Access to Documents
The United Nations began publishing documents in electronic format in 1993. Most documents issued prior to 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 (ODS), 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 ODS and UNBISnet.
Older documents are being scanned and added to the ODS and UNBISnet on a daily basis.
The ODS is the 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.
UNBISnet 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.
UN-I-QUE 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.
Documents that are not available online may be consulted in hard copy at the UN headquarters' libraries, UN Information Centres, or at a United Nations Depository Library. The Dag Hammarskjöld Library in New York is open only to UN headquarters grounds pass holders, including Secretariat and Permanent Mission staff and delegates. There are several depository libraries in New York.
What is a document?
"A document is a text submitted to a principal organ or a subsidiary organ of the United Nations for consideration by it, usually in connection with item(s) on its agenda." (ST/AI/189/Add.3/Rev.2)
There are many kinds of documents. The UN Documentation Research Guide provides an overview.
The Official Records of the General Assembly (GAOR), Security Council (SCOR) and Economic and Social Council (ESCOR), include the resolutions and meeting records of the organ, as well as the reports of the organ's subsidiary bodies. Other documents may also be included in the Official Records.
What kinds of Member State documents are included in this site?
This site deals with documents that reflect the views of Member States as expressed in official documents. Each Member State page contains the same basic searches.
Currently, these documents include
Representatives of Member States speak in meetings and these statements may be recorded in meeting records. Meeting records also record the vote, if any, on decisions taken during the course of a meeting. Meeting record symbols follow a regular pattern, which may vary over time; the Research Guide provides details for each organ. In general, meeting record symbols begin with the letter designating the principal organ and have the element:
- PV: procès verbaux, verbatim record; or
- SR: summary record.
Resolutions are formal expressions of the opinion or will of United Nations organs. Before a resolution is adopted, the draft resolution is presented for consideration by the Member States. A draft resolution may be sponsored by one Member State or by several or by many Member States. Sometimes a draft resolution may be sponsored by an officer of the committee or organ, such as the Chair or a Facilitator. Draft resolutions appear in many types of documents, including reports of committees, reports of subsidiary bodies, reports of principal organs, and as individual documents. Additional sponsors may be added by an addendum to the original draft resolution, or during a meeting prior to the vote. If additional sponsors are added during a meeting of a Committee, this will not be reflected in this search but will be recorded in the report of the Committee to the Plenary. There is not a unique symbol element that distinguishes draft resolutions from other types of documents, but often, draft resolutions may be "L" documents.
- L: limited distribution.
States Parties reports
Member States that are parties to the major human rights conventions are required to submit periodic reports that detail the action taken by the state to implement the convention. These reports may provide details about the laws and court cases in the country related to specific human rights topics. The symbol of the document indicates the treaty body to which the document is submitted, and may contain an element that indicates the country. More information about the documents related to human rights is available in the Research Guide Human Rights chapter, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and the OHCHR Treaty Body document database.
Press Releases are not official documents, but are the only UN source for the biographies of the representatives of Member States. The Press Release database was started in 1995. The full text search option which is linked to in the Member States pages, provides consistent results starting in the early 2000s. It is possible to search the headlines on the press release website and get information back to 1995, but the database does not create stable urls that can be linked here. Earlier press releases are available in paper in UN libraries; they were not distributed to depository libraries. The biographies of the Member States' representatives are provided to the UN by the Member States.
Currently, the site does not include
Member States may send letters to the Secretary-General or to the Principal Organs of the UN. If the Member State requests that a letter be circulated as an official document, it will be issued with a symbol. There is no symbol component that distinguishes letters from other types of documents.
Because there are many letters on many topics, letters are not included in the saved searches on this site. Letters, and other UN documents, are available through the search options of the Official Document System (ODS) and UNBISnet, the library's catalogue.
Regional or other intergovernmental documents
Member States may be part of a regional organization (such as the European Union, African Union, CARICOM, NATO, ASEAN, etc.) or of other intergovernmental groups (such as the Group of 77, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, etc.). There are also informal "regional groups" within the UN, for election purposes. Sometimes a Member State may make a statement, send a letter, or sponsor a resolution on behalf of a group. The practice varies, and while it might be explicitly stated that the action is taken on behalf of a group, it may not.
Documents of other organizations transmitted as UN documents are available through the search options of the Official Document System (ODS) and UNBISnet, the library's catalogue. In the library catalogues, such documents may often be located through "Title and Notes" searches.
Due to the variability of the practice, there is not a reliable strategy for creating quality searches for this type of material and therefore this type of document is not included at this time.
Resolutions and decisions of the principal organs or subsidiary bodies may be put to a vote, according to the rules of procedure of the body. If a vote is recorded, it will appear either in the body's report to its parent organ, or in the meeting record. UNBISnet includes a voting database, with information about adopted resolutions in the plenary of the General Assembly and of the Security Council. As this database is not searchable by country it has not been included here. Other search options are available.
Statistics gathered by the UN from Member States appear in many documents and publications, and in the statistical database, UNdata.
The status of Treaties registered with the United Nations, as well as a wealth of other treaty-related information, is available in the UN Treaty Collection.
Other documents and publications
The UN Secretariat produces many reports, studies, and other documents. These documents and publications may include information about a Member State. This site is intended only for material produced by the Member States and published by the UN. Documents not linked from this site may be found in the Official Document System (ODS) and UNBISnet, the library's catalogue.
Documents of other agencies
The UN system is quite large. Each programme, fund, and Specialized Agency has its own membership and governing body, and may produce documentation related to its parliamentary activities. A Member State of the UN may or may not also be a member of other UN agencies. There is not a consolidated document system across all UN agencies. Each agency develops information products according to the unique structure of the organization. This site includes only UN documents.