On February 21, USIP and the Alliance for Peacebuilding held a symposium in honor of International Mother Language Day.

Image Credit: UNESCO

The role of language—both as a means of communication and as an expression of identity – is a vital consideration for any serious discussion of peace and security. The Symposium on Language, Peace, and Security, which marks UNESCO’s International Mother Language Day:

  • Looked at the overlooked linguistic and educational dimensions of a simmering conflict pitting Pattani Malay-speaking Muslims against the government of Thailand.
  • Addressed the importance of ensuring linguistic human rights through educational policies and practices that value and promote linguistic diversity.
  • Considered language policy in education and how it may serve to exacerbate or mitigate violence.

Can careful consideration of language and communications in discussions of peace and security lead to real solutions to conflicts? How do issues of language, language complexity, and communication play out in peace-building efforts and ongoing security? How can language issues be identified and addressed effectively in policy planning and execution?

The SIL International, the Center for Applied Linguistics, the Alliance for Peacebuilding, and the United States Institute of Peace hosted an exploration of these issues at the Symposium on Language, Peace, and Security on February 21, 2014. 


Patricia Friedrich
Associate Professor of Linguistics/Rhetoric and Composition
Arizona State University

Suwilai Presrirat
Professor of Linguistics and Founder of the Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia
Mahidol University, Thailand

Terrence Wiley
Center for Applied Linguistics

Zeena Zakharia
Assistant Professor of International and Comparative Education
University of Massachusetts, Boston

George A. Lopez, Keynote Discussant
Vice President of the Academy for International Conflict Management and Peacebuilding
U.S. Institute of Peace

Peter Weinberger, Moderator
Senior Program Officer
United States Institute of Peace

Perspectives from the Grassroots
Community-based practitioners reflect on the relevance of language to peace and security.
Joel Trudell, SIL International; Unian Samoh, Mahidol University; Cecilia Ochoa, Save the Children; Micael Olsson, World Vision

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