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United Nations Research Guide: Introduction

Guide to information created by the UN and the UN Family of Organizations. Grateful acknowledgement to Jim Church, University of California Berkeley Libraries, whose work is the basis for this guide.

76th Session

Theme for the General Debate of the 76th session of the General Assembly:

“Building resilience through hope - to recover from COVID-19, rebuild sustainably, respond to the needs of the planet, respect the rights of people and revitalize the United Nations”.

The 76th regular session of the General Assembly will open 14 September 2021.

Agenda of the 76th session


Learn About UN Documentation

The Dag Hammersjold Library at the UN Headquarters in NY provides training events & materials to ensure researchers can make effective use of UN documentation. 

  • Video lecture (43 minutes) delivered by Susan Goard, Legal Librarian and Training Coordinator, providing overview of UN organization, documentation, document symbols, and databases and tools provided by the UN for finding documents.
  • The Dag Hammarskjöld Library has created a series of research guides by subject that highlight key materials and provide links to UN Documentation, Policy & Guidance, Treaties (where appropriate), Books & Articles, Statistics, Web Sites, an FAQ, and more.
  • There are also research guides that focus on the documentation of specific UN bodies, including the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Trusteeship Council, the International Court of Justice, and the Secretariat
  • Some guides are provided in all six official languages of the UN.

Getting Started

Northwestern University Libraries has been a Depository for the United Nations since 1947 and also owns documents and publications from the League of Nations. Current UN Documents are primarily online and available using resources linked to this guide.  Publications (e.g. books, journals, and statistical annuals) are frequently online but may also be found using NUSearch.  For projects requiring extensive, historical work with UN materials (which NUL has in print, microfiche, and online formats) contact to make an appointment.

The United Nations system of documentation is as complex as the UN system of Organizations. The Regulations for the Control and Limitation of Documentation define documents and publications:

  • "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."
  • "''United Nations publication' refers to any written material which is issued by the United Nations to the general public."

UN Documents are in other words all the papers, meeting records, and official transcipts produced by the UN as it conducts its business.  Many other international organizations -- for example the WTO, UNESCO, and the FAO -- also have systems of documentation.

UN Publications are material the UN publishes with the intent of informing the general public and the academic community about its work and issues it wishes to address.

Unless noted otherwise created by the Dag Hammarskjold Library at the United Nations in New York.

United Nations News

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Your Librarian

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Anne Zald
Anne Zald
Subjects: Government Information; Gender & Sexuality Studies; Social Science Data; Regulatory Compliance
Main Library Room 1214
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Skype Contact: anne.zald
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