Translation and Inclusion in Hong Kong Disaster Relief to Africa

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The study aims to move forward the debate on language challenges and opportunities in the disaster relief sector by examining the linguistic inclusion of local communities and beneficiaries of Hong Kong aid organizations through the use of translation and interpreting. Linguistic inclusion in the context of international aid means, in most cases, the provision of translation and interpreting services between local communities and the aid organization. Recent research of international organizations has shown that the way in which translation affects the inclusion of local communities does not tend to be given prominent attention in the aid sector. Translation and interpreting needs of local communities are often neglected when delivering emergency and development aid (Federici et al., 2019; Todorova 2019; Footitt, Crack and Tesseur, 2020). Development aid organizations do not collect data on the languages and literacy of local communities, relying on aid workers who are often not trained in language work (Federici et al., 2019; Footitt, Crack and Tesseur, 2020). On the other hand, donors do not tend to ask implementing organizations to include translation in their project management and reporting (Crack, 2018). This study will investigate translation practices of Hong Kong-based humanitarian organisations when providing relief aid to local communities in Africa. It will also gain insight into the linguistic challenges that beneficiaries from Africa encounter in accessing Hong Kong relief aid in order to build more resilient communities. In order to examine language use in the aid sector in Hong Kong, this project will directly engage with aid organizations providing relief in Africa, including Amity Foundation Hong Kong, Plan International Hong Kong, and others. These organizations have been the users of the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) by the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, providing grants for emergency relief to the cyclone victims in Mozambique and Malawi. With the growing China-Africa relations in mind, this study asks to what degree prevailing assumptions, theoretical frameworks and definitions of humanitarian aid need to be reframed in the context of South-South aid discourse, thus introducing a new perspective on the role of language in humanitarian aid, different to the historically ‘Western’ centred debates.


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