As the Dag Hammarskjöld Library celebrates the 70th anniversary of the United Nations with 70 Years, 70 Documents: An Exhibit we present an accompanying piece, a historical look at how United Nations documents came into being in the early years of the UN.
All photos and text below are from the UN Photo Library’s series of photographs called “The Birth of a United Nations Document”. Taken in 1947 and 1948 they provide a fascinating look at how UN documents where created in the early years of the UN.
THE BIRTH OF A UNITED NATIONS DOCUMENT
Precision, speed and accuracy are the hall-mark of the astounding mechanism, developed by the United Nations to record its multilingual proceedings. These behind-the-scene pictures show the life story of an official record, from the spoken word to the printed document.
The great majority of mankind, through the representatives of 58 Member nations, makes itself heard before the international forum. The words fly, but there is a machinery that gives them permanence and turns the representative’s speech into a document of historic, as well as of immediate political and diplomatic value. (Photo # 70998)
The Security Council listens attentively, but the language barriers still must be overcome.(Photo # 70999)
In the next phase the records are taken apart speech by speech, and translated. (Photo # 111295)
The representatives have 48 hours to check their speeches and send in their corrections to the editors who incorporate them in the revised edition, which is most painstakingly prepared for publication. Correct spelling of names is written out on a blackboard to ensure uniformity throughout the document. All the above operations are carried out by the Official Records Division. (Photo # 111296)
The final manuscript goes to the printing shop, and the typesetter gets busy. (Photo # 111297)
Although the note-takers must be able to pass the 200-words-a-minute test, human beings are only human – a man may be suddenly taken ill for instance, or simply miss a word in the heat of the debate. This is where the machine comes in. The automatic sound recording captures even the fastest spoken words, and the sound track may be referred to, if necessary, for checking purposes. (Photo # 111294)