Languages for Building Bridges 

Jess Moody, who left Alleyn's in 2007, has a Masters in International Relations, a PhD in Post Conflict Peacebuilding, and she is now a consultant in that field. Jess began her talk by explaining the importance of peacebuilding to ensure that peace prevails in communities that have been torn apart by repeated conflicts. 

She gave a rare insight into the complex and delicate process of peacebuilding, which involves among other things facilitating decisions on what happens to the perpetrators of war crimes and encouraging acceptance between opposing sides. The second part of Jess’s job is Political Risk Analysis, which involves her following up on her talks with reports that analyse any obstacles there might be to a peace process and which offer potential solutions to these obstacles. 

Jess talked about how important it is to understand and build a rapport with and all the parties involved in a conflict, and although many languages are spoken in West Africa, French, despite being the colonial language, is the language of cohesion and without speaking French she could not begin to achieve mutual trust and understanding. Of course, both speaking French and other African languages she picks up as she goes along is essential for the practical aspects of working in West Africa, such as eating and getting around.

While Jess’ work can be both tough and complex, she patently adores Cote d’Ivoire, where she works primarily, and spoke of her love of both the food and culture. She recounted the fun she has had, such as travelling on ‘nouchi’ buses and of course playing football, an international language in itself. 

African culture has been both necessary for her work in conflict resolution and hugely enjoyable. She particularly loves African music and treated everyone to two songs by her favourite African musicians. The first was Water Got No Enemy, by the Nigerian political musician Fela Kuti and later Le Prix du Paradis, by the Ivorian reggae singer Tiken Jah Fakoli, both of which make poignant political comment. 

Organiser, MFL teacher Phil Harper, thanked Jess warmly for sharing her insights, and thanks must go in turn to Phil for organising this well-attended event.

"I was delighted to welcome back an AOG to talk about such an important subject. Jess also showed us how languages open up the world in a truly meaningful way". Phil Harper