Among my duties here at the Mission is the composition of notes verbales, which are unsigned letters from one diplomatic mission or government to another. The actual content can usually be summed up in a sentence or two, but the note verbale is a peculiarly formal document, and I have to admit that I’ve developed a certain fondness for its elaborate charms.
A typical note verbal goes something like this:
The Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations presents its compliments to the Permanent Mission of the [Country] to the United Nations and has the honour to inform the latter that [something or other, usually involving mutual support in elections to various UN bodies].
The Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations avails itself of this opportunity to renew to the Permanent Mission of the Republic of [Country] to the United Nations the assurances of its highest consideration.
5 April 2005
Note that the date and the “honour” are British. Note also that this lovey-dovey boilerplate gets sent back and forth between countries that don’t like each other much — although I have yet to send one to North Korea. But that, I suppose, is much of the point of the UN: it’s a place where all the different countries get their officials together to practice speaking to each other in a dignified manner. How effective this is at preventing conflict, I have no idea, but it’s kind of fun to write.