Colleagues from Strands 1 and 3 of the MEITS project organised a public conference on ‘Languages in Conflict and Reconciliation’ in Belfast on Friday, 25 January 2019. The event was held in collaboration with the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice and with support from the Modern Languages Core Disciplinary Research group at QUB.
The conference brought together academics and practitioners to explore the role of language in conflicts, and also reconciliation and peacekeeping. Over 100 attendees heard from a range of speakers, and panels focussed on Ireland and Ukraine, and wider global contexts including Colombia, Afghanistan, and experiences with NGOs in Africa.
The first panel addressed Ireland and Ukraine, drawing interesting parallels between the two situations. The MEITS researchers focussing on these areas spoke about their research, whilst practitioners from both Northern Ireland and Ukraine shared their experiences of the role language plays in divided societies, and especially of how it can contribute to reconciliation.
The second panel looked at governments, institutions and NGOs in a global context, again with a mix of academics and practitioners working in the field. Here, panel members discussed their own experiences working with governmental and non-governmental institutions in zones of conflict and the role that multilingualism played in their work there.
A final roundtable centred on key questions, considering what practitioners and academics can learn from each other and how the promotion of multilingualism can contribute to reconciliation and peacekeeping.