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United Nations Documents

Five Types of UN Documents

There are five main types of UN Documents:

Mimeograph or Masthead Documents: These are the internal working documents of the UN and its organs.  Each document contains a masthead that indicates the document's title, issuing body, and document symbol. Examples include agendas, reports, notes, studies, drafts of reports, resolutions, draft resolutions, provisional meeting records, etc.

Official Records of Proceedings: Final records of the General Assembly, Security Council, Economic and Social Council, and the Trusteeship Council.

Sales Publications: Reports and other publications sold by the UN to inform the public about its work.  These are not official UN documents.

Press Releases: While not official documents, these may be good sources of information about UN actions.  Press releases about UN resolutions often contain a text of draft resolutions. Available on the UN's press web site.

Periodicals: The UN publishes many periodicals.  These address a variety of themes, for example, the Law of the Sea Bulletin.

UN Document Symbols

UN documents are given document symbols.  These function as a unique citation for the document, and usually appears in the upper right of the document.

First component

The first component indicates the organ to which the document is submitted or the organ that is issuing the document.

A/- General Assembly
S/- Security Council
E/- Economic and Social Council
ST/- Secretariat


Some bodies have a special series symbol that does not reflect the parent organ.  Thefore the first component of the symbol is a subsidiary organization. For example:

CRC/C/- Committee on the Rights of the Child
DP/- United Nations Development Programme
TD/- United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

United Nations Environment Programme


Second component

Secondary and third components indicate subsidiary bodies:

-/AC. .../- Ad hoc committee
-/C. .../- Standing, permanent, or main committee
-/CN. .../- Commission
-/CONF. .../- Conference
-/GC. .../- Governing council
-/PC/. .../- Preparatory committee
-/SC. .../- Subcommittee
-/Sub. .../- Subcommission
-/WG. .../- Working group


Special components

The next component reflects nature of the document:

-/CRP. ... Conference room paper
-/INF/- Information series (e.g., lists of participants)
-/L. ... Limited distribution (generally draft documents)
-/NGO/- Statements by non-governmental organizations
-/PET/- Petitions
-/PRST/- Statements by the President of the Security Council
-/PV. ... Verbatim records of meetings (i.e., proces-verbaux)
-/R. ... Restricted distribution or access (unless subsequently derestricted)
-/RES/- Resolutions
-/SR. ... Summary records of meetings
-/WP. ...

Working papers


Final component

The final component reflects modifications to the original text:

-/Add.... Addendum
-/Amend.... Amendment: Alteration by decision of a competent authority, of a portion of an adopted formal text
-/Corr.... Corrigendum (which may not apply to all language versions)
-/Rev.... Revision (replacing texts previously issued)
-/Summary Summarized version
-/-* Reissuance of a document for technical reasons


Session or year component

Many document symbols include sessional or year components following the body elements.

General Assembly  session 31st sess. (1976)- A/31/99
Security Council  year 1994- S/1994/99
Economic and Social council  year 1978- E/1978/99

In 1976 the General Assembly began the practice of including the session information in all document symbols. Before 1976, this information was not included in most document symbols. Session information appeared in Roman numerals in parentheses after the symbol for resolutions only. After 1976, other organs adopted similar practices.

Subsidiary bodies generally follow the practice of the parent organ.

For example, document symbol A/CONF.157/PC/63/Add.4 indicates that the document is from the General Assembly/World Conference on Human Rights/Preparatory Committee/Document no. 63/addendum no.4.

A more exhaustive list of symbols can be found in ST/LIB/SER.B/5/Rev.5, United Nations Document Series Symbols, 1946-1996.  Using this document symbol as an example: It was produced by the Secretariat