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Hanna Saba was born on 23 July 1909 in Damietta, Egypt. He studied at the Collège des pères jésuites au Caire, as well as the École Libre des Sciences Politiques in Paris and received his Doctorate in Law from the Faculté du droit of Paris.
In 1943, Saba began his diplomatic career as a deputy for the conseiller d’Etat, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 1945, he was made conseiller d’ambassade and was part of the Egyptian delegation to the San Francisco Conference during which the foundations of the United Nations were laid. That same year, he was a member of the Egyptian delegation in negotiations leading to the creation of the Arab League, and the following year, he played an important role in addressing disagreements between Iran and the Soviet Union. By the end of 1946, Saba’s career took a new turn as he joined the United Nations Secretariat in New York as Director of the Treaty Section.
Saba’s career at UNESCO began in 1950 when he was appointed Legal Adviser. As such, he played a key role in the development of normative action at the Organization. When the Bureau of Legal Affairs was expanded and renamed the Office for International Standards and Legal Affairs in 1967, he was promoted to the rank of Assistant Director-General. He retired from UNESCO in 1970. That year, the Sixteenth Session of the General Conference paid tribute to him, expressing its appreciation of “the high sense of responsibility which he has demonstrated throughout the years with unfailing loyalty and remarkable competence” (16 C/resolution 0.10, 1971). After his retirement, Saba worked as a consultant and an expert for UNESCO, undertaking, for example, missions for the protection and conservation of cultural heritage in Alger, Burundi, and Nepal.
Among other honours, Saba was named Officier du Nil, Grand officier du Mérite égyptien, and Grand officier de la Légion d'honneur (France). He received the Grand croix du Mérite de l’ordre souverain de Malte. While he was serving UNESCO, Saba also was also promoted to Minister Plenipotentiary of the United Arab Republic.
Hanna Saba authored many publications, including: Certains aspects de l'évolution dans la technique des traités, 1948; Les accords régionaux dans la charte de l'O.N.U, 1952; Limitations to the Growth of Personnel Management in Lebanon and Egypt, 1957; La Convention et la Recommandation de l'U.N.E.S.C.O. concernant la lutte contre la discrimination dans le domaine de l'enseignement, 1960; L'Action normative de l'UNESCO et la paix, 1972; Textes juridiques en matière de protection et de promotion du patrimoine naturel et culturel, 1978; La protection du patrimoine culturel mobilier: Recueil de textes législatifs, 1979; La charte internationale des droits de l'homme, son élaboration et son application dans un monde multiculturel, 1984. The memoir 40 ans qui ont transformé le monde was published posthumously in 2005.
Hanna Saba died on 29 September 1992.
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- Saba, Hanna. (2005). Forty years that transformed the world. Paris : L’harmattan. Available at UNESCO Library.
- « Saba (Hanna). » (1993). Who’s Who in France. 25ème édition. Paris : Editions Jacques Lafitte.
- “Hanna Saba”. (2015). Wikipedia. Retrieved from: https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanna_Saba
- UNESCO. General Conference, Sixteenth Session (1971). Records of the General Conference. Volume 1: Resolutions. 16 C/Resolution 0.10. Available online in UNESDOC, accessed 27-5-2016: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0011/001140/114046e.pdf
- UNESCO. (27 juin 1967). M. Saba. ODG/DG/Mémo 28.707. UNESCO Archives, AG 14 Biographical file on Saba.