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

Making Escalation the Enemy

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In cases where intractable conflicts have escalated into intense confrontations, it is common for the parties to have seriously hurt one another. These injuries may involve psychological pain, property destruction, physical injury, and even loss of life. As the parties struggle to find ways of avoiding such problems in the future, they often look for someone to blame for the tragedy. In a great many cases, the parties conclude that it is their enemies that are responsible, and the key to avoiding such tragedies in the future is the development and maintenance of an ability to overpower their enemies.  Unfortunately, this way of thinking about the problem makes continuing tension and destructive confrontations all but inevitable, as both sides race to maximize their power base.

An alternative way of framing the problem of destructive confrontation views escalation as the "enemy." This approach focuses upon the fact that the conflict's destructiveness is largely the result of the parties' failure to take adequate steps to control the destructive dynamics of escalation.  Thus the way to avoid destructive confrontations is not by building up one's power base, but by building   strategies to limit escalation.  Framing the problem in this way creates a co-operative situation in which the parties recognize that their future security depends upon their willingness to work together to control escalation, rather than competing against the other for dominance.  Another advantage of this approach is that it does not require the parties to compromise their core beliefs or reach agreement on the underlying issues. All that is needed is a commitment to pursuing their conflict in more constructive ways.

While it would obviously be better for the parties to pursue such an approach jointly, much can be achieved by one party working alone to limit escalation.   If just one side refuses to enter the provocation-counter-provocation spiral, the spiral cannot continue to grow.  Unilateral de-escalation efforts, such as GRIT, can also help reduce escalation substantially, even if the other side is slow to respond.

Links to Related Approaches


Links to Related Problems



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