Debate: interpreters in conflict areas

Resolution Number R402

Resolution submitted by the Working Group on interpreters in conflict areas

(Michèle Bo Bramsen, Eduardo Kahane, Linda Fitchett, Sroda Bedarida-Gaveh, Silke Gebhard, Isabella Romanini-Roda)

The Assembly,

  • Having heard of the terrible fate of many interpreters, interpreter/guides and their family members living and working in zones of conflict.
  • Realising that whilst most members of AIIC may not be in mortal danger when exercising their profession, they nevertheless risk being subjected to psychological pressure or even physical harm under certain circumstances.
  • Recalling that interpreters have for centuries played the role of intermediary between opposing forces and have contributed greatly to bringing understanding and peace to areas of conflict.
  • Underscoring that AIIC strives to inculcate in its members the need for a professionally neutral and impartial approach and absolute confidentiality which it seeks to project to the world as the fundamental requirements of all interpreters.
  • Believing that AIIC should not remain silent in the face of the suffering of persons who, in the eyes of the world, are exercising the same or a similar profession to members of AIIC.

Decides to create a project within AIIC, in the same spirit of inclusiveness and solidarity as the "Teranga" project, and possibly as its continuation. It would be aimed at achieving a new 'social contract' intended to support and protect interpreters working in conflict areas by:

  • drawing attention to their fate;
  • advising these interpreters through the AIIC website of their right to fair treatment and protection, but also of their obligations as neutral/non-partisan intermediaries and of the major principles of the profession of interpreter;
  • supporting the ETI project which provides training modules for these interpreters;
  • increasing employers' awareness of the need to protect interpreters both during and after their employment in conflict areas and of the need to provide them with prior information and a proper contract;
  • initiating the negotiation of the global terms of such a contract, which should include adequate information, insurance coverage, protection and safe conduct, by approaching international trade unions, employer organisations and the ILO, convincing them of the need for action;
  • obtaining a Declaration of the UN General Assembly and/or the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe recognising and protecting the neutral and impartial status and integrity of all interpreters, thus also helping to reach AIIC's goal of ensuring the international recognition of our own profession.


AIIC should not remain silent in the face of the suffering of many interpreters, interpreter/guides and their family members living and working in zones of conflict.

Recommended citation format:
AIIC. "Debate: interpreters in conflict areas". October 24, 2008. Accessed May 25, 2020. <>.

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Ellen Ruth MOERMAN


Linda, I could say I was joking, but of course, I was not. Merely reflecting on how careful one should be with even one little word that may make all the difference to an interpreter's fate.

I agree that it is unfortunate that the debate is the last point on the agenda, when many of our colleagues will be running for trains and planes to get to their next assignment and with you, I hope that they will be able to stay on little bit longer and participate.

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Ellen, we are well aware of this issue. The use of the word 'employers' was intended in its loosest meaning of 'paying for someone's service'. 'That' is the very thing we intend to try to do: make sure that our colleagues are provided with proper contracts, however difficult that may be i.e. not just a piece of paper but proper information beforehand, proper payment and protection during and after the use of their services -even in a world of privatisation and desolidarity. We were very much inspired by your own article and hope that with your help this will be a landmark debate at Assembly, even if it is unfortunately held on the last day. We encourage all members to stay for it, since our intention is indeed to bring a little solidarity back into this world.

Our intentions are clear. We apologise if our wording is not.

On behalf of the preparatory group,


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Ellen Ruth MOERMAN


"Employers?" If these unfortunate colleagues were "employees", they would be able to enforce their rights under employment law (in theory, of course). Those needing their services know that only too well. That is why, if they offer any contract at all, it will be one that excludes any rights under employment law. The "they" in question are governments, ONGs (oh yes!!) etc. It is "they" whom we need to educate - but try that in a world of privatisation and de-solidarity.....

Otherwise I hope we do (finally) acknowledge take the issue on board.

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