|New UN Documentation Research Guide! We have updated and expanded the UN Documentation Research Guide. Beginning in April 2013, the old guide will not be updated, with the exception of the current General Assembly and Security Council resolutions tables.|
Since established in 1945, the United Nations has published hundreds of thousands of documents on a wide-range of topics. UN documents can challenge even the most experienced researcher. The tools described below help researchers identify and locate documents online or in hard copy.
Documents that are not available online may be consulted in hard copy at a United Nations Depository Library.
The United Nations began publishing documents in electronic format in 1993. Most documents issued before 1993 are not yet available in electronic format.
All resolutions of the Principal Organs have been digitized and are available through the Official Document System, UNBISnet, the library's catalogue, and through various websites, including the UN Documentation: Research Guide.
All Security Council plenary documents have been digitized. Security Council documents, 1946-present, are now available in English, French and Spanish, through the Official Document System and UNBISnet.
Older documents are being scanned and added to the Official Document System and UNBISnet on a daily basis.
UNBISnet is the library catalogue of the UN Library in New York. In addition to the holdings of the Library, it provides access to full text links to all language versions of recent documents 1993-present, and citations to documents 1979-present, which may or may not be available online. Metadata for older documents is added regularly, and links are added as the digital version of documents become available. UNBISnet provides a powerful search on the metadata of the UN documents.
In addition to the catalogue, UNBISnet includes two specialized databases: the Index to Speeches and Voting Records. The Index to Speeches provides access to meeting records of the Principal organs, beginning in the mid-1980s, by country or organization, speaker, document symbol, or topic. The Voting Records database includes the recorded vote for all resolutions adopted by the General Assembly and Security Council, 1946-present, and can be searched by resolution symbol, keyword, or date.
The Official Document System (ODS) is the UN's official document repository and provides full text search of documents issued since 1993. Resolutions 1946-1993 and the Daily Journals are available through the Advanced Search option.
UN-I-QUE, UN Info Quest, provides citation to the symbols for documents throughout the history of the organization: each record within UN-I-QUE is comprehensive historically. UN-I-QUE does not provide citation to all documents, but to certain documents of a recurrent nature.
The Yearbook of the United Nations is the principal reference work of the United Nations and provides a detailed overview of the Organization's activities during the course of a year. All the Yearbooks, 1945 to the most recent, are available online and provide citation to the documentation and include the full text of resolutions. The Yearbook helps researchers to identify relevant documentation.
United Nations Press Releases are available online, from October 1995 to the present. Press Releases are not official documents but provide timely information on the current activities of the Principal organs and subsidiary bodies. Press Releases may provide summaries of meetings, and are an important source of information for bodies that do not have official meeting records. They are for information only and not intended for citation. The Research Guide includes a page about Press Releases.
The Library has developed online training tutorials to help researchers.
UN Member States: On the Record links to pre-set, standard searches for each Member State in UNBISnet, UN-I-QUE, and the Press Release database. Searches available for each Member State include: the key documents related to its membership in the UN; statements made before the Principal organs; draft resolutions sponsored; periodic reports submitted on Human Rights conventions, and more.
In addition to documents published 1945-1993 that have not yet been digitized, many other UN publications are only available in print. United Nations Depository Libraries provide access to documents and selected UN sales publications in hard copy. Reference books about the United Nations are widely available at research libraries.
The Yearbook of the United Nations is the principal reference work of the United Nations and provides a detailed overview of the Organization's activities during the course of a year. Although the Yearbooks are now available online, many researchers find them easier to use in print, due to the size and format of the volumes. The Yearbooks provide citation to the documentation, include the full text of resolutions, and help researchers to identify relevant documentation.
The Index to Proceedings is an invaluable resource for researchers, especially those investigating matters prior to 1979. This is a series of publications; one index has been issued for each year of the Security Council, and each session of the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and Trusteeship Council. Publication of the Indexes lags behind the completion of the sessions of the organs to allow for all documentation to be issued and included.
Each index includes two parts:
(1) a comprehensive subject index to all the documents (reports, letters, meeting records, resolutions, etc.) issued by the body in question during a particular session/year; and
(2) an index to speeches delivered before the forum in question during a particular session/year. As mentioned above, the Index to Speeches is available online in UNBISnet, with coverage starting in the mid-1980s.
Below are listed just a few of the many reference books about the UN.
The various editions of Everyone's United Nations concisely summarize major events in the Organization's history (UNBISnet records).
The United Nations Today, formerly called Basic Facts about the United Nations, gives an overview of United Nations activity in various fields (UNBISnet record).
The United Nations Handbook, an annual published by the New Zealand Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade since 1961, provides an excellent overview of the mandates of the organs, subsidaries, programmes, funds and specialized agencies, and includes information about current membership (UNBISnet record).
The Encyclopedia of the United Nations and International Agreements, by Edmund Jan Osmanczyk, is a 4 volume work organized by subject (UNBISnet record). It often cites the United Nations bodies involved in a topic and provides a time-frame, enabling readers to pinpoint their research precisely.
The Oxford handbook on the United Nations, edited by Thomas G. Weiss and Sam Daws, is another strong reference work that can provide guidance on beginning research on UN topics (UNBISnet record).
Prepared and maintained by the Department of Public Information (DPI), Dag Hammarskjöld Library (DHL) . Comments as well as suggestions for further additions/enhancements may be directed to the Dag Hammarskjöld Library.