IATEFL and global conflicts

13th February 2024

Dear IATEFL members,

With the awful increase in global conflicts, and in particular the terrible humanitarian crisis in the Middle East, we felt it was important to be open and clear on IATEFL’s position, the reasons behind it, and our desire to best support the English language teaching profession around the world.

Perhaps the best starting point is to say that, as with all of our members, we abhor the use of violence and the human suffering of peoples for whatever reason, wherever they take place in the world, whatever their race, nationality, religion, creed, gender or other characteristic. This is clearly something we can all agree on. 

Each circumstance and tragedy raises understandable outrage from members, often with varying views on the events, and often with a sense of helplessness and a question of ‘what can I do?’ As a board of trustees we have all been affected by these feelings ourselves as individuals, but then there is a question of whether we can speak for the entirety of our membership in a constructive and consistent way in every conflict, and which all members feel they can associate themselves with. Do we have the knowledge and understanding of each global event in order to say anything other than that we abhor violence? This challenge has been tested more than ever with the current situation in the Israel-Gaza conflict, and we have received heartfelt, emotional and at times angry comments from members from a range of perspectives. These, of course, make us continually reflect on what is the right thing to do, whether we have taken the right path, what more we can or should do, whilst being faithful to our guiding principles and aims for all our members. We have done this with the best intentions, and have aimed to draw a line between our own feelings and what the association should do and say. We are sorry if some feel we should have taken a different path, and sincerely hope that this article can shine a light on our intentions and actions.

As trustees the foundation for our actions, or inactions as some might claim, are the association’s published policies, which have been carefully drafted over many years. The most pertinent of these is our ‘Mission, goals and practices’. It states that:

We feel strongly that all ELT professionals should be respected and that everyone has the right to be treated fairly. We aim to be an inclusive association which welcomes diversity and respectful debate. In our own practices and policies, we act in ways that encourage this diversity and professional discussion. We oppose discrimination of any kind in ELT, as outlined in our Code of Conduct. We do not, however, get involved in specific campaigns, issues, or politics, at a local, national or international level, and do not favour or prioritise the needs of one group of teachers over another. Our aim, therefore, is to provide a forum where educators from anywhere in the world can come together to learn from each other and to offer mutual professional support.

Resulting from this, IATEFL has seen its role as being focused on issues specifically relating to, or affecting, the English language teaching profession, with an aim of being as inclusive of all views, perspectives and circumstances as possible, and within a community founded on respect of others. It has not historically made statements on global events, including conflicts and wars.

At the start of 2022 IATEFL did, however, issue a statement on Ukraine when it was invaded.

IATEFL’s thoughts are with all those caught up in the current war in Ukraine
We wish to stand in support of all IATEFL members, as well as IATEFL Associate teaching associations, who oppose and condemn this conflict not of their own making, wherever they are located.
IATEFL is a global association dedicated to international cooperation, education, exchange and understanding. We believe now, as much as ever, these values are vitally important.

Following this, IATEFL has continued to be an inclusive association, working with teachers and teaching associations in Ukraine, and also in Russia and Belarus where teachers might not have influence over the actions of their country, and might not agree with the stance of their country’s leadership, but with our focus being on supporting English teachers wherever they are.

We are, sadly, very much aware of current conflicts in many parts of the world such as Sudan, Yemen, Syria, Myanmar, Congo to name but a few, as well as in and around Gaza. We are sure we speak for all of our members around the world when we reiterate our abhorrence of violence, war and human suffering in each and all of these conflicts. Our hearts go out to those affected directly, and indirectly.  We have, and will continue to, support teachers and teaching associations in every part of the world, and this includes our IATEFL Associate teaching associations PATEFL and ETAI

We would therefore like to reiterate and extend the sentiments expressed in the above statement, originally made in 2022 relating to Ukraine, that we unreservedly oppose and condemn violence against others for whatever reason, and remain dedicated to international cooperation, education, exchange and understanding. This includes all those caught up in current conflicts around the world. We consider this a timeless statement that reflects our position on all armed conflicts, regardless of who is involved. We also ask all members to continue to treat each other with respect, which is surely the basis for, not only our global community, but for the world as a whole. 

The Board of Trustees of IATEFL