Nationality

Morocco

Education

Post-Graduate Diploma in Translation, Tangier School of Translation, Morocco

Bachelor’s Degree in English Language and Literature, Cadi Ayyad University, Marrakesh, Morocco

Languages

Arabic, French, English, Spanish, Berber

Given my multi-lingual background, I have always considered the United Nations as the ultimate place for a career. I come from Morocco, where I earned a diploma from the Tangier School of Translation, a leading provider of highly-qualified Arabic translators to the United Nations. The curriculum covered translation skills as well as political science, international law and world affairs.

I learned a great deal about the Moroccan political landscape during my first job as a journalist for a partisan, French-speaking daily newspaper; every political party in Morocco has its own mouthpiece newspaper. A year later, I moved on to the Maghreb Arabe Presse, the Moroccan State-owned news agency, where I worked long shifts under constant pressure, and often within the constraints of respecting the government’s official line.

My next role as Press and Public Affairs Assistant Officer at the British Embassy in Rabat, the Moroccan capital was more satisfying. As the Foreign Office’s main point of contact in Morocco, I advised the Chancery and the economic section of the Embassy on political developments and provide a daily factual and analytic synopsis of issues covered by the Arabic press. I handled all Arabic translations of official documents, and organized press conferences for “Her Majesty’s Ambassadors.” I was also the publisher and editor of the United Kingdom in Morocco website. It was humbling to work with savvy diplomats.

Although I was comfortable with my embassy job, I still dreamed of working at the United Nations. In 2003, I passed the United Nations Competitive Examination for Arabic Verbatim Reporters, but it was not until 2006 that I took up a position at the New York Headquarters. It was a tough decision to leave Rabat, but I wanted to pursue an international career at the United Nations—the pinnacle for linguists—and my wife and I hoped to provide our children with the educational opportunities and fulfillment that come with exposure to another culture. Also appealing was the notion of serving such noble causes as peace as well as human and economic development—the moral reward is beyond compare.

The Verbatim Reporting Service facilitates communication among Member States and the Secretariat by providing accurate, full-length records of the meetings of the General Assembly, Security Council, the six main Committees and other bodies entitled to such records. These official records are meant to answer the question “who said what,” and are entered into the Official Document System; they are produced in all six official United Nations languages.

I find verbatim reporting interesting because, despite the name, we do not do word-for-word translation; a verbatim record is a complete but edited transcript of the proceedings. The job requires a mixture of skills—transcription, translation, copy editing and fact-checking —- as well as a high level of political sensitivity. You must put yourself in the speakers’ mind to determine what he meant to say and to detect nuances; you should have a broad knowledge of international affairs; and you should be able to understand issues—this is why people from media backgrounds often fit the requirements.

Usually I watch meetings via live transmissions at my computer, but sometimes I attend Security Council consultations and debates, and sit at a table in front of world leaders. I have had the opportunity to witness history in the making, such as a tense, 2007 meeting about the war between Israel and Lebanon, at which a cease-fire resolution was adopted. Verbatim reporters may be low-profile, but we do contribute to the objectives of the United Nations, because communication is so key to its agenda.

Apart from my work at United Nations, I came to New York for its enriching multi-culturalism, and my family is very happy here. My nine-year-old daughter attends the United Nations International School, where her tuition is largely subsidized by the Organization; my four-year-old son will start there next year. It is a fantastic school with students from over 120 countries, and the same diverse qualities as the United Nations.

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