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


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Negotiation is the fundamental form of dispute resolution. In simplest terms, it involves a discussion between two or more disputants who are trying to work out a solution to their dispute. It may even be done in advance, to avoid disputes. For example, when we discuss simple life choices with family members--who does which chores, what family activities are planned for when--we are negotiating. When we bargain over the price of a product or service, we are negotiating. In order to live or work effectively with others, good negotiation skills are critical.

Negotiation can take several forms. Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton's best-selling book, Getting to Yes (1991), highlights three forms of negotiation or bargaining: hard, soft, and principled. Hard bargaining is adversarial--you assume that your opponent is your enemy and the only way you can win is if he or she loses. So you bargain in a very aggressive, competitive way. Soft bargaining is just the opposite. Your relationship with your opponent is so important that you concede much more easily than you should. You get taken advantage of in your effort to please, and while agreement is reached easily, it is seldom a wise one.

Fisher, Ury, and Patton propose a third alternative, which they call "principled negotiation." This approach calls for negotiators to use five fundamental principles to negotiate effectively with each other instead of against each other. These are: 1) separate the people from the problem, 2) negotiate about interests, not positions, 3) invent options for mutual gain, 4) insist on objective decision criteria, and 5) know your BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement). (For more information on principled negotiation, click here.)

Critics of principled negotiation argue that it only works in situations in which win-win outcomes are possible. In unavoidable win-lose conflicts, some critics argue, the techniques of distributive bargaining are superior. Distributive bargaining starts with the assumption that there is only a limited amount of "stuff" to go around, and that the more that one side gets, the less the other side will be able to have. This is inherently a competitive situation, which calls for competitive negotiating tactics. (For more information about competitive negotiating tactics, click here.)

While negotiation is the "pure" form of bargaining, it can be enhanced in many ways. Mediation, for example, is assisted negotiation, as is consensus-building. Many other forms of "alternative dispute resolution" (a term developed in the U.S. to refer to alternatives to litigation) are also simply varieties of negotiation.


Links to Examples of Negotiating Processes:

Dean Pruitt--Strategic Choice in Negotiation
Pruitt discusses four basic negotiation strategies--problem solving, contending, yielding , and inaction, and the way in which each of these affects the   negotiation's outcome.
Nancy J. Manring--Dispute System Design and the U.S. Forest System
This article explains how the U.S. Forest Service designed and implemented a dispute management system of deal constructively with both internal and external conflicts involving forest management issues.
Susan L. Carpenter and W.J.D. Kennedy--Handling the Human Side of the Negotiation Process
This article outlines some of the problems that can arise during negotiation and and suggests ways to get beyond them.
Timothy D. Sisk--The Violence-Negotiation Nexus: South Africa in Transition and the Politics of Uncertainty
Sisk outlines the interplay between negotiation and violence during the South African Transition.
Gail Bingham, Aaron Wolf, and Tom Wohlgenant--Resolving Water Disputes: Conflict and Cooperation
This article examines different negotiation strategies that can be used to address environmental, especially water, disputes.
Raymond Cohen--Negotiating Across Cultures: Communication Obstacles in International Diplomacy
Cohen examines the effects of cultural differences on international negotiations and diplomacy.

Links to Outside Information on Negotiation:

International Negotiation Journal
This is a relatively new, but excellent journal on negotiation processes.  While none of the articles is available in full text online, abstracts of all of the articles are available at this site.
US Institute of Peace -- "Negotiation and International Mediation" in Sudan: Ending the War, Moving Talks Forward
Rita J. Kummer - Conflict Resolution Theory and its Application in Legislative Negotiations on Moral Issues: a Case Study of the Civil Rights Acts of 1990 and 1991
This paper explores the applicability of integrative conflict resolution theory and practice to the American legislative process in the case of moral conflicts. The focus is on the American civil rights debate in the 1990s.
Links to Related Processes:
Official (Track I) Diplomacy
Identifying Ripe Times for Negotiation
Identifying and Pursuing Negotiable Sub-Issues
Negotiation Loop Backs
Principled Negotiation
Consensus Building
Getting People to the Table
Soft Bargaining
Hard Bargaining
Negotiation Skill Development
Distributive Bargaining

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