Prisca Chaoui

Tell us about yourself.

I was born in Lebanon and had my childhood and adolescence marked by the civil war there. That is why, at age 21 and after having received my bachelor’s in translation, I decided to leave my country. I went to ESIT (L’École supérieure d’interprètes et de traducteurs) in Paris to continue my studies in translation, obtained my master’s in 2000, and then came to Geneva to study interpreting, graduating from the FTI (Faculty of Translation and Interpreting at the University of Geneva) in 2003. After joining the UN in 2005, I realised the importance of having a degree in international relations, which I pursued through a master’s that I obtained in 2008. I am married and have two children, aged 12 and 14, who are half- Ecuadorian and half-Lebanese.

What’s your experience within the UN System?

Before joining the UN Secretariat, I worked as a freelance translator and then as an interpreter in many international organisations such as UNESCO, ILO, WMO, WIPO, WFP, and other specialised agencies. I have also had the chance to work for a Lebanese newspaper as a translator, which allowed me to build up journalistic knowledge. I joined UNOG as an interpreter in 2005, after successfully completing the interpreters’ competitive exam.

In 2015, I was attached to the Staff Union where I occupied various positions, namely: President, Deputy-Executive Secretary and, finally, Executive Secretary. My experience in the Staff Union allowed me to become acquainted with UN policies and the staff rights and obligations, but also with what is of interest for staff. I am back to the interpretation section as of March this year, but will retain my engagement in the Staff Union.  

Since when are you in charge of UN Today?

I have been a member of the Editorial Board of UN today, previously UN Special, for the last five years. I was appointed Editor-in-Chief in February 2021 – a great honour for me – but at the same time representing a big challenge as I want to drive the magazine to excellence, in terms of content and format, so that it becomes an attractive communication channel for its broad readership. My main challenge is to keep the magazine focused on issues that are of interest for staff as it isn’t meant to duplicate what one could find in official publications or websites.

What’s your vision about UN Today in terms of news?

As its name indicates, UN Today is here to tackle current issues that are of interest for staff both in relation to their working conditions and also to the work and activities they conduct in the realisation of the organisation’s mandate. It is meant to be a bridge between UN staff working both in Geneva and outside. It is also intended to cover issues of interest for the diplomatic community in Geneva, which is at the forefront of UN staff work.

Finally, the magazine is also developed to be a communication channel for former staff members who would like to keep a link with active staff members. That is why we have recently created a section dedicated to retirees called  “Memories of Life”, where they can share their past experiences working for the UN and its agencies.

What type of content is of interest for the UN community?

The UN Geneva community is composed of staff working for the UN, yet also includes consultants and interns who, very often, are forgotten. It also comprises diplomatic missions and the NGO community. The common link between these three components is the fact that all come from afar, with different cultural backgrounds, to work in a city like Geneva which is well known for its importance in multilateralism. This means that many are « foreigners » and they are often looking for real integration, such as only happens through many factors. This is why we have created many sections in the magazine to respond to the interests of our readership, mainly: international Geneva, leisure and culture, health and well-being, and lifestyle, among others.   

How do you foresee UN Today in the future?

UN Today has to remain focused on staff issues while opening up to subjects that facilitate bridge-building between both the international and the local Geneva. I also see it as a means to show the diversity of competences and skills that UN staff have to the reader. I can foresee the magazine leaving its ‘niche’, which is Geneva, and be open to staff from other duty stations. With this in mind, I have already started reaching out to staff outside Geneva to contribute to the magazine with stories and experience, and this has proven to be successful.

I also believe that the magazine should develop a greater digital presence to complement our current times. UN Today was founded as UN Special in 1949. It started on paper and remained so until only recently. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for making the magazine available not only in hard copy but also in digital format. Today, nobody can overlook the importance of social media, and this is why I am working with the editorial team to increase the presence of the magazine through social channels. We are also planning to engage more with our readers through video, a medium that can effectively illustrate some of the content of the magazine.

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