Research FAQs (How to do common research tasks):
Ask Dag (searchable FAQ list from the U.N. Library)
United Nations: research guides
American Society of International Law U.N. Research Guide by John Heywood
The United Nations has three founding documents:
History of the U.N. and international topics/agreements
U.N. official documents consist of:
The U.N. also produces “unofficial documents” that are a collection of miscellaneous newsworthy documents (press releases, periodicals, articles, etc.) or Sales Publications (available for sale to the public).
Documents are assigned alpha-numeric indicators to help identify them by group and type. Consult the document symbol guide produced by the U.N. Library to help decipher and search by document symbol.
These are the documents that are available online (Older documents are being scanned - see status of digitization:
Material that is not available online, may be available in print from the Government Documents Collection at the University of Hawai‘i Hamilton Library. Also, you can request documents from the Dag Hammerskold Library if something is unavailable online.
Before searching for documents, you may want to consult the U.N. tutorial linked below, or consult the recommendations listed in the Useful Links area on this page.
U.N. Tutorial on How to Find Documents
Access UN (requires UH username and password): Index to United Nations documents from 1945, including
Online Document System (ODS): There are two versions of the ODS. You should choose the advanced search feature on the older version if you have partial or full document symbols or numbers for the document you are seeking. If you are searching more broadly, use the new version that provides keyword searches.
The UN has six principal organs, as laid down in Article 7 of its founding Charter. These are listed below. In addition, there are a large number of IGOs, Commissions, and subsidiary bodies that have specific missions and produce documents related to their work. A listing of those entities can be found on the U.N. website:
The General Assembly: Policy-making body. All member states are represented. It has six main committees which also produce their own documentation. The International Law Commission is a subsidiary organ of the General Assembly.
The Security Council: Primarily responsible for maintaining international peace and security. It has five permanent members, plus ten members elected for two-year terms.
The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC): Manages economic and social development work and draws up policy in this area. It has many subsidiary bodies (i.e., the Human Rights Commission, the Commission on Sustainable Development and the Commission on the Status of Women).
The International Court of Justice: The U.N. judicial body, often referred to as the World Court. See the section on the ICJ under International Courts and Tribunals for more information about this institution.
The Secretariat: UN administrative organ. Carries out the day-to-day work of the UN; it is headed by the Secretary-General.
The Trusteeship Council: The Council was set up after the Second World War to administer various territories and oversee their transition to self-government. It was suspended in 1994 when the last of the trust territories became independent.