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Mother Language Day 2015 – Language Policy and Peace Building

February 23, 2015 @ 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Language Policy and Peace Building

An interactive event honoring International Mother Language Day 2015

This event was recorded and, along with the video by Dr. Lo Bianco, is available for viewing. Watch the video

Across the world, threats to peace and security proliferate, and solutions are elusive. Language is a defining factor in social and cultural identity and, therefore, plays a central role in addressing global peace and security challenges. Language policy has the power to include or exclude, recognize or ignore, support or deny the rights and realities of ethnolinguistic communities; for this reason, language policy deliberations and decisions are key to any sustainable peacebuilding. The power of language policy to build or undermine peacebuilding is not always well understood in political circles; nevertheless, ignoring the implications of language choice can seriously undermine efforts to build peace between communities and nations.

How do issues of language, language complexity, and communication play out in peace-building efforts and ongoing security around the world? How can language issues be identified and addressed effectively in policy planning and execution? These questions will be addressed through a combination of keynote presentation by a leading scholar in the field, a lively panel discussion, and interactive break-out sessions to discuss possible future actions.

About the Event

Welcome: Carol DeShano da Silva, EdD, Team Leader, Literacy and Learning, Global Learning Group, FHI 360

Introduction of Keynote: Terrence G. Wiley, PhD, Center for Applied Linguistics

Keynote address: Conflict, language rights and education in South East Asia: a focus on Burma, Malaysia and Thailand 

Joseph Lo Bianco, PhD, Professor of Language and Literacy Education, The University of Melbourne

In a video-taped presentation, Dr. Lo Bianco will focus on three cases of serious conflict associated with disputed questions of language education in Southeast Asia. The research and policy advising work is part financed by the Government of the Netherlands in collaboration with the United Nations, administered by UNICEF and with the collaboration of UNESCO, in both Africa and Asia. The SE Asian component commenced in December 2012 and focuses on ethnic and national languages, script policy, social cohesion and incorporates UN principles of peace building that have been developed over the past 15 years of research in ‘international conflict studies’. The talk will describe three examples of conflict in which schools are a direct site of contestation and conflict, where teachers are shot, secession is plotted and some children are declared stateless and denied enrolment. While each case stems from radically different histories and each has different socio-linguistic, ethnic and religious context they share many points in common. Since there are only 200 states in the world and 7000 mother tongues, it is clear that the vast majority of human language groupings are denied institutional recognition and state support. In the three cases discussed, the efforts of national states to established centralized official curriculum and to deny mother tongue rights tends to institutionalise education inequality.

Panel Discussion

Facilitator: Carol DeShano da Silva, EdD, Team Leader, Literacy and Learning, Global Learning Group, FHI 360

  • Terrence G. Wiley, PhD, President, Center for Applied Linguistics
  • Frederick Boswell, Executive Director and CEO, SIL International
  • Sanja Bebic, Director, Immigrant and Refugee Integration, Center for Applied Linguistics
  • John Filson, Senior Manager for Policy, Alliance for Peace Building
  • Anne Salinas, Program Director in Peacebuilding and Conflict, FHI 360

Break-out sessions

Following the panel discussion, several topical break-out sessions will allow participants to discuss and share ideas about language rights and education internationally and in the United States and brainstorm possible future action steps.

Wrap Up: Carol DeShano da Silva, EdD, FHI 360


February 23, 2015
1:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Event Category:


Washington, DC