Controversies Over Terms

Guy Burgess

Co-Director of the University of Colorado Conflict Research Consortium and the Beyond Intractability Project

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

I've been an awful lot of meetings where one argues and argues about which words we ought to use for what. Is it peacebuilding? Is it peace processes? Does peacebuilding parallel with peacekeeping? And life is just too messy for that. We need clearer words; folks often misunderstand what we're saying. We need to be clearer about, we need some words for this sort of large-scale, some are calling it, meta-peace process that combines all the different wings of the peace field together, in order to be able to describe what we're doing. There are an awful lot of turf issues tied up with different terms. There are conflicts over the use of words. I've sort of come to the conclusion that the ideas that matter are relatively clear, the words are difficult and the only way to get by is that you pick whatever word you want to use and you make a habit of defining it, up front, every time you use it, in an unobtrusive way. You don't want to say, "Well for dummies who don't know, peacebuilding is " but you have to be clear about what you're saying and you have to have this common vocabulary, but there are so many different words running around that you almost have to define the terms every time you use them, which is a bit cumbersome, but I don't see any way around it.