When you are considering a legal issue that implicates the United Nations, it is important to start your research with an understanding of how the United Nations is organized, including the specific duties and responsibilities of each individual organ. The United Nations is organized into six main organs: the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Trusteeship Council, the International Court of Justice, and the UN Secretariat.
The following resources provide introductory information on each of these organs and are a good place to begin your research on the United Nations:
The United Nations website provides a general overview of each organ, along with links to the websites for each of the six main organs.
This Research Guide is published by the United Nations and provides an overview of the United Nations organizational structure and the types of materials that are produced by each body.
According to the Regulations for the Control and Limitation of Documentation, the UN defines documents and publications in different ways and uses those terms to refer to specific types of materials. The following are the basic definitions, along with a general overview of the types of content that fit within each definition.
Each UN document has a unique symbol at the top right of the document or on the cover page. These symbols include both letters and numbers, and having a general understanding of this classification system can aid you in researching UN documents. The symbol typically looks like the following:
Below you will find a table outlining the first component. Note that there are additional secondary components to this classification system which allow for the identification subsidiary bodies. You can learn more about those on the UN website.
|First Component Symbol||Organ to Which Document is Submitted|
|E/-||Economic and Social Council|
The Yearbook of the UN is the principal reference work of the UN and provides a detailed overview of the Organization's activities during the course of a year. All the yearbooks, from 1945 to the most recent, are available online and provide citation to the documentation and include the full text of resolutions. This is the ideal starting place for any research into UN primary materials.
The Digital Library includes UN documents, voting data, speeches, maps, and open access publications. You can access UN-produced materials in digital format and bibliographic records for print UN documents starting in 1979.
The UN official document system provides full text search of documents issued since 1993; resolutions of all principal organs & Security Council plenary documents since 1946. This database also provides access to the Daily Journals of New York and Geneva.
This collection provides online access to declarations and conventions issued by the General Assembly. The documents are searchable in a variety of ways, including chronologically and by subject area.
UN Data provides access to a variety of statistical resources of the UN system from a wide range of departments and subject matter.