United Nations Documents

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United Nations Documents

Finding United Nations Documents

These documents are the major, final records of the General Assembly, Security Council, Economic and Social Council, the Trusteeship Council and the Secretariat. Reports of all major committees are published as supplements to the Official Record. For the past few years, the supplement numbers remain consistent. For example, the report of the International Law Commission is now always Supplement No. 10 of the Official Record of the General Assembly. Publication of the Official Records in paper can be slow or inconsistent. A complete set of the Official Records can be found, in some law libraries, in the U.N. microfiche collection.

  • U.N. General Assembly. Official Records.
  • U.N. Security Council. Official Records.
  • U.N. Economic and Social Council. Official Records.
  • U.N. Trusteeship Council. Official Records.

Resolutions and Decisions

The easiest place to find recent resolution texts is on the Web using the UN Web site (www.un.org/documents/resga.htm), from 1981-current or Access UN (see below). There are also several paper sources. Resolutions and decisions are published as part of the Official Record (required for Bluebook citation). They are published as the last supplement of the General Assembly’s Official Record and as the first supplement of the Economic and Social Council’s and Security Council’s Official Records. Resolutions and decisions are also published separately as press releases and by other publishers.

  • U.N. General Assembly. Resolutions and Decisions Adopted by the General Assembly.
    Press Release. Most of the texts are taken from the documents before the General Assembly at the time of adoption.
  • U.N. General Assembly. Resolutions Adopted by the General Assembly. Compiled and edited by Dusan J. Djonovich. The resolutions are numbered in the order of their adoption and are reprinted from the original U.N. documents. Indexes, voting records and related materials have been added. Covers resolutions from 1946-1986 .
  • U.N. Security Council. Resolutions and Decisions of the Security Council. Published as part of the Security Council’s Official Record.
  • U.N. Security Council. Resolutions and Decisions of the Security Council. Compiled and edited by Dusan J. Djonovich. The resolutions are numbered in the order of their adoption. Includes voting results. Covers resolutions from 1946-1978/79.

United Nations Documents

Published under the authority of the U.N. in microfiche form, they are often still referred to as ‘mimeo documents’, the process by which they were originally published. Symbols of the U.N. documents are composed of letters and figures as explained in the entry about the United Nations Documents Symbols System.

Indexes to United Nations Documents

Indexes to the United Nations documents can be found, in many law libraries, in paper, microfiche and CD-ROM. Each of these sources cover different dates.

  • AccessUN, available through law Libraries, provides online access to the Readex United Nations Index of current and retrospective United Nations documents and publications. We have written a detailed entry about the database and it is available on the World Encyclopedia of Law at the entry about UN resources. This entry contains citations to documents from 1956 to the present.
  • UNBISnet (https://unbisnet.un.org/) is a bibliographic index to all UN documentation from 1979 to the present. It also contains separate databases for voting records and speeches.
  • UN-I-QUE (https://lib-unique.un.org/lib/unique/nfs)is a bibliographic database constructed by the Dag Hammarskjold Library to locate documents (from 1946 onwards) of a recurrent nature–annual/sessional reports of committees/commissions; monographic series; journals; annual publications; reports periodically/irregularly issued; etc. This database is especially helpful if you are trying to locate the reports from the Special Rapporteur on Torture, for example. All the document numbers are listed in reverse chronological order.
  • UNDOC. Current Index, 1984- .Issued four times annually. Part I includes a list of documents and name and title indexes. Part II is a subject index. Annual cumulations are available on microfiche at several law libraries.
  • U.N. Document Series Symbols, 1978-1984. Provides access to U.N. documents by series symbol, subject and body responsible.
  • UNDEX. United Nations Documents Index. Series A: subject index. Series B: country index. Covers years from 1977-1978.
  • UNDEX. Series “C”: Cumulative Edition. Four-volume set. Covers 1947-1977.

Other Useful Publications

  • Press Releases: Issued by the Press Section of the Office of Public Information, often they are the first pieces of available information about new developments.
  • Sales Publications: Major reports, studies, yearbooks, conference proceedings, indexes and bibliographies are sometimes issued by the U.N. as sales publications. Press releases and sales publications can often be found at the U.N. Web sites.
  • Yearbook of the United Nations, 1946- . Excellent publication for researching the U.N. Helpful subject index as well as resolution and decision index. Includes a bibliography of U.N. documents at the end of each substantive section.
  • U.N. Handbook, 1973- . Annual publication containing information on U.N. organizations, including membership information, structure, basis for existence and addresses.
  • Permanent Missions to the United Nations, 1954- . Published twice annually, this publication includes current information on permanent missions to the U.N.
  • U.N. Juridical Yearbook, 1962- . Useful for retrospective legal research. Publication is very slow: the 1992 edition covers materials issued in 1985.
  • Encyclopedia of the United Nations, 1990. Contains data on the structure of the U.N., its specialized agencies and many related organizations. Also has entries on treaties.
  • Guide to U.N. Organization, Documentation and Publishing, 1978. This guide explains the structure, functions and documentation of the U.N.

Online Research Tools

  • United Nations Home Page (https://www.un.org). Great source for U.N. information. Includes a selection of full-text documents, including resolutions starting in the early 1980s. Includes a U.N. Web search engine.
  • U.N. Scholar’s Work Station at Yale University (library.yale.edu/un/unhome.htm). This is a collection of texts, finding aids, data sets, maps and electronic information. Includes links to all important U.N. sources on the Internet.
  • University of Minnesota Human Rights Library (www.umn.edu/humanrts/. Currently contains over 90 international human rights instruments with citations, plus an excellent linkage system to other human rights sites and resources.
  • United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (www.unhcr.ch/). Includes basic information about UNHCR including access to country-specific information about refugees; press releases; and official documents of the UNHCR.

More Information

See also these related ILS guides:

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