Georgetown Law
Georgetown Law Library

United Nations Research Guide

This guide will suggest background resources and tips on navigating United Nations documents.

Introduction

The United Nations is the largest and most consequential inter-governmental organization.  It was established by the UN Charter in 1945 and replaced the earlier League of Nations.  It currently has 193 member states.  In addition to its primary mandate of maintaining international peace and security, the UN also promotes economic and social development, protects human rights, provides humanitarian aid and disaster relief, and facilitates the development of international law.

The UN is comprised of five principal organs:  the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Secretariat, and the International Court of Justice.  Historically, a sixth principal organ, the Trusteeship Council, played a significant role in the process of decolonization, but it is no longer active.  In addition, more than a dozen specialized agencies operate autonomously under the UN's umbrella.
 

Key Resources for Researching the United Nations

  • Directory of UN Entities & Affiliated Organizations
     
  • Directory of UN Online Resources
    Listed alphabetically.  Use the menu on the left to filter resources by organization and by topic.
     
  • UN Official Documents System (ODS)
    This database includes the full texts of all publicly available UN documents from 1993-present, plus resolutions issued by the General Assembly and the Security Council from 1946-present.  Best option for retrieving a known document by its document symbol.  Alternatively, search the titles or the full texts of documents by keyword.
     
  • UN Digital Library
    This online catalog includes records containing bibliographic information (author, title, abstract, etc.) about publicly available UN documents from 1979-present, plus selected speeches and public domain publications.  In most cases, links to the full texts of documents are provided.
     
  • UN Data
    This central access point enables you to search for and download statistics and data sets compiled or aggregated by various UN entities.  Use the Advanced Search to limit searches by country, by source or by year.  Alternatively, visit this page to browse by data set, by topic, or by source.  For additional information, consult the FAQs page.
     

Research Assistance & Help with Related Topics

If you need assistance with UN research, visit the Research Help page of the Georgetown University Law Library's website. Or contact the Law Library's International and Foreign Law Department by phone (202-662-4195) or by email (lawintlref@georgetown.edu).  Georgetown Law Center students may schedule a one-on-one research consultation with a librarian.

For questions about treaties and international agreements drafted under the auspices of the UN and its affiliated entities, consult the Law Library's guide to Treaty Research.  For questions about the universal system of human rights administered by the UN, consult the Law Library's Human Rights Law research guide.

UN Headquarters, New York

U.N. Secretariat Building, New York (photo by Steve Cadman)
CC BY-SA 2.0 license via Wikimedia Commons

Questions? Need Help? Contact the International & Foreign Law Dept.

International & Foreign
Legal Research


(202) 662-4195



Request a Research Consultation

 

Emblem of the United Nations


Public domain image via Wikimedia Commons

Update History

Revised 2007 (aeb)
Updated March 2010 (LAS)
Revised March 2014 (hec)