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United Nations Research Guide: Document Numbers

Key Resources

United Nations Document Numbers

Source: United Nations Documentation.

Many United Nations documents, including sales publications, are given a "symbol" (really, a series of numbers and letters) that is unique. Having some awareness of the symbol's meaning can give the researcher some clues as to the title's source and place within the United Nations organization structure. Some parts of the Library's collection also use these symbols as a means or organizing the document, which makes this information useful.

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/- Secretaria

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 the particular organizational meeting during which 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:

  • A/50/485
  • E/CN.4/Sub.2/SR.5
  • S/1995/RES/25

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