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Department for General Assembly and Conference Management

Verbatim Reporting Service

The United Nations Verbatim Reporting Service (VRS) was established in 1946, with the first verbatim record issued upon the conclusion of the first plenary meeting of the General Assembly, held on 10 January 1946. Verbatim records are prepared exclusively at Headquarters. They are issued in a document called a PV (the abbreviation of the French “procès verbal”). Currently, VRS produces de facto in extenso official records of the plenary meetings of the General Assembly, its special and emergency special sessions and high-level dialogues, the Security Council and its Military Staff Committee (in Chinese, English, French and Russian only), the First Committee, the Disarmament Commission and the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, in all six UN official languages.

As official meetings records, they are meant to answer the following questions: “Who spoke at the meeting?” “What exactly was said?” and “What was finally decided?” Verbatim records are prepared records of what is said at a meeting. Each language version contains the statements delivered in that language plus translations of speeches given in the other languages. The scope of the work of the Service is indicated by the number of meetings for which it is required to produce records: in 2016, the number was 435; in 2017, it was 473. In 2017 the Security Council held a record number of meetings (300 meetings).

Combining the skills of transcription, translation and editing, verbatim reporters ensure the substantive accuracy of all statements given at a meeting, while maintaining a uniformly high standard of style. They correct grammatical errors, clarify the order of presentations without changing the meaning, verify quotations and insert necessary references, and check facts and details against the documentation of the body concerned and all available data bases. In accordance with prescribed models for parliamentary procedures, they employ standardized formulas when dealing with procedural matters and the conduct of voting. Just like the interpreters, the verbatim reporters must be thoroughly up to date on all matters discussed in meetings of intergovernmental bodies, which often requires extensive research in those different areas. Their work represents the permanent, historic record – in written form – of all oral statements that were made at the meeting.

The high quality of verbatim records necessitates the optimal use of IT resources. VRS has completed its transition to a fully electronic, internally paperless workflow. In addition, the Service has substantially benefitted from the use of the UN’s computer-assisted translation tool eLuna. In addition, the testing by the English Verbatim Reporting Section of voice-recognition based on Google’s Speech2Text software holds great promise for the other five Verbatim Reporting Sections and for improved efficiency in general.

 

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