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United Nations Symbols

United Nations Documents Symbols System

The United Nations publishes many documents. Many documents were originally published in mimeographed form and are still sometimes referred to as ‘mimeo docs.’ This entry will explain the United Nations series symbols system which was designed to provide access to these documents. The series symbols provide access to United Nations documentation by series symbol, subject, and body responsible for the document. Symbols of United Nations documents are composed of capital letters combined with numerals, usually Arabic.

The basic series elements of the five principal United Nations organs are:

  • A/: General Assembly
  • E/: Economic and Social Council
  • S/: Security Council
  • T/: Trusteeship Council
  • ST/: Secretariat

Examples:

  • A/RES/50/211: Resolution of the General Assembly, 50th session
  • S/RES /1019(1995)Resolution 1019 (1995) adopted by the Security council.

Special basic series symbols have been established for certain bodies. For example:

AT/ UN Administrative Tribunal
CAT/ Convention against torture
CEDAW/ Convention on the Elimination of all forms of discrimination against women
CCPR/ International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
CRC/ Convention on the rights of the child
DP/ UN Development Programme
ID/ UN Industrial Development Organization
TD/ UN Conference on Trade and Development
UNEP/ UN Environment Programme
WFC/ World Food Council

Examples:

  • CEDAW/C/1996UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Committee document, 1996
  • CAT/C/SR.209Convention against torture, committee against torture. Summary record of the 209th meeting

Subsidiary Organs

The documents of the subsidiary organs carry a symbol consisting of the basic series symbol of the parent body (‘A’ for General Assembly, ‘E’ for Economic and Social Council) plus one or more of the following elements:

/AC/ Ad hoc committee or similar body
/C/ Standing, permanent or sessional committee
/CN/ Commission
/CONF/ Conference
/GC/ Governing Council
/PC/ Preparatory committee
/PCN/ Preparatory commission
/SC/ Sub-committee
/SUB/ Sub-commission
/WG/ Working Group
/WP/ Working Party

Note that basic series of subsidiary organs are usually numbered in the order of their establishment or convocation.

Example: E/CN.4/1996/71 is: Economic and Social Council Commission on Human Rights, 1996

Parent Body

The documents of some subsidiary organs bear a symbol consisting of the basic series symbol of the parent body followed by the acronym of the subsidiary organ. For example:

A/SPC/ Special Political Committee of the General Assembly
E/ESCAP/ Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
E/INCB/ International Narcotics Control Board of Economic and Social Council.

The following elements may be added to any series symbol:

1. Elements denoting the nature of the document:

/BUR/ General Committee documents
/DEC/ Texts of decisions
/INF/ Information series
/L. Limited documents
/MIN. Minutes
/NGO/ Statements by non-governmental organizations
/PET/ Petitions
/R. Restricted documents
/PV Verbatim records of meetings
/RES/ Adopted Resolutions
/RT/ Record of testimony
/SR. Summary records of meetings
/WP/ Working paper

Examples:

A/CN.10/INF/24 General Assembly Commission, Information series
A/C.2/50/SR.39 General Assembly Sessional Committee, 50th session, Summary record, #39

2. Elements denoting modification of the text:

/Add.Addendum Indicates an addition of text to the main document
/Amend.Amendment Indicates the alteration, by decision of the competent authority of an adopted formal text.
/Corr. Corrigendum Indicates modification of any specific part of an existing document to correct errors, revise wording or reorganize text
/Excerpt Indicates the reissue of an excerpt from a document when only that portion is required.
/Rev.Revision Indicates a new text which supersedes and replaces that of a previously issued document
/Summary Indicates a summary of a report.

3. Elements denoting distribution category:

/L Limited documents for which wide circulation is not desired because of their temporary nature (draft resolutions, draft reports, preliminary action documents)
/R Restricted: applies to documents whose confidential contents require that they be withheld from public circulation.

Note that these documents are usually unavailable.

Official Records and Sales Publications

In addition to mimeo documents, the United Nations also publishes Official Records and Sales Publications.

Official Records

The General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council and the Trusteeship Council publish their own Official Records (abbreviated as GAOR, SCOR, ESCOR, TCOR). The Official Records include meeting records, resolutions, some committee reports and other important documents. When documents are reprinted in the Official Record, the Bluebook requires citation to both the Official Record and the mimeo document number.

Example: G.A.Res. 832, U.N. GAOR, 9th Sess., Supp. No. 21, at 19, U.N. Doc. A/2890 (1954).

Sales Publications

The United Nations also publishes sales publications. Major reports, studies, yearbooks, conference proceedings, indexes and bibliographies are sometimes issued by the U.N. as sales publications with sales publication numbers.

Example:
U.N. DEP’T OF INT’L ECONOMIC & SOCIAL AFFAIRS,
WORLD ECONOMIC SURVEY, 1977, at I-19, U.N. Doc.
ST/ESA/82, U.N. Sales No. E. 78.II.C.1 (1977).

See also the related entry about how to Find United Nations Documents.

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