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 Communication Mechanisms

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In a crisis, communication mechanisms are more important than ever, yet without precrisis planning, crisis communication tends to get worse, or even non-existent. By planning for potential crisis situations ahead of time, however, communication channels can be already in place, ready to be used when needed.  The best-known example of such communication mechanisms, are perhaps "hotlines."  These are direct phone lines between opposing leaders--for example there has been one for some time between the President of the U.S. and the Soviet (or now Russian) leaders.  This line was note used for routine conversations, but was ready on a moment's notice if a crisis occurred (such as the Cuban Missile Crisis).

Other approaches to crisis communication involve standing fact-finding or rumor control teams which try to prevent unfounded rumors from spreading and unnecessarily escalating already tense situations.  Also important are protocols for increasing, rather than decreasing communication with opponents during a crisis.  If opponents meet before a crisis develops and work out contingency plans, so that each knows how to respond if a crisis appears imminent, steps can be taken to de-escalate the crisis in planned ways. 

They key factor in all of these approaches is that crises increase the need for rapid, accurate information. Thus frequent, accurate, and effective communication both within one's own group as well as with the opposition becomes critically important.   Some ways of achieving this goal are discussed in the examples, below.

Links to Examples of Crisis Communication Mechanisms
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.
Alexander George -- The Cuban Missile Crisis
This article defines the communication that took place during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Information Technologies Can Help
One of the advantages of the current rapid communication technologies is that it enables people to exchange information much faster and more accurately in times of crisis.   (This, however, can be a detriment as well, as people have less time to "cool down" between hostile exchanges.)

Links to Outside Sources of Information

USIP-Managing Communications:   Lessons from Interventions in Africa

Links to Related Approaches

Crisis Management

Opening Lines of Communication

Rumor Control Teams

Links to Related Problems


Crisis Communication


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