For language interpreters and translators, working at the United Nations is a dream job. The responsibility of providing a linguistic bridge between the leaders of the world, as they contemplate issues that affect the fate of humankind, is regarded as the height of prestige in the business of language services.
That said, the UN isn’t just an annual meeting; it’s made up of six articulated parts. Let’s look at and define each one of these branches, culminating in how they affect the tasks of language professionals.
Branches of the UN
- The General Assembly
This branch of the UN includes nearly all internationally recognized countries. Currently, the General Assembly is made up of a total of 193 member-states.
The Assembly takes place annually, in September. The purpose is to remedy pressing issues relating to international security and diplomacy.
Topics relating to defense and internal organizational management (for example new membership and budgeting), require a two-thirds vote. Most other issues only need a majority. Every country, regardless of size, gets one vote.
There are two permanent non-member observer states in the General Assembly: Palestine and the Vatican. They can’t vote, but are allowed to participate in debates.
In 2015, the General Assembly launched the Sustainable Development Goals. This is a conjoint plan in international development, to be accomplished by 2030. One of the underpinning principles is that no nation should be left behind, with the most vulnerable receiving priority.
- The Security Council
This is the most powerful organ in the UN. The goal of the Security Council is to prevent large-scale conflict. To that end, members work to attain peace through negotiation and sanctions.
There are 15 members in the Security Council. Five of these hold their seats permanently: Russia, France, China, the UK, and the US. They’re known as the P5 and are all victors of the Second World War. The remaining ten seats represent regional groups that change every two years via election.
The P5 have veto power, whose application has caused much controversy, disappointment, and backlash. For example, the US has vetoed dozens of motions against Israel for illegal action in the Middle East.
The Security Council controls the UN’s military and police personnel. If the Council so chooses, it may deploy this force of 80,000 soldiers.
- Economic and Social Council
Working to improve standards of living and defend human rights is the aim of this branch. The Council relies heavily on collaboration with specialized agencies like the World Health Organization and the High Commission for Refugees.
- International Court of Justice
This is the judicial body of the UN. It is where international law violations are raised, debated, and prosecuted. However, countries with significant power often refuse to comply with court rulings.
- Trusteeship Council
No longer operational since 1994, this arm of the UN had the purpose of helping budding nations become autonomous countries. The Council helped more than 70 countries gain independence.
- The Secretariat
This is the branch of UN that oversees internal administration. It is responsible for compiling reports and communicating between the different councils. The Secretariat is headed by the UN Secretary-General. As of 2017, that is Portuguese politician António Guterres.
So, What Is the Effect on Language Interpreters and Translators?
Language Interpreter Prep
Professionals working in the UN Interpretation Service need to speak at least three languages. But, they also have an obligation to remain informed and up-to-date on relevant UN topics, both external and internal, in order to further ensure top translation quality.
Safety Net for Mistakes
UN interpreters are subject to weariness due to intense travel. And the relay systems they use in their work are cutting edge, but not perfectly foolproof. So, in the interest of accuracy, the UN only permits one intermediary language during its events.
For some nations, this is not enough. If allowed, they might go so far as to bring their own professionals to watch over interpreters as they work.
Hindi, Portuguese, Bengali, and Turkish are seeing growing demand in conference interpreting. Because of this, many speculate they will someday feature among the UN’s official languages.
Language Interpreting Rhythm
A UN interpreter works in groups of two or three for each language pair. To fight exhaustion, the UN guides language professionals to work a maximum of seven to eight three-hour meetings per week.
Language Interpreters, Take Stock
Language interpreting, along with document translation, is intimately connected with the field of international development. For those who wish to contribute through the means of language, interpreter certification and language training are an indispensable step.
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