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International Documents

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United Nations Documents

Guide to Government Publications Series





Stanford University has been a depository library for official documents of the United Nations since 1946. Stanford also owns a set of documents from the Conference on International Organizations (San Francisco: 1945) at which the United Nations was founded. Most United Nations documents available at Stanford are located in the Green Library's Jonsson Library of Government Documents and Social Sciences Resource Center. Other libraries at Stanford may also have United Nations documents.

This guide is designed to assist researchers and students in gaining access to United Nations materials at Stanford. It includes information emanating from five of the six principal UN organs--the General Assembly, Economic and Social Council, Security Council, Secretariat, and Trusteeship Council. Publications of the sixth principal organ--the International Court of Justice or World Court--are collected by the Crown Law Library. Also covered by this guide are publications of related UN programs and organs that report directly to the General Assembly or Economic and Social Council (e.g., the UN Development Programme, UN Conference on Trade and Development, UN Environment Programme).

A separate webpage entitled UN Specialized Agency Publications is available for those seeking information from the UN Specialized Agencies such as UNESCO, the International Labour Organization, and the World Health Organization. Another webpage entitled Model UN Research provides research strategies for anyone participating in a Model United Nations program.

The basic collection of United Nations documents is the microfiche collection from 1946 to date which is kept in the Social Sciences Resource Center. This collection is arranged by year and within year by the UN documents series symbol, as listed in the AccessUN database (guide item 21). Paper copies of Official Records and Secretariat documents (ST's) are shelved in the Jonsson Library's International Stacks collection by series symbol number. All United Nations serials are cataloged in Socrates. Bibliographic records for monographs in the microfiche and paper editions are generally excluded from Socrates, the online catalog of the Stanford University Libraries.



Organization Chart

Principal UN Organs and their Functions
General Assembly. New York.
Includes representatives of all member states. Annual sessions of the plenary meetings are held from September until December. Special and emergency sessions may also be convened. There are six main committees of the General Assembly. These are:
  • First Committee (disarmament and international security)
  • Second Committee (economic and financial)
  • Third Committee (social, humanitarian and cultural)
  • Fourth Committee (special political and decolonization)
  • Fifth Committee (administrative and budgetary)
  • Sixth Committee (legal)
In addition, there are the standing and procedural committees and other subsidiary organs of the General Assembly.

Security Council. New York.
Composed of five permanent (U.S., U.K., Russia, China and France) and ten non- permanent members elected by the General Assembly for two-year terms. Primary responsibility is maintenance of international peace and security. Functions continuously and meets whenever called.
Economic and Social Council. New York and Geneva.
Composed of 54 members elected by the General Assembly for three-year terms. It is responsible for the economic and social activities of the United Nations. It conducts two regular sessions and an organizational session each year.
Trusteeship Council.
Composed of the permanent Security Council members. In November 1994 the last of the original 11 Trust Territories was removed from its administrative authority. Having completed its original mandate, the Council will meet in the future only as need arises.
International Court of Justice. The Hague.
All members are automatically parties to the Court's statute and non-members may become parties. The court has 15 independent judges of different nationalities, elected for nine-year terms by the Security Council and the General Assembly. [Most ICJ publications are found in the Law Library]
The Secretariat services the other organs of the United Nations and administers the programs and policies laid down by them. It is headed by the Secretary-General who is appointed by the General Assembly. It functions continually and has many units.
Subsidiary UN Bodies and their Functions
United Nations Development Programme. (UNDP) New York.
Assists developing countries in accelerating their economic and social development. Administers and coordinates the majority of technical assistance provided through the UN. Reports to the General Assembly. Established in 1966.
United Nations Environment Programme. (UNEP) Nairobi.
Works to preserve and enhance the human environment. Includes a governing council, secretariat, fund and coordinating board. Reports to ECOSOC. Established in 1973.
United Nations Population Fund. (UNFPA) New York.
Provides assistance in population programs. Reports to the ECOSOC through UNDP. Established in 1967.
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. (UNHCR) Geneva
Protects refugees and promotes durable solutions to their problems. Reports to ECOSOC. Established in 1950.
United Nations Children's . (UNICEF) New York.
Provides emergency assistance to children. Provides assistance, particularly in developing countries, in the development of permanent child health and welfare services. Reports to ECOSOC. Established in 1946.
United Nations Industrial Development Organization. (UNIDO) Vienna.
Promotes industrial development in development countries with a view to facilitating the establishiment of a new international economic order. Reports to the General Assembly. Established in 1965.
United Nations Institute for Training and Research. (UNITAR) New York.
Conducts training programs and initiates research studies focused on UN objectives and programs. Reports to the General Assembly. Established in 1966.
United Nations Research Institute for Social Development. Geneva. (UNRISD)
Undertakes research into the inter-relationship of economic and social factors in development and methods of social planning. Reports to the Commission on Social Development.
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. (UNWRA)Vienna.
Carries out relief programs and considers measures to be taken when relief is no longer available.
United Nations University. (UNU) Tokyo.
Engages in research, postgraduate training and the dissemination of knowledge on pressing global problems of survival, development and welfare. Reports to the General Assembly. Established in 1973.
World Food Council.(WFC) Rome.
Promotes and coordinates the political action necessary to carry out General Assembly resolutions concerning food.


1. Basic Facts about the United Nations. New York: UN Dept of Public Information, 1947-
Green-Int'l; latest in SSRC-Docs United Nations DPI/ser.Z/3//
General introduction to the role and function of the UN and its related agencies.
2. Chronology and Fact Book of the United Nations. Kumiko Matsuura (ed.). 8th ed. Dobbs Ferry, NY: Oceana, 1992. (ceased w/8th ed.)
JX1977 A1 C5 (Green Library Stacks--Latest in IC)
An irregular supplement to the Oceana Annual Review of United Nations Affairs (guide item 7), this publication includes a chronological survey of UN-related events, reproduces the UN Charter, rules of procedure for each organ, and membership tables for each of the UN bodies.
3. Directory of United Nations Documentary and Archival Sources. Peter Hajnal. Hanover, N.H.: Academic Council on the United Nations System / Millwood, NY: Kraus International / New York: United Nations. 1991.
JX1977.8 D6 H34 1991 Green-IC
Good introduction to the documentation system of the United Nations and basic bibliographic tools. Extensive annotated bibliography of major publications within the United Nations system of organizations.
4. Encyclopedia of the United Nations and International Agreements. Edmund Jan Osmanczyk. 2nd ed. New York: Taylor and Francis, 1990.
JX1977 O8213 1990 Green-IC
Extremely useful encyclopedia of International Governmental Organization (IGO)-related information, including definitions of key terms, biographies, and the descriptions and selected texts of major international treaties, conventions and agreements.
5. Everyone's United Nations. New York: UN, 1948-
Green-Int'l DPI/hdbk/ and Green-Stk JX1977.A39
Good source for brief histories of topics under consideration by the UN. Latest edition published in 1986 (10th).
6. A Guide to Information at the United Nations. New York: UN, 1995.
Green-IC JX1977. A39 1995
Guide to the activities and publications of each of the principal organizations and bodies within the United Nations system. Each organizational entry describes the following: mandates; major programs; recent expenditures; publications; and information contacts.
7. United Nations Handbook. Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of External Relations and Trade. 1976-
JX1977 A37 U5 (Green Library Stacks; latest in SSRC)
Annual list of UN organs, agencies, Specialized Agencies, regional development banks. Descriptions include functions, structure, current membership and activities.


Newspapers and periodicals report on United Nations activities in New York and abroad. The New York Times, the Times (London), Le Monde (Paris), the Economist, and Le Monde Diplomatique include significant coverage of the United Nations. The New York Times is indexed in the Melvyl catalog's 'News' database and the Economist is indexed in the Melvyl catalogs's 'Mags' database.

8.Annual Review of United Nations Affairs. Dobbs Ferry, NY: Oceana, 1949-
JX1977 A1A5 (Green Library stacks--latest in IC)
Reprints key UN documents reflecting the work of the organization on an annual basis.
9. Daily Highlights: United Nations Brief Press Summaries. United Nations Dept. of Public Information--Central News Service, 1987- .
Daily press summary listing key events at UN Headquarters in New York with reference to key documents. Issues published between September 1993 and March 1996 are available on the UNDP gopher. Issues 1996 and later are available on the UN web site. Issues published prior to 1993 are available on microfiche in the Jonsson Library of Government Documents UN Microfiche DH/ series.
10. A Global Agenda: Issues before the...General Assembly of the United Nations. New York: United Nations Association--USA, 1974-
JX1977 A1I79 SSRC
11.International Documents Review: The Weekly Newsletter on the United Nations.Teaneck, NJ: International Documents Review, 1983-
JX1977.A1 I58 SSRC
Weekly review of activities at the United Nations with reference to specific reports and resolutions by document number.
12. Journal of the United Nations. New York: UN, 1946-
Daily listing of meetings and agendas at UN Headquarters in New York, brief summaries of the previous day's meetings (often including the results of votes and reference to internal documents), announcements, and forthcoming meetings. Issues published after September 1994 through March 1996 are available on the UNDP gopher. 1996 and later issues are available on the UN web site.
13. Press Releases.
A press release series is published by every UN organ and body with varying frequency. They contain the very latest information on activities within the organization. Series are also issued on various current topics (for example, the HI series covers issues related to Haitii and the IK series covers the Iraq-Kuwait crisis). Another series--the BI series-- contains biographical notes about UN personnel. UN Press Releases published since 1995 are available in full text and searchable on the UN web site.
14 . UN Chronicle. New York: UN, 1950- (title varies)
Green-International OPI/UN
Quarterly magazine containing a summary of latest activities at the UN. Available online in full-text in Nexis which is available to members of the Stanford community via Folio. Once in Nexis, select the Library 'News', then select the File'ASAPII' (or CURNWS or ARCNWS).
15. Yearbook of the United Nations. New York: UN Dept of Public Information (co-published by Martinus Nijhoff since 1989), 1949-
JX1977 A37U65 Green-Stk; c.1 in SSRC; c.2 in Green-Stks; Latest in IC
Annual authoritative publication on the activities of the organization during its most recent year. Includes extensive surveys of the activities of the principal organs with reference to resolutions, decisions, and major reports. Includes full text of the Secretary General's Report on the Activities of the Organization and key resolutions. Extensive subject index. Includes summaries of activities of the major IGOs.


16.Europa World Year Book. London: Europa, 1978-
J106 E85 (Green-Stk; latest in IC; SSRC has latest only)
Extensive descriptions of the United Nations principal organs, related and autonomous agencies, and a large number of regional and functional IGOs. Descriptions include addresses, phone and fax numbers, organizational histories and goals, and major publications.
17. Permanent Missions to the United Nations. New York: United Nations, 1946- .
Green-International ST/SG/Ser.A
Semiannual publication listing members of permanent missions to UN Headquarters, including member countries, countries with observer status, and other international governmental organizations. Also includes listing of current membership of the Security Council, Economic and Social Council, International Court of Justice, and the Trusteeship Council.
18. United Nations System of Organizations and Directory of Senior Officials. New York: Secretariat of the Administrative Committee on Co-ordination, 1978- .
JX1977.8 O35U543 1995 Green-IC
Lists all UN organs and Specialized Agencies, with names of key officials,in the major departments and divisions, including phone numbers and addresses.
19. UN Telephone Directory. New York: UN Office of General Services, 1969-
Green-International ST/OGS/Ser.E, latest in SSRC
Issued three times a year, this is the official UN internal telephone directory
20. Who's Who in the United Nations and Related Agencies. Stanley R. Greenfield (ed.). 2nd ed. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 1992.
JX1977 W467 1992 Green-IC
Biographies of high administrative officers of the United Nations and ambassadors to the United Nations and related agencies in New York, Geneva, and Vienna during 1991. Includes indexes by nationality and organization.


Most United Nations statistics are published by the Secretariat. They are well-indexed by the Index to International Statistics (IIS). Published since 1983, IIS indexes the publications of international organizations and reproduces them in microfiche. The index is available in print in the SSRC (Z7552.I53 SSRC-DOCS). IIS is also available electronically as a part of the Statistical Universe service, available at: A corresponding microfiche collection is located in the Jonsson Library Microfiche collection (Jonsson Library Microfiche 570, cabinets 3-4).

In 1982 the first volume of a projected two-volume set called the Directory of International Statistics (Gov Docs International ST/ESA/STAT/SER.M/56/Rev. 1) was published providing a detailed guide to the data, frequency and time series tables available in the various UN statistical publications.


21. AccessUN. New Canaan, CT: Newsbank, 1966- .
Electronic index to UN masthead documents, official records and selected sales publications including journal articles published since 1966. Permits searching across multi-year time span on various subjects. Includes full text resolutions, selected meeting records, and links to UN documents on the web. Allows searching by various document numbers and for speeches by representatives of various countries. Serves also as guide to the corresponding microfiche collection shelved as Microfiche 959. The URL for the AccessUN database is:
22. UNBISNet. New York: Dag Hammarskjold Library, 1979- .
Official UN index. Features include: index to speeches (1983- present), full text voting records in the Security Council (1946- present) and General Assembly (1983- present); and index to UN documents (1979- present). The URL for the UNBISNet is:
23. Directory of United Nations Databases and Information Services. New York: Advisory Committee for the Co-ordination of Information Services, 1978- .
Gov Docs International ACCIS/Ser.Z/1/ (latest in SSRC-DOCS)
Subject guide to the information gathering, storage, and dissemination activities on UN organizations. Includes information about the organization, special databases maintained by the organization, services provided, and the names and addresses of contacts.
24. Index to the Proceedings of...
There are indexes to the "proceedings" of each of four principal organs. These are detailed indexes to the Official Records for each organ (see separate section covering the Official Records below), including subject , speaker, and country/corporate name indexes. Most recent years of the GA and ECOSOC indexes also include voting tables:
  • Index to the Proceedings of the Economic and Social Council (1952- ) ST/LIB/SER.B/E SSRC-DOCS
  • Index to the Proceedings of the General Assembly (1950/51- ) ST/LIB/SER.B/A SSRC-DOCS
  • Index to the Proceedings of the Security Council (1964- ) ST/LIB/SER.B/S SSRC-DOCS
  • Index to the Proceedings of the Trusteeship Council (1952- ) ST/LIB/SER.B/T SSRC-DOCS
25. UNDEX. (1970-1978)
This index served as the general index to UN publishing between the Documents Index (guide item 25) and UNDOC (guide item 24). Issued in three series:
  • Series A: Subject Index. (1970-1978) ST/LIB/SER.I/A Green-International
  • Series B: Country Index. (1970-1978) ST/LIB/SER.I/B Green-International
  • Series C: List of Documents Issued. (1974-1979) ST/LIB/SER.I/C Green-International
26. UNDOC: Current Index. (1979-1997)
Government Documents International ST/LIB/SER.M/Cum SSRC-DOCS
The most comprehensive official 'printed" index available for publications of the UN published between 1979-1997, including masthead documents, sales publications, and official records.
27. United Nations Documents Index. (1950-1973)
ST/LIB/SER.E Green-International
First general index to UN masthead documents, sales publications, and official records
28. International Bibliography. Millwood, NY: Kraus International, 1973-1991.
Green-SSRC Z6482.I55
Until it ceased publication in 1991 this was an extremely useful index to publications of the major IGOs, including monographs and journal articles. Includes acquisition information.
29. PAIS International New York: Public Affairs Information Service, 1972-
Web and print-based index to English and foreign language books, pamphlets, journal articles, and government publications in the area of public affairs and public policy. Print versions going back to 1915 are available in the Information Center. The web version is available at: Print: Green-IC; Z7163.P3 in SSRC


The Official Records of the United Nations contain a wide range of documents, including final versions of meeting records, resolutions, decisions, agendas, and key documents presented to meeting participants. They also include in the case of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council regular reports on the activities of subsidiary organs or agencies whose activities they are responsible for coordinating. They are a tremendous source of information. They are indexed in depth in the various Indexes to the Proceedings (guide item 23), but references are also found in UNBIS Plus on CD-ROM (guide item 24) and its predecessors, as well as in the web-based AccessUN (guide item 21). Citations to the Official Records bear distinctive symbol numbers:

  • GAOR refers to the Official Records of the General Assembly
  • ESCORrefers to the Official Records of the Economic and Social Council
  • SCOR refers to the Official Records of the Security Council
  • TCOR refers to the Official Records of the Trusteeship Council
  • TDBORrefers to the Official Records of the UNCTAD's Trade and Development Board.
The Official Records for each principal organ are shelved and bound as sets at the beginning of the United Nations section of the Jonsson Library's stacks. Two useful UN publications provide a guide to organization of the Official Records:
30.United Nations Official Records, 1948-1962.
Z6485.U457 1963 SSRC
31.United Nations Official Records, 1962-1981.
Z6485.U457 1982 SSRC
32. United Nations Official Records, 1981-1984.
Z6485.U457 1984 SSRC


Known as "mimeograph documents" after their original form of publication, these documents are by far the largest category of United Nations publication. They include materials designed to serve as a basis for discussion at UN meetings and include: reports, memoranda, studies, working papers, agendas, draft and final resolutions, decisions, meeting records, etc. Many masthead documents are reprinted in a variety of other sources such as the Official Records, Yearbook of the United Nations (guide item 14), and the Annual Review of United Nations Affairs (guide item 8). Stanford's Library maintains a complete collection of United Nations mimeographed documents from 1946 to the present on microfiche (Jonsson Library Microfiche 959, cabinets 10-14).


The Economic and Social Commission oversees five regional commissions headquartered throughout the world. These commissions include:
  • ECE - Economic Commission for Europe. Geneva. (Europe, North America)
  • ECLAC - Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. Santiago, Chile.
  • ECA - Economic Commission for Africa. Addis Ababa.
  • ESCAP - Ecoomic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. Bangkok.
  • ESCWA - Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia. Amman.
Each of the Commissions maintains separate publishing operations out of their headquarters. Regional Commissions provide selected sales and masthead documents to all depositories, however full documentation is provided only to depositories located within the area covered by the appropriate Commission. Stanford therefore receives all publications of the Economic Commission for Europe. Regional Commission documents are selectively indexed in the major UN indexes. However, several Commissions publish separate indexes to their own publications:
32.Cepalindex. Santiago, Chile: ECLAC, 1980-
LC/G.1421 Green-International
33.ESCAP Documents & Publications Santiago, Chile: ECLAC, 1979-
Z7164. D3 U499 SSRC
34.Devindex Africa Nairobi: ECA, 1980- (Ceased in 1991)
ST/ECA/PADIS-DEV/ Green-International
35.List of ECA Documents Issued from... Addis Ababa: ECA, April 1964-
E/ECA/DOC/ Green-International


Documents and official records published by the United Nations since 1993 are available online through its Official Documents Service. The system includes all UN resolutions and decisions 1946 to present.


Symbols of United Nations documents are made up of four primary elements:

  1. Element denoting the body or organ that issued the document
  2. Element denoting the organizational session or year during which the document was issued.
  3. Element denoting the nature of the document.
  4. Element denoting the unique number of the document.
  • Organizational Element
    Leading 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

    Special series symbols have been established for a number of other United Nations bodies:

    ACC/- Administrative Committee on Coordination
    AT/- United Nations Administrative Tribunal
    CAT/- Committee against Torture
    CCPR/- Human Rights Committee
    CD/- Conference on Disarmament
    CEDAW/- Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
    CERD/- Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
    CRC/- Committee on the Rights of the Child
    DC/- Disarmament Commission
    DP/- United Nations Development Programme
    HS/- United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (HABITAT)
    TD/- United Nations Conference on Trade and Development
    UNEP/- United Nations Environment Programme

    Subsidiary organs of these main bodies are frequently denoted by a standard sub- element:

    -/AC. .../- Ad hoc committee
    -/C. .../- Standing, permanent, main sessional committee
    -/CN. .../- Commission
    -/Conf. .../- Conference
    -/GC/- Governing Council
    -/PC/- Preparatory Committee
    -/SC. .../- Subcommittee
    -/Sub. .../- Subcommission
    -/WG. .../- Working group
    -/WP. .../- Working party

  • Sessional Element
    United Nations documents generally include an element that identifies during which particular organizational meeting the document was distributed. For example:

    E/1993/100 - Issued during the 1993 session of the Economic and Social Council

    A/C.2/48/SR.5- Issued during the 48th session of the General Assembly's second standing committee.

    T/1990/2- Issued during the 1990 session of the Trusteeship Council

  • Document Type
    The nature of the document is indicated by several standard abbreviations within the symbol. For example:

    -/Add. ... Addendum
    -/Corr. ... Corrigendum
    -/CRP. ... Conference room papers
    -/DEC/- Mimeograph texts of adopted decisions
    -/INF/- Information series
    -/L. ... Limited distribution document
    -/MIN. ... Minutes
    -/NGO/- Documents containing communications from non- governmental organizations
    -/PET/- Petitions
    -/PV. ... Verbatim records of meetings (proces-verbaux)
    -/R. ...Restricted distribution document
    -/RES/- Mimeograph texts of adopted resolutions
    -/Rev. ... Revision
    -/RT/- Records of testimony
    -/SR. ... Summary records of meetings
    -/WP. ... Working papers

  • Unique ID The last element of a UN symbol number is generally a unique number that identifies the particular document. For example:



Last modified: May 24, 2010

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