United Nations Research Guide

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


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.

Key Resources for Researching the United Nations

  • Directory of Organizations within the UN System
    Covers UN organs, specialized agencies, and related organizations.  Scroll down to browse alphabetically.  Click on the name of an entity for more detailed information.   An organizational chart is available for download in PDF format.
  • Directory of UN Online Resources
    Resources are listed alphabetically.  Use the menu on the left to filter by organization and by topic.
  • UN Digital Library
    This online catalog includes records containing bibliographic information (title, author, document symbol, 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 Official Documents System (ODS)
    This database includes the full texts of most 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 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

Partial Revision November 2020 (chb)
Revised March 2014 (hec)
Updated March 2010 (las)
Revised 2007 (aeb)