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United Nations Research Guide

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.

Getting Started

Northwestern University Libraries has been a Depository for the United Nations since 1947 and also has documents and publications from the League of Nations. Current UN Documents (records of proceedings) 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.

News Sources

The following are Official UN Media and News Sources.  This is information the UN publishes about itself and other sources offer different perspectives.

The following magazines and journals cover International Affairs extensively and are good sources for news about the UN and other international organizations.

The EconomistWeekly magazine with reports on international news, world politics, business, finance, science, and technology.  Great source for opinion-based articles on current events. 

Foreign Affairs.  Forum for discussion of American foreign policy and global affairs with analytical articles by notable figures.Published by the Council on Foreign Relations. 

International AffairsA leading journal of international relations that covers the entire IR discipline. From the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House).

International OrganizationLeading peer-reviewed journal that covers the entire field of international affairs: foreign policies, international relations, international and comparative political economy, security policies, environmental disputes, and more.

Journal of International Affairs Leading foreign affairs periodical edited by graduate students at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs.

Center for UN Reform.  Independent non-profit policy research organization working to encourage, generate and sustain discussion of proposals to reform and restructure the United Nations through its website; its monographs, papers and books; and conferences.

Free United Nations Coalition for Access.  Aims to hold the UN to its stated purposes, by making it transparent and accessible without discrimination.

Inner City Press. Hard hitting UN investigative reporting news service, led by Matthew Lee.  Headquartered in the South Bronx of New York City, it has also investigated human rights, transparency, corporate accountability, community reinvestment, predatory lending, environmental justice, fair housing, social exclusion and related topics. 

Security Council ReportPublishes monthly reports on the prospective program of work of the Security Council supplemented by longer published reports and ad hoc reports on key thematic issues on the agenda of the Council.

UN Dispatch.  Site providing commentary and coverage on the UN and UN-related issues. Provides factual information about the UN’s work and fact-checks claims and coverage about the UN offered by pundits, journalists, bloggers and others.