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

Preventive Diplomacy / Conflict Prevention

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This is a very broad topic that does not really fit with our incremental approach, but so much is being written about it, and so much is being done in the name of "preventive diplomacy", that we thought it was important to address it here in some way.

The assumption with both conflict prevention and preventive diplomacy is that intractable conflicts are easier to avoid before they happen, rather than fix once they have occurred. There is a great deal of truth to this assumption, although some conflicts are likely to be unavoidable.

A fundamental assumption of constructive confrontation is that the destructive nature of conflict is largely avoidable. Hence we would advocate an incremental approach to both conflict prevention and preventive diplomacy. This means that latent conflicts should not be repressed or submerged altogether. (When this is done, they just tend to erupt, sometimes quite violently, at a later time.) To avoid this, conflicts should be allowed to surface, but that the complicating factors, especially escalation, should be limited to the maximum extent possible, and an effort should made to confront the core conflict with the most beneficial and least destructive strategies available. This means trying to put the emphasis on the exchange and integrative strategies, moving away from force-based strategies--especially illegitimate and excessive force.

The term "preventive diplomacy" is usually used in the international arena and refers to efforts of outside nations or groups of nations (for example, the UN) to prevent the escalation of conflicts between or within other nations. Although potentially effective, often nations feel that they should not intervene in the internal affairs of others if the situation has not yet become dire. By that time, preventive measures are likely to be impossible. (This happened in the Bosnian situation, for example).   Nongovernmental organizations can also engage in what is generally referred to as conflict prevention (since they are not state actors).  Given their ongoing presence in much of the two-thirds world, they are in a far superior position to try to intervene in developing conflicts early enough to put them on a constructive, rather than destructive course. Discussions about how this can be done can be found in some of the examples, below.

Conflict prevention also is useful in smaller-scale conflicts. To the extent that the parties can control complicating factors from the outset, define the conflict as a mutual problem rather than a competitive or win-lose situation, and utilize a strategy that depends most on integrative and exchange approaches more than force, the conflict is likely to be more productive than destructive. Once escalation sets in and other complicating factors develop, the strategy must change from conflict prevention to conflict management or resolution, which is generally considerably harder to accomplish successfully.


Examples of conflict prevention and preventive diplomacy:

Joseph Nye Jr. -- International Conflicts After the Cold War
This article explores the nature and causes of global, regional, and communal conflicts and evaluates various approaches to conflict prevention.
William Perry -- Managing Conflict in the Post-Cold War Era
This is a summary of a talk given by former U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry at an Aspen Institute Conference on Managing Conflict in the post-Cold War world. Perry argues that conflict prevention is the best approach to managing military conflict.
Saadia Touval -- Case Study: Lessons of Preventative Diplomacy in Yugoslavia
Touval examines why preventive diplomacy failed to work effectively in the former Yugoslavia.
Current and Future Arrangements for Intervention
This is another examination of international intervention as a device of conflict prevention.
Claude Rakisits -- The Gulf Crisis: Failure of Preventive Diplomacy
This is an examination of the failure of preventive diplomacy in the case of the Persian Gulf Crisis.
John Prendergast -- Transformative Approaches to Training: The Case of Somalia
This article describes a conflict training program which was used as a conflict prevention method in Somalia.
William L. Ury--Conflict Resolution among the Bushmen: Lessons in Dispute Systems Design
In this essay, dispute systems design was used as a method of conflict prevention.



Links to Other (Outside) Sources of Information on Preventive Diplomacy

Peacekeeping, Peacemaking, and Human Rights, by Cedric Thornberry, former Assistant Secretary-General of the UN and Deputy Chief of UNPROFOR in ex-Yugoslavia.

Space in Which Hope Can Grow:  The Commonwealth and Preventive Diplomacy - INCORE Publications and Papers Occasional Papers

US Institute of Peace Special Report-The U.S. Contribution to Conflict Prevention, Management, and Resolution in Africa

Zaire Predicament and Prospects-USIP Peaceworks #11 - includes a section on Frameworks for Preventive Diplomacy

Global Cultures of Peace--Linda Groff and Paul Smoker
This article focuses on alternative definitions of peace and the implications of those definitions to actual peacebuilding and conflict prevention activities.

Field Diplomacy A New Conflict Prevention Paradigm  - Reychler

The South China Sea Dispute: Prospects for Preventive Diplomacy - U.S. Institute of Peace

Preventive Diplomacy for the South China Sea- U.S. Institute of Peace

Preventing Violent Conflicts- U.S. Institute of Peace

Early Intervention and Power Sharing- U.S. Institute of Peace


Links to Related Approaches:

Constructive Confrontation

Third Party Intervention


Links to Related Problems:

All the problems are related.

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