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

Understanding Historical Context

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Disputes are often part of a long-running conflict. They may appear to be unique–involving a new issue and new parties--but they are often just new developments in a long-running string of similar situations. Protracted conflicts routinely go through cycles of intensity. They will flare up for awhile, being very visible and often destructive, then they will de-escalate and become less visible or critical in the parties' estimation, yet they will not be resolved. As a result, a new triggering event will occur sometime later which will again escalate the conflict, raising it to its earlier level of intensity, or even higher.

In order to be able to adequately deal with any conflict or dispute, it is necessary to understand its historical context. Is this really a new situation, unconnected to anything that has happened in the past? Or is this connected to past events for one or both parties?

To the extent that it is connected to past events, the parties will likely have strong emotions that are tied up with that old event. They may distrust the opponents because of their behavior "last time," or they may want to retaliate for a prior loss. They may have stereotypes of the opponent, based on someone who was involved last time, but who is not involved this time. Or, if the same people are involved, they may expect them to behave in the same way, even though the situation is now different.

Understanding the historical context does not mean that one is limited by it. On the contrary, to the extent that one understands that problems are linked to things that happened in the past, it becomes possible to move beyond those limitations to a new definition of the current situation. If one is unaware of past associations, however, they become much more limiting and problematic.


Links to Examples of this Treatment

Estrada-Hollenbeck -- Understanding Forgiveness
This article explains how the analysis of people's narratives can help our understanding of the process of forgiveness, as well as aid in conflict management and resolution.  These narratives, which tell a story about the conflict history from each side's point of view, show how people feel about themselves, about their opponent, and about the past and possible future relationships.
Jay Rothman -- Conflict Management Policy Analysis
This article discusses a border dispute between Egypt and Israel.  The author discusses how an understanding of the historical context of the dispute is important for its adequate resolution.
John Applegate and Douglas Sarno -- Coping with Complex Facts and Multiple Parties in Public Disputes
This article describes a method to help people understand the complexities of a technically difficult conflict.  Although most of the article refers to methods to help people understand technical information, the approach was also helpful to understanding the historical (especially political) context of that situation.

Links to Related Treatments

Treating Scoping Problems


Links to Related Problems

Ignoring the Conflict History or Current Related Disputes

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