Chapter 10. The Emerging Role of Translation and Interpreting in Crisis Management


Chrysoula Vafeiadaki
Faculty of Geology and Geoenvironment, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens, Greece; Department of Foreign Languages, Translation and Interpreting, Ionian University, Corfu, Greece

Part of the book: The Challenges of Disaster Planning, Management, and Resilience


The communicational dimension of crisis and disaster management includes two often underestimated components: translation and interpreting. State authorities, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, and other emergency planners and responders seem not to be fully aware of the fact that multilingual communication, written and oral, both in field and decision-making settings requires not to be exercised by ad hoc volunteers or non-professionals, especially when universities produce high-level translators and interpreters. Peace communication requires precision in the transmission of messages, a wide range of knowledge beyond linguistic proficiency, acquisition of special techniques, neutrality and attention to extralinguistic communication. The person who acts as an intermediary between the transmitter and the receiver of a message should comply with the rules of a code of professional conduct. In this case, the intermediary has also to be trained on crisis response and management, as during the translation or interpreting process, the translator or interpreter can affect preparedness, mitigation, and response, while the field is challenging and constantly changing by uncertain factors imposing an interdisciplinary approach. Such crises may be varying, e.g., humanitarian, political, social, economic, health, military, diplomatic, environmental, na-tech (natural hazards triggering technological disasters), cybersecurity, etc. and entirely depend on geography and time. Thus, taking into consideration examples from recent humanitarian crises (e.g., refugee/migrant, environmental, climate, war crises), we conclude that there is an urgent international need for a legal framework to define who acts as translator and/or interpreter when and where during crises and disaster management settings. It is time that global crisis management stakeholders agreed on a common legal framework governing standards of procedures and cooperation, as well as rules of ethics applicable to translators and interpreters. In this dialogue, the international community of crisis responders together with academia and professional associations of translators and interpreters should seek to elaborate common strategies thus providing the alignment of norms and rules applicable to entities of public or private, national or international, law operating in crises and disaster settings at country and international level. In this regard, translators and interpreters are reinventing their role as peace mediators and peacemakers in a regularized context.

Keywords: translation, interpreting, communication, crisis, disaster, management, peace translation, peace interpreting


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