Multilingualism being one of the foundations of the United Nations, translation of documents into official languages plays an important political and practical role in the functioning of the Organization. At UNOG, official translation is the responsibility of the Division of Conference Management's Languages Service. Together with their freelance colleagues, the 160 translators on the permanent staff of the Languages Service translate some 70 million words a year.
The service provides translations for some 50 bodies in UNOG and other parts of the United Nations system on topics including disarmament, environmental protection, human rights, codification of international law, macro-and micro-economics, trade promotion and transport. The Service's principal clients are: the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) , which deals with economic development, principally in Eastern Europe, and the harmonization of regulations on motor vehicle safety, transport infrastructure and the carriage of dangerous goods and so forth; the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), whose activities cover all aspects of the economies of developing countries (globalization, trade law, enterprise development, training for international trade, etc); the Conference on Disarmament (CD), the International Law Commission (ILC), which studies international legal practice and elaborates draft rules for the conduct of international relations; and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which services the Human Rights Council and a range of committees for ensuring compliance with international standards on children's rights, economic, social and cultural rights, the protection of migrant workers, the prevention of torture and so on. Translators in all the language sections process reports from governments, individuals and United Nations bodies; translators into English or French may also be called on to draft summary records of United Nations meetings.
A number of other staff is responsible for editing and proofreading complex and politically sensitive parliamentary documents and publications in conformity with the United Nations editorial standards. Working to strict deadlines, the editors strive to ensure that the documents are correct, clear, consistent and logical—as well as translatable. They make sure that established terminology is used and that editorial standards, policies and practices are followed.
Other staff contribute to the translation process by providing precedents to translators in all six languages in order to reduce research time needed for translating and ensure consistency in language use throughout series of documents on the same subject matter.
Finally, printed word receives its final form in the 6 text processing units i.e. 1 for each language of the United Nations.