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

Identifying and Pursuing Negotiable Sub-Issues

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Intractable conflicts almost always involve a large variety of issues. Often some of these will be very deep-rooted and non-negotiable, while others may be more amenable to negotiation. For example, intractable conflicts often involve conflicts of values or fundamental needs, which are not open to negotiation. People will not be willing to compromise their need for identity, security, or recognition; nor will the compromise or alter their fundamental beliefs. But these values and needs get manifested in the form of interests--material things that parties feel they need in order to their fundamental needs or values.

At other times, people have conflicts of interests that are completely independent of their values and needs. For example, a city may have an interest in building a dam in a certain location, because it would allow the city to store water for use in times of drought. If citizens oppose construction of the dam, however, it may be possible to find another way or another place to store needed water. This is a negotiable interest, largely independent of values or needs.

One of the methods many mediators use to get disputants to reach agreements is to re-define conflicts in terms of negotiable interests, sidestepping or deferring discussion of non-negotiable issues. By focusing the parties' attention on issues that can be negotiated relatively easily, they can get a track record of success and can then move on to harder issues that take more work. Alternatively, the parties can simply "agree to disagree" and leave the really difficult or non-resolvable issues unresolved. But they do not need to leave the negotiable issues unresolved too.


Links to Examples of this Approach:

Tony Armstrong -- "Introduction" from Principles of Icebreaking
This article summarizes the introduction to a book which examines the transformation of a number of intractable international conflicts including, for example, the conflict between East and West Germany and between Israel and Egypt. Among the author's observations is the importance of separating negotiable and non-negotiable issues, dealing with the former, and then using ambiguous wording to sidestep the latter.
Tony Armstrong -- Principles of Icebreaking
This is a  description of  Armstrong's  entire book on "ice-breaking" or the transformation of long-lasting international conflicts or intractable conflicts.


Links to Related Approaches:


Negotiation of Process Issues

Interested-Based Framing

Integrative (Or Win-win) Reframing


Links to Related Problems:

All-Or-Nothing Problem

Refusal to Negotiate

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