Tuesday, 16 Jul 2024

About UN Documents

The world of UN documents can be complex and confusing, with various components and symbols used to convey crucial information. Understanding these symbols is essential for anyone working with or researching UN documents. In this article, we will break down the different components and symbols used in UN documents, providing a comprehensive guide to help you navigate this intricate system.

First Component

The first component of a UN document indicates the organ to which the document is submitted or the organ that is issuing the document. The following symbols are commonly used:

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

It’s important to note that some bodies have special series symbols that do not reflect the parent organ. For example:

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

UN Documents

Second Component

The secondary and tertiary components of a UN document indicate subsidiary bodies. Here are some commonly used symbols:

  • -/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

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Special components reflect the nature of the document and are denoted by specific symbols. Here are some examples:

  • -/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 of a UN document reflects any modifications made to the original text. Here are some common symbols:

  • -/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 also include sessional or year components following the body elements. For example:

  • 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 the past, the session information was not included in most document symbols. However, since 1976, the General Assembly and other organs have adopted the practice of including the session information in their document symbols.

Subsidiary bodies generally follow the practice of the parent organ. For a more exhaustive list of symbols, you can refer to ST/LIB/SER.B/5/Rev.5, the United Nations Document Series Symbols, 1946-1996.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why are there so many different symbols for UN documents?

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A: The different symbols used in UN documents represent various components, including the issuing organ, subsidiary bodies, nature of the document, and modifications. These symbols help categorize and organize the vast amount of information produced by the UN.

Q: Where can I find more information about UN documents?

A: If you need more detailed information about UN document symbols, you can refer to ST/LIB/SER.B/5/Rev.5, the United Nations Document Series Symbols, 1946-1996.

Q: How can I navigate the complex world of UN documents efficiently?

A: Familiarizing yourself with the different components and symbols used in UN documents will greatly enhance your ability to navigate and understand them. Additionally, utilizing search tools and resources provided by the UN can help you locate specific documents more efficiently.


Understanding UN document symbols is crucial for anyone working with or researching UN documents. By deciphering the different components and symbols used, you can navigate this complex system with ease. Remember to refer to the appropriate resources when needed and utilize search tools to find specific documents efficiently. Happy exploring!

For more information about UN documents, visit Eireview.