such simulations can give key parties the chance to practice their crisis decision making in much  the same way that airline pilots use simulators to practice dealing with emergencies.


Links to Examples

William Ury, Beyond the Hotline
Ury wrote this book to encourage U.S. citizens to pressure the President and Congress to set up additional crisis control measures--beyond the hotline--to try to prevent nuclear war between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.  Even though the Cold War is over, the suggestions Ury made are still highly appropriate for other tense international relationships.
William Ury and Richard Smoke -- Anatomy of a Crisis
The authors describe the basic elements of a crisis, including escalation processes, and also examine ways to defuse crises.
Alexander George -- The Cuban Missile Crisis
This is another example of a crisis and the process used to manage it.

Links to Related Approaches

Cooling-Off Periods

Treating Escalation


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