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

Establish Personal Relationships

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Establishing personal relationships with people on the other side of the conflict can help lessen many of the problems related to conflict escalation, and can be a forerunner to official negotiations and conflict resolution. By establishing personal relationships, stereotypes are broken down, and people come to see the "enemy" as a real, living, breathing, feeling, caring person, not just an abstract, hostile, evil enemy. Once this change of attitude takes place, mutual understanding and trust can slowly be developed between adversaries. Although the parties still may have divergent interests or unmet needs, they can reach the point where they understand that their problem is a mutual one, and must be solved by cooperating, not competing or trying to destroy the other.

One of the biggest conflict resolution problems is "scaling up" such transformed personal relationships from individual people to the disputing societies overall. Personal relationships between individuals can change rather quickly, but replicating these changes among entire populations is a very slow and difficult process. The more opportunities there are for people to develop personal relationships with people on the other side of the conflict, the better off both sides will be. Citizen exchanges, dialogues, joint projects, sporting events–any opportunities which can be provided to bring people together in a positive, cooperative way should be encouraged. (Although sporting events are competitive, they have a set of rules which govern the competition that requires fair play and mutual respect. Thus, even such competitive events can be seen as cooperative endeavors as well.)

The only time in which personal relationships can be more harmful than helpful is when the people have a long history of disliking or distrusting each other that they cannot get beyond. For example, Jimmy Carter quickly found that bringing Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin together at Camp David was not productive. After a failed attempt at negotiations the first day, Carter used shuttle diplomacy for the rest of the two week process at Camp David, believing that Begin and Sadat would never be able to work effectively together face-to-face. Yet Carter’s own strong personal relationship with Sadat and with some of Begin’s assistants was key to his success.


Links to Examples of this Approach

Dennis Sandole and Hugo van der Merwe --Brezhnev visits West Germany, 1972.
This is a short anecdote about the development of a personal relationship between Brezhnev and Schmidt which changed the way those two leaders interacted.
Harold Saunders -- Prenegotiation and Circum-negotiation: Arenas of the Peace Process
This article explains how the development of personal relationships between people is a critical piece of the peacemaking process.
John Paul Lederach -- Central American Conflict Resolution
This article explains how the Costa Ricans deal with conflict.  They rely heavily on personal relationships--between the disputants and the third party, and between the disputants themselves, as they try to understand the opponents' "inner world"--his values and concerns, not just his outward or superficial positions or appearances.
Paul Wehr -- Self Limiting Conflict: The Gandhian Style
Wehr describes Gandhi's confrontation strategy.  One key aspect of his approach was to establish and maintain a personal relationship with his opponents.
A Conversation On Peacemaking With Jimmy Carter
In this article, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter reflects on his peacemaking efforts.   His personal relationships with many world leaders was very helpful in generating trust and enabling him to successfully mediate a variety of international conflicts.
Gennady I. Chufrin and Harold H. Saunders -- A Public Peace Process
This is a description of the Dartmouth conferences between U.S. and Soviet citizens.   By establishing strong personal relationships with people on the other side, both parties were able to breakdown their negative stereotypes and develop innovative approaches for moderating the Cold War.
Raymond Cohen--Negotiating Across Cultures: Communication Obstacles in International Diplomacy (The 1971 U.S. - Japan Monetary Crisis)
This essay illustrates how the establishment of personal relationships can facilitate conflict resolution.

Links to Related Approaches

Dialogue Projects

Analytical Problem Solving

Opening Lines of Communication

Transformative Mediation


Links to Related Problems

Communication Problems (all)

Problems with Integrative Power (all)

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