Humanitarian interpreting

Humanitarian interpreting and the challenges associated with its practice

Humanitarian interpreting is the act performed by interpreters working for organizations with a humanitarian mandate, such as ICRC, UNHCR, WFP, MSF, Save the Children.

Humanitarian interpreters:

  • work in fragile environments, including conflict and post-conflict contexts, refugee camps, urban refugee settings, and other contexts where International Humanitarian Law, human rights law and refugee law applies;
  • pursue the missions of humanitarian organizations in situations of human suffering, including visits to detention centers and field hospitals and interviews about refugee status determination and with victims of conflict;
  • work with beneficiaries protected under International Humanitarian Law, including children, women, civilians, detainees, refugees, displaced, and wounded or sick persons; and
  • have no institutionalized professional community, association or established code of professional ethics.

The InZone training staff document the challenges associated to the role and practice of humanitarian field interpreters and these constitute the basis for research. Data on challenges fall essentially into three broad categories (Language & Culture, Ethics & Interpreter’s role, and Emotional) and are collected at three different stages:

  • during the needs analysis stage prior to designing and commencing a new training course,
  • during field training (observational data and solicited feedback from participants), and
  • during online training (archived contributions by participants).
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