Welcome to the website of the English Translation Section

The English Translation Section is primarily responsible for producing summary records and for translating into English documents received in the five other official languages of the United Nations. Our clients are diverse and include the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the International Law Commission (ILC) and the Conference on Disarmament. OHCHR accounts for over 60 per cent of our translation work. Most of the documents we receive in that connection are prepared by Member States or the Geneva-based human rights treaty bodies.

Producing summary records accounts for 60 per cent of the Section’s workload and is referred to as “précis-writing”. Staff draft and revise summary records of meetings of the 10 treaty bodies and the International Law Commission. As this is an important part of the Section’s work, training is provided to all newcomers in this area. Précis-writing is an intensive task, but it also gives staff first-hand knowledge of the work of the United Nations.

We are a fairly diverse group, representing a number of different nationalities including American, British, Canadian, Estonian, French, Irish, Italian, Malaysian, Spanish and Swiss. Some of us have been with the United Nations for one year, some of us for more than 20. Between us we have almost 400 years of experience in translation and knowledge of over a dozen languages.

What are human rights treaties?

Human rights treaties are legal texts that address different aspects of human rights. Examples of treaties include the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. When a country has a ratified a treaty, its Government is required by law to enforce the human rights standards contained in that treaty.

What are summary records?

When a country ratifies one of the core international human rights treaties, it undertakes to submit periodic reports to the corresponding treaty body and to send delegates to Geneva every few years to meet with the treaty body and discuss the state of human rights in the country. Staff from the English Translation Section attend these meetings and write records summarizing the discussions that take place. Here is an example of a summary record (PDF, opens in new tab).