Writing for the United Nations
II. Reader and purpose
Your report should not be a mystery. You must be very clear on the reason that you are writing the report and the major points you want to make and you should convey these to the reader in your introduction. You can safely assume that if you do not state the purpose explicitly, at least some of your readers will not realize [TIP] what it is. If you have several purposes of equal importance, state them in parallel structures to indicate their equivalent value.
Sometimes, the reason you are writing the report (its statement of purpose) will be very similar to the content of the report (its subject), especially when the purpose is merely to inform the reader. Sometimes, however, the statement of purpose will be quite distinct from the subject. In such cases, your introduction will benefit from keeping these two aspects separate.
For example, the purpose of the report of the Secretary-General on the financing of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) [TIP] is to obtain funding for the mission from the General Assembly. The subject of the report - in other words, its main content - is an account of UNMIL activities and the estimates of the money that will be needed to finance them. Your introduction will need to include both these aspects.
Note that stating the purpose at the beginning is sometimes essential to indicate legislative authority for the report (General Assembly and Security Council resolutions and so forth) and will be helpful to you as well as your readers. If your report is in response to a specific resolution, make a copy of the resolution and highlight the main points. Keep checking back to make sure you are not deviating from your main purpose. Now take a look at an exercise to show how the resolution can help you to keep your report focused on its subject. You can check your answers using the link at the end of the exercise.
Defining your purpose at the very beginning keeps you on track and lets the reader see where you are going. You may also find that the process of drafting a statement (or sometimes for a long report, a paragraph) about the purpose helps you to clarify the purpose in your own mind.
However, bear in mind that there might be some types of writing, usually shorter and more direct internal communications, that do not require an explicit statement of purpose.Some of the purposes of United Nations reports are the following:
Use the examples in subparagraphs (a)-(g) to decide what the purposes of the reports in exercise 2 might be.
The various types of United Nations reports [TIP] often have similar purposes. Some examples are given below.
Staff members are also often required to write notes for the file, summaries of longer documents or articles, summary records of meetings, analytical reports and memorandums and other correspondence. How to write summaries will be covered later in this course.
The title of your report should immediately alert your reader to the subject of the report and why you are writing it. If you include only a general topic statement, the reader is forced to search further for the purpose or even to guess what it might be.
An example of a good title is "Measures to strengthen accountability at the United Nations". It tells us what the report will be about (measures to strengthen accountability), and in what context (at the United Nations).
In contrast, the title "Human resources development" [TIP] is not so clear. We know that the report deals with human resources development, but in what context? The United Nations? We could assume so, especially since the General Assembly indeed considers many such issues in the Secretariat. In fact, the summary of the report says that it "provides an overview of the need for promoting comprehensive and cross-sectoral approaches to human resources development" and that it "emphasizes the mutually reinforcing relationship between human resources development and the realization of the internationally agreed development goals". The agenda item is entitled "Eradication of poverty and other development issues: human resources development". This title could therefore usefully be expanded to read "Contribution of human resources development to the eradication of poverty". If in doubt about how to develop a title, however, the simplest solution is often to follow the wording of the agenda item. For example, the title of the report could read "Eradication of poverty: human resources development".
For internal documents, using words such as "recommendation", "request", "proposal" and "authorization" often helps to indicate the purpose. For example,
In A Guide to Writing for the United Nations, [TIP] W.H. Hindle writes (p. 6):
If you keep your reader in mind as you draft your report, just as you do when you write a personal letter, you will find it easier to make decisions about what to include (and what to omit), how to organize the material and what tone to adopt.
Ask yourself the following questions before you begin to write:
|| I. Introduction | II. Reader and purpose | III. Pre-writing techniques | IV. Standard report formats | V. Sentence and paragraph development | VI. Clarity in writing | VII. Writing a summary | VIII. Writing conclusions and recommendations | IX. Some last tips ||
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