Simulation of official meeting in French for diplomats and staff takes place at UN Headquarters

The UN's French Language Programme held an innovative three-day workshop in French from Tuesday to Thursday, 24 - 26 June to simulate an official meeting. The event was part of the year-long celebration of the International Year of Languages.

Every year, delegates of permanent missions to the UN hold more than 1,000 internal meetings to negotiate and reach common positions on international issues to lend more impact to their collective weight in the world. These meetings and consultations are held prior to addressing up to six main committees of the General Assembly.

The workshop was specifically tailored for diplomats and staff members who attend such meetings and consultations held in French. It is open only to participants with an advanced level of French.

Apart from helping participants to refresh their French and learn the specific language of diplomatic meetings, role-playing exercises will prepare them to better understand other speakers, read and discuss official documents more easily, speak and negotiate with confidence, and to better express viewpoints and negotiate.

During the meetings, participants will play the role of a delegate from a Member State and define the position of their government on a specific UN-related issue. They will present its position and negotiate with other “delegates” representing different member states.

Since 2003, the Learning Section of the Office of Human Resources Management has been holding annual workshops with simulated meetings. Further workshops focusing on global issues and specific themes are also planned for the future. The focus on French this year reflects the added importance it will assume as an official working language of the UN during France's forthcoming six-month presidency of the European Union.

The workshop is also part of a year-long programme of activities to mark the 2008 International Year of Languages proclaimed by the UN General Assemly on 16 May 2007, in order to highlight the importance of language in the work of the Organization as well as to promote unity in diversity and international understanding through multilingualism.

Using simulation at the UN

Simulation goes beyond role-playing as it allows learners to assume their own professional role and use their own judgment. Increasingly, the UN system is using this tool to help staff and the public gather experience and learn more about the Organization’s activities.

The Model United Nations, for example, which is a simulation of the General Assembly and other multilateral bodies, dates back decades. More than 400,000 middle school, high school, college and university students worldwide participate every year.

Recently, on 2 and 3 June, members of Permanent Missions, UN staff, representatives of civil society, law enforcement, and the private sector participated in an interactive human trafficking mock trial and role-playing exercie on the “Criminal Justice Responses Against Trafficking in Persons”, as a side event for a General Assembly special debate on human trafficking.

The event at headquarters, organized by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in partnership with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), was part of the UN.GIFT initiative.