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

Face-Saving Surrender

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The backlash effect can be limited and losing parties can be more successfully re-integrated into society if steps are taken which make it is easier for the parties to accept defeat. In the United States we call this "face saving." The idea is to allow leaders of the losing parties to present the outcome to their constituents in ways which demonstrate that they are still good leaders. (There are, of course, cases in which leaders have behaved so poorly that they should be replaced and face saving efforts are inappropriate.) While much face saving can be achieved by simply moderating the way in which victors present the outcome, even more progress can be made when winning party is also willing to make meaningful concessions as gestures of goodwill. Face-saving also requires that the winning party resist the temptation to brag about their great victory and ridicule their opponents. By helping the convince losers the defeat is not as bad as they initially that it would be, face saving efforts can also reduce pressures to pursue the dispute to the bitter end  or re-open the conflict at the next available opportunity.

For example, in a labor contract negotiation, if management is in a much stronger position than labor, they could try to force the labor negotiators to given in entirely.   But, no matter how little power they have, labor is unlikely to completely given in because it would look so bad to the workers, who might reject the negotiated agreement.   But if management gives in a little and gives labor a bit of what they wanted, then the labor negotiators can focus on those concessions, therefore "saving face" for themselves and for labor in general.  This makes it much more likely that the negotiated agreement will be approved. 

In extreme cases the parties might even keep unpopular provisions of an agreement secret. For example, the United States agreed to remove its nuclear missiles from Turkey as part of the agreement which ended the Cuban missile crisis. This face-saving arrangement was not widely reported in the United States media where citizens thought that the outcome was far more one-sided than it really was. 

There is, however, also a danger that face saving efforts will be carried to the point where both sides think that they have won. This can give the parties very different and contradictory expectations regarding the nature of future interactions. This, in turn, can increase the likelihood and severity of future disputes.

Links to Examples

David Stuart -- United National Involvement in the Peace Process in El Salvador

Links to Related Sections


Conciliatory Victory


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