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.
International Online Training Program On Intractable Conflict
Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, USA
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It is often useful to explore the reasons why people hold the positions that they do. Usually the positions are seen as a way of obtaining more fundamental interests or needs--the real things the disputants want or need.
For example, a group may say it wants full autonomy and independence from the national government, but it might really be more interested in a strong sense of identity and security, as well as equal treatment within the social, economic, and political system. The group assumes that the only way to obtain identity, security, and equal treatment is to become independent. Usually, however, such demands for independence are viewed as unacceptable by the national government, leading to an intractable conflict.
If the group's needs for security, identity, and equal treatment can be met without granting full independence, however, new approaches might be developed for solving seemingly intractable problems. While this is certainly not easy, reframing the problem from a simple yes-no decision on independence, to a more complex question which examines the grievances and needs of the group seeking independence, and seeks ways to meet those needs while meeting the interests and needs of the other side as well can yield new and often more fruitful approaches to problem solving.
While meeting human needs often requires substantial changes to a society's social, political, or economic structure, such changes can often be made in a way that benefits all sides. Unlike interests, which really may be structured in a win-lose way (meaning that the more one side gets, the less the other side gets), needs are often mutually reinforcing: the more secure one side of a conflict feels, the less it will feel a need to threaten the other side, thus the more secure the other side will feel as well. Thus, integrative solutions (solutions which bring the two sides together in a win-win agreement) are often more likely in a needs-based conflict than a high-stakes win-lose interest-based conflict.
The key to reframing conflicts on the basis of needs is identifying those needs in the first place. This requires careful analysis of the conflict, and an examination of why people are taking the positions they are. By asking one's self or one's group "why do we want that?" enough times, one will likely ultimately get down to the fundamental human need. (If asked "why do you want to feel secure" the answer is likely to be a simple "because I do," rather than anything more elaborate than that. That is because security is a fundamental need-it doesn't have a more basic root.
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