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


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De-escalation is the reduction in the intensity of a conflict.  Sometimes this occurs quickly, when a conflict escalates rapidly to the point where the parties fear that further escalation will be catastrophic, and they back off.  (This occurred in the Cuban Missile Crisis between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. which escalated, and then de-escalated rapidly, since both sides feared further escalation would cause nuclear war.)   More often, however, de-escalation does not occur until the parties have reached a prolonged "hurting stalemate"--a term developed by Saadia Touval and William Zartman to refer to a situation in which neither side can prevail, but both sides are being harmed by continuing the confrontation.  Once both sides realize this is the case, they are much more likely to be willing to negotiate at least a temporary settlement of the conflict.  But as long as at least one side thinks it can win, de-escalation is harder to achieve. 

Unlike escalation, which often occurs rapidly and unintentionally, de-escalation tends to be slow and only happens intentionally through much effort.  A variety of approaches are possible:  the gradual reciprocal reduction in tension approach (GRIT), cooling off periods, media management, changing communication strategies and patterns, and others.  More details are given below in the individual de-escalation write ups.


Links to More Information about and General Examples of De-Escalation

Joan Broder -- Mediation in Ireland: The Impact of Small Beginnings
This article describes some factors that appeared to be moving the Northern Ireland conflict toward de-escalation in the late 1980s.
Herbert C. Kelman -- Contributions if an Unofficial Resolution Effort to the Israeli-Palestinian Breakthrough
This article illustrates how unofficial (or track two) diplomacy can contribute to de-escalation.
Tony Armstrong -- "Introduction" from Principles of Icebreaking
This essay suggests a number of factors that contributed to de-escalation in several highly protracted and escalated international conflicts including the U.S./China,   East and West Germany, and Israel and Egypt.
Louis Kriesberg--Taking Initiatives
De-escalation of international conflicts usually begins when one side takes the initiative and makes a conciliatory gesture or proposes negotiations.  This article discusses when and how that tends to happen.
Jeffery Rubin -- The Timing of Ripeness and the Ripeness of Timing
This article discusses when conflicts are ready for de-escalation initiatives and when they are not.
Louis Kriesberg -- The Consequences of Agreement
This article focuses on the consequences of de-escalation agreements.
Louis Kriesberg--Constructive Conflicts: From Escalation to Resolution

Links to Related Approaches

Treating Escalation Problems - All


Links to Related Problems



Links to Outside Readings on De-Escalation

USIP Peaceworks #11 - Zaire Predicament and Prospects
This report reviews a variety of strategies for de-escalating the conflict in Zaire to prevent further violence and to begin the peacemaking and peacebuilding process.

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