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

Official (Track One) Diplomacy

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The term "diplomacy" refers to the interaction between nation-states. Traditionally, diplomacy was carried out by government officials--diplomats--who negotiated treaties, trade policies, and other international agreements. The process of negotiations ranges from very formal to informal, but it tends to be fairly adversarial and competitive, relying on distributive or positional bargaining strategies that assume a win-lose situation. The goal is to maintain power over weaker nations and a balance of power with nations of equal status. Although conflict resolution theorists have developed a multi-faceted understanding of power, diplomacy still focuses on the "power over" approach, believing that power is a zero sum commodity--the more you have, the less I have. This encourages positional bargaining, rather than a more integrative or cooperative approach.

Although several efforts have been made to alter the adversarial nature of traditional diplomacy, none has been very successful. The first was the League of Nations which called for open diplomacy and collective security. Although the plan was developed by the U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, the United States failed to support the idea, and the League quickly failed.

The United Nations was a second attempt at collective security and international cooperation. The UN has certainly been much more successful than the League of Nations, but it still has not been able to overcome power rivalries (especially during the Cold War, but, to some extent, even now) and lacks the money to enable it to completely carry out its mandate. For this reason, and given the general ineffectiveness of traditional diplomacy, more and more attention is being given to what has come to be known as "track two" or "citizen" diplomacy--international negotiations carried out by private citizens, rather than official diplomats. Most advocates of track two approaches argue that they are not a replacement for track one, but rather a supplement to them. Often track two approaches can precede official negotiations, laying the groundwork and establishing a certain level of trust between people; sometimes they occur simultaneously.


Links to Examples of Official (Track One) Diplomacy

Chester Crocker -- Lessons on Intervention
This article examines the pros and cons, as well as the "hows" of international diplomatic and military intervention in ethnic conflicts.
Alexander George -- Forceful Persuasion: Coercive Diplomacy as an Alternative to War
In this book George examines the effectiveness of coercive diplomacy--diplomacy intended to force another country to change its behavior through coercion. This is an overview of the whole book; the following entry is a more detailed summary of George's conclusions.
Alexander George -- The Role of Force in Diplomacy: A Continuing Dilemma for U.S. Foreign Policy
This is a more detailed summary of the concluding chapter in George's book.
Jeffery Rubin -- The Timing of Ripeness and the Ripeness of Timing
This is an article about timing negotiations which refers briefly to official diplomacy as an impediment to successful negotiation.
John W. McDonald -- Further Exploration of Track Two Diplomacy
This article compares track one and track two diplomacy, showing the similarities, the differences, and the relative roles of the two.
Saadia Touval -- Case Study: Lessons of Preventative Diplomacy in Yugoslavia
This article examines the failure of diplomacy to prevent the tragedy in the Balkans at the end of the Cold War.
William Zartman and Saadia Touval -- International Mediation in the Post- Cold War Era
This article examines international mediation, investigating (among other things) why and when official diplomats decide to act as mediators in other countries' disputes (and how well this works).
A Conversation On Peacemaking With Jimmy Carter  
This article describes the successful Track One diplomacy that occurred at Camp David when Sadat and Begin negotiated the Israeli-Egyptian peace accords.
Roger Fisher and William Ury--Principled Negotiation at Camp David
This article explains how the Camp David negotiations used principled negotiation, rather than the positional bargaining more typical of official diplomatic negotiations. The use of the integrative approach contributed significantly, Fisher argues, to the negotiation's success.
Gareth Evans -- Iraq's Invasion of Kuwait in 1990: A Failure to Use Preventive Diplomacy
This article discusses why diplomacy failed to prevent the 1990 Persian Gulf War.
Alexander George -- United States-Japan Relations Leading to Pearl Harbor
This article describes a failure of official diplomacy to prevent the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which brought the U.S. into World War II.
Harold Saunders -- Prenegotiation and Circum-negotiation: Arenas of the Peace Process
This is another article that describes the relationship between Track One and Track Two diplomacy.
Jay Rothman -- Conflict Management Policy Analysis
This is an account of official diplomacy between Israel and Egypt following the Camp David Accords.
Tony Armstrong -- "Introduction" from Principles of Icebreaking
This is a summary of a book on methods of transforming intractable conflicts between nations. It examines the rapprochement between East and West Germany, the United States and China, and Israel and Egypt, among others, examining what allowed those conflicts to be transformed. Although many factors contributed to the transformation of these conflicts, effective official diplomacy was part of the success.
Tony Armstrong -- Principles of Icebreaking
This is a more detailed description of the introduction to Armstrong's book on "ice-breaking" or the transformation of long-lasting international conflicts.
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 Sources of Information

Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution in the Information Age


Links to Related Approaches

Unofficial Communication, Citizen, and Multitrack Diplomacy

Analytical Problem Solving

Distributive Bargaining

Principled Negotiation


Links to Related Problems

Any problems involving conflicts between nation-states.

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