Locating United Nations Documents

at the University of Wisconsin's Memorial Library

UN Documents:

What is a UN Document? | What do all the letters (document symbols) mean? | Even more letters!
Now that I understand the letters, where can I find the actual text? |
How can I get more help with UN documents?

What is a UN Document?

UN Documents...

  • Are the result of the legislative proceedings of the United Nations. They are records of what UN organs*, their committees & commissions said, considered, or did.
  • Include agendas, letters, records of meetings, resolutions, and decisions.
  • Can be found:
    • in the Official Records of four of the UN's organs;
    • in Memorial's collection of Mimeographed Documents; or
    • on the Internet, hosted by UN web and gopher sites.

* Note: UN "organs" are the major deliberative bodies of the UN. The UN organs are: 1) General Assembly; 2) Economic and Social Council; 3) Security Council; 4) Trusteeship Council; 5) International Court of Justice; and 6) Secretariat, which is headed by the Secretary General.

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What do all the letters (document symbols) mean?

Document symbols...

A/	   General Assembly
CEDAW/   Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women
ST/	   Secretariat
  
-/C/	   Standing, permanent or sessional committee
-/CN/	   Commission
-/WG/	   Working group
E/CN.4/    4th Commission established by the Economic & Social Council (Commission on
Human Rights) E/CN.17/ 17th Commission established by the Economic & Social Council (Commission on
Sustainable Development)
-/L./	   Limited distribution document
-/NGO/	   Statement by non-governmental organization
-/PV.	   Verbatim record of a meeting
-/RES/	   Adopted Resolution
      
-/Add.	   Addendum
-/Corr.	   Corrigendum (corrects errors in the text of the main document)
-/Rev.	   Revision
      

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Even more letters!

Certain abbreviations are not document symbols, but show up often in index entries or references from the UN Yearbook. These abbreviations are:


	GAOR - General Assembly Official Records
	ESCOR - Economic and Social Council Official Records
	SCOR - Security Council Official Records
	TCOR - Trusteeship Council Official Records

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Now that I understand the letters, where can I find the actual text?

Two databases, UNBISnet (available for free on the Internet) and Access UN (which the UW Libraries subscribe to) contain the full text of selected UN documents, especially resolutions and recent documents. See http://www.library.wisc.edu/guides/govdocs/un/indexes.htm#unbis for a description of UNBISNet , or http://www.library.wisc.edu/guides/govdocs/un/indexes.htm#L for a description of Access UN.

The chart below gives a brief rundown of other places you are likely to find documents, according to the start of the document symbol and when the document was issued. There are a couple of things you should be aware of before you start, though.


If your document does not start with the abbreviations listed below, see a reference librarian for additional assistance.
If the document symbol begins with... Selected documents available electronically at url: Selected documents avail. in print form in...
A/

(General Assembly)
http://www.un.org/ga/58/
Documents from the 55th to the 58th sessions (2003-04), under "Documentation" and then either "Session Documents," "Verbatim Records," or "Resolutions."
General Assembly Official Records (GAOR)

or

Mimeographed Documents
CAT/

(Committee Against Torture)
http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu2/6/cat/cats.htm
Some State [country] Reports and Concluding Observations from 1997 forward.
Mimeographed Documents
CEDAW/

(Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women)
http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/sessions.htm
Documents, including some country reports, from the 13th session (1995) to the present.
Mimeographed Documents
CERD/

(Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination)
http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu2/6/cerd/cerds.htm
Some State [country] Reports and Concluding Observations from the 50th session (1997) forward.
Mimeographed Documents
CRC/

(Committee on the Rights of the Child)
http://193.194.138.190/html/menu2/6/crc/doc/past.htm
Some State [country] Reports and Concluding Observations from 2000 forward.
Mimeographed Documents

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If the document symbol begins with... Selected documents available electronically at url: Selected documents avail. in print form in...
DP/

(UN Development Programme)
Not available on the Internet at this time. Mimeographed Documents
E/

(Economic and Social Council)
http://www.un.org/esa/coordination/ecosoc/document.htm
Selected documents from the current year.

http://www.un.org/esa/coordination/ecosoc/archives.htm
Selected documents going back to 1994; resolutions going back to 1982.
Economic and Social Council Official Records (ESCOR)

or

Mimeographed Documents
S/

(Security Council)
http://www.un.org/Docs/sc
Includes links to:
  • Resolutions (1946-present)
  • Security Council Presidential Statements (1994-present), and exchanges of letters between the Secretary-General and the President of the Security Council (1997-present) (under "Security Council President")
  • Secretary-General's Reports to the Security Council (1994-present)
  • Selected mission reports
Security Council Official Records (SCOR)

or

Mimeographed Documents
ST/

(Secretariat)
Reports of the Secretary-General are normally issued as documents of the organs to which they are submitted. A limited number of some older documents issued by the Secretary-General can be found at http://www.un.org/Docs/SG/ but none of them have "ST/" at the beginning of the document symbol Mimeographed Documents
T/

(Trusteeship Council)
Has not met regularly since 1994; has not put its documents online. Trusteeship Council Official Records (TCOR)

or

Mimeographed Documents

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If the document symbol begins with... Selected documents available electronically at url: Selected documents avail. in print form in...
TD/, TD/B or UNCTAD/

(UN Conference on trade and Development)
http://www.unctad.org/Templates/Page.asp?intItemID=1397&lang=1
Use the "Search" feature to find documents from 1994 to present by document symbol or keyword.
Conference on Trade and Development Official Records (TDBOR)

or

Mimeographed Documents
UNEP/ or EP/

(UN Environment Programme)
http://www.unep.org/GC/GC22/
Documents from the 22nd session of the Governing Council, held February 2003.
http://www.unep.org/GC_21st/
Documents from the 21st session of the Governing Council; links to a limited number of documents from previous sessions.
Mimeographed Documents
UNESCO/

(UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization)
http://unesdoc.unesco.org/ulis/
Site allows you to search for and retrieve documents going back to late 1995. Most documents are in PDF format; Adobe Acrobat needed to display documents (Acrobat is available for downloading from the site). Documents include:
  • Main documents of General Conference & Executive Board
  • Working series
  • Reports and documents of meetings and conferences organized by UNESCO
  • Speeches of the Director-General
Mimeographed Documents

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How can I get more help with UN documents?

To arrange an appointment for in-depth reference assistance, or to arrange for course-related instruction in government documents at Memorial Library, please contact:
Beth Harper
Government Publications Reference Librarian
(608) 262-9852
or Email Beth

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