This Peace Day, charities campaign to put a new word in the dictionary

London, 21 September 2018 – Today, a global coalition of charities are celebrating the UN International Day of Peace by campaigning for the word ‘peacebuilding’ to be included in the dictionary.

Campaigners will be writing the word ‘peacebuilding’ into a human-sized dictionary in the yard of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London, in the morning of 21 September, to highlight the need for greater political support for efforts to build sustainable peace by tackling the root causes of conflict.

They will be joined in their stunt by leading British actor Sir Mark Rylance, currently performing in Othello at the Globe Theatre. The campaign is also supported by other leading cultural figures, such as writer and director Neil Bartlett.

Mark Rylance, ambassador for the global peacebuilding organisation Peace Direct, said: “As an actor, I believe in the power of words to shape thinking and create empathy. If we’re ever to end violent conflict, we need a common understanding of how to build and sustain peace. A key first step is to raise awareness of what peacebuilding entails; through our classrooms, our libraries and our media. That’s why I’m supporting this campaign to get ‘peacebuilding’ in the dictionary.”

Harriet Lamb, CEO of UK-based peacebuilding organisation International Alert, said: “If warmongering, ‘hangry’, ‘adorbs’ and even ‘instagrammable’ can be in the dictionary, surely peacebuilding deserves its place too. Ensuring public recognition of peacebuilding and what it means, will help secure the greater political support that is so urgently needed.”

‘Peacebuilding’ refers to interventions that tackle the root causes of violent conflict and support societies to resolve conflicts peacefully. The term ‘peacebuilding’ has been in use for over forty years, including by the UN, World Bank, global leaders and businesses. Peacebuilding approaches have been and are being used in countries such as Rwanda, Northern Ireland and Syria.

The coalition has been targeting all major English language dictionaries to get this word included in their newest 2018 editions. Cambridge and Collins Dictionaries have both publicly agreed to include the word in their next editions. Merriam Webster and the Oxford English Dictionary have yet to confirm.

Notes for the editors:

  • The campaign is supported by a coalition of peacebuilding charities including African Peacebuilding Network, Alliance for Peacebuilding, Conciliation Resources, Generations for Peace, International Alert, Partners Global, Peace Direct, Saferworld and Search for Common Ground.
  • More information about the campaign is available at: https://www.international-alert.org/peacebuildingdictionary

Additional quotes:

Neil Bartlett, acclaimed author and theatre director (https://www.neil-bartlett.com/)

“In the pages of most current dictionaries, war is active. It can be made, waged and declared – war can even be a verb in its own right. Peace, meanwhile, is left as a hard-to-define noun, destined to always be something we dream of and never something we might actually do. That's why this new word entering a leading world dictionary matters so much. Peacebuilding is a word we badly need to hear being used more often.”

Fabian Hamilton MP, Shadow Minister for Peace and Disarmament

“An important aspect in the proliferation of peace is for it to enter the public discourse. We hear far too much about war and conflict, with a variety of these terms already being included in the dictionary and, therefore, making their way towards being normalised. However, it is this normalisation that is so desperately needed for peaceful rhetoric and techniques. As a result, it is absolutely right and necessary that ‘peacebuilding’ should enter the dictionary.”

Caroline Lucas MP, MP and leader of the Green Party

"Getting peacebuilding into dictionaries would be a small but important step towards recognising the tireless work of people around the world to end conflict. Without the right language, creating a more peaceful world is all the more difficult."

Trudie Goodwin, actress

“War rarely works. Peacebuilding – that tackles the root causes of problems – needs a chance. Starting with its own place in the dictionary! That’s why I back this campaign.”