UPDATE: Researching the United Nations:
Finding the Organization's Internal Resource Trails
By Linda Tashbook
Linda Tashbook is the Foreign
International Comparative Law Librarian at the University Of Pittsburgh School
Of Law's Barco Law Library, a Fulbright Senior Specialist, and an attorney in
private practice. Prior to becoming the foreign and international
librarian, she was the Barco Law Library's Electronic Services Librarian.
Before law school, she worked as a public librarian. Her Juris Doctor and
Master of Library Science degrees are from the University of Pittsburgh.
Her Bachelor of Science degree is from Texas Woman's University.
Published October 2012
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2. Standard Queries
3. Types of Research Tools
Involved with the U.N.
that the U.N. Works On
3.3 Works of a Particular U.N. Entity
Toolkits, and Other Instructional Sources from U.N. Entities
5. Researching Treaties
Deposited with the U.N.
6. Glossaries for U.N.
7. Finding Official
Operating Documents of U.N. Entities
Research Guides and Resource Collections
9. Guides to U.N. Research
from Non-U.N. Entities
10. U.N. Entities’
Compilations of National Laws
11. Databases from
Throughout the U.N. System
12. Directories of
U.N. Staff and Components
The United Nations is such a massive organization that its wide
array of processes and products require enough reference sources to warrant a
map and compass for navigation. As a map, here are suggested search
techniques for several standard types of queries and, as a compass, here
are the U.N.'s many diverse search tools organized into resource types.
of Research Tools
For more information about the search tools and primary sources that
are published by the U.N., one can use research
guides by non-U.N. entities.
3.1 Persons Involved with the U.N.
3.2 Issues that the U.N. Works On
- Use the document research guides for each of the U.N.'s
broad categories of UN work:
Peace & Security Documents Research
Economic & Social Development
Reports & Databases
Human Rights Documents Research Guide
International Law Documents Research
- Select from the list of Issues
on the U.N. Agenda. Once you are in the Web page for the
particular issue, you will see tabs at the top of the screen for research
tools including "documents," "events," "learning,"
and "speeches" which all have important information.
- Use your browser's edit and find
functions to jump through the alphabetical list of U.N. organizations
using the names of places or subject words. Once in any of those
organization pages, click on the link to publications.
- Look through the list of U.N. news outlets to find any that
follow the topic you are investigating.
- See if there is specialized topical research guide produced by a unit of the
3.3 Works of a Particular U.N. Entity
- Look in UNBISnet using the name of the
committee, office, organization, council, etc, as a keyword phrase. Using
the committee's name, as author does not usually yield thorough results in
this particular database.
- Browse through the alphabetical list of U.N. organizations.
The committees are usually components of the organizations in this list. Therefore,
you will have to navigate.
- Use the index to the U.N. Website to search for the committee
by name or else by the main areas of its work.
- Search the U.N. Official Documents System database and use words
from the committee name as search terms.
4. Handbooks, Toolkits, and Other Instructional Sources
from U.N. Entities
5. Researching Treaties Deposited with the U.N.
- Search in the U.N.
Treaty Collection, which "contains the texts of over
50,000 bilateral and multilateral treaties and subsequent treaty actions
in their authentic language(s), along with a translation into English and
French, as appropriate."
- Select a topic on the Documents by Global Issue page to get to the main international
agreements involved with that topic.
- Read the decisions of the International
Court of Justice interpreting the treaty that interests you.
- The International Law Commission has
drafts of related conventions and helpful explanations about the work of
codifying international law.
- The U.N. Office of Legal Affairs provides technical assistance and
general information about treaties: stages in the treaty-making process,
instructions for joining into an agreement and registering it, a treaty
reference guide, and U.N. requirements and practices for treaty making.
- Search for press releases about the treaty.
6. Glossaries for U.N. Functions
7. Finding Official-Operating Documents of U.N. Entities:
8. Topical Research Guides & Resource
This list is only intended to contain true finding aides that
point to assorted information sources in a subject area. An alternative way to
find subject-based resources is to click on the 'Publications' link on the home
page of any U.N. department or other office
- International Law - reports about and text of
the U.N.'s instruments of international law, such as the Vienna Convention
on Treaties, obligations to extradite, diplomatic immunities, etc.
- U.N. Public Information - answers
to the most commonly asked questions about U.N. programs and services for
schools and public visitors.
- Intellectual Property - Digital library of patents,
trademarks, etc. (WIPO World Intellectual Property Organization).
- Labor & Employment-
conventions, journals, statistics, studies, etc (ILO International Labor
- Labor Databases - child labor, trade union
complaints, comparative national laws, Triblex case law, etc (ILO).
- Investment Disputes - reports,
treaties, cases, and bibliographic references (World Bank).
- Financial Management - research
about investments, banking, currency control, and other fiscal matters
(IMF International Monetary Fund).
- World Trade - digital library of
primary and analytical sources (UNCTAD Conference on Trade and
- Humanitarian Affairs- Natural disasters
and complex emergencies.
- Refugee Law and Protection Policy - The UNCHR's policy papers
and expert meeting proceedings.
- Food & Agriculture -
descriptive alphabetical listing of more than fifty databases about
planting, growing, and producing food (From FAO the Food and Agriculture
- Economics & Development -
research, prospects, and data about education, business, and sociology in
individual countries and regions from the World Bank.
- World Bank Documents & Reports - topical listing includes
social & economic issues.
- Social Development - the vast resources of the UN Research Institute for
- Rural Poverty Knowledgebase - introductory explanations
of major poverty issues with links to documents, reports, examples, and
more (International Fund for Agricultural Development).
- Health Research - WHO statistics and other
- Nutrition - country studies,
policy papers, news from SCN (the Standing Committee on Nutrition).
- Illegal Drugs - trends, country
reports, criminal law enforcement data and analysis from UNODC (Office of
Drugs and Crime).
- Women- Women Watch guide to
resources on gender equality and empowerment.
- Children- studies, statistics, and
numerous databases about child welfare from UNICEF (the UN Children's
- Population- data reports about
population characteristics and behaviors.
- Climate- national reports, primary
documents, "issues quick-finder," technology from UNFCCC
(Framework Convention on Climate Change).
- Nuclear Science - access to
databases, statistics, and information services from IAEA (International
Atomic Energy Association).
- Maritime issues - resources about shipping,
marine safety, piracy, ocean pollution, etc… from the IMO (International
- Flight Safety - national regulations,
safety management data, airworthiness information, etc. (International
Civil Aviation Organization).
9. Guides to U.N. Research from Non-U.N.
10. U.N. Entities’ Compilations of
- FAOLEX, from the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization,
links to national agricultural laws.
from the International Labor Organization, collects national labor and
has environmental laws.
- UNESCO collects national copyright
- UNESCO also
compiles national laws about cultural heritage.
links to patent, trademark, design, and copyright laws.
- The WTO has summaries of countries'
Security Council compiles national laws about weapons of mass destruction
11. Databases From Throughout the U.N. System
- UNBISnet - The U.N.
Bibliographic Information System serves as a portal as well as the catalog
of all U.N. publications and other holdings in the U.N. library. All Web
versions of U.N. publications can be accessed from this site.
- UN-I-QUE - (U.N. Info Quest)
searchable index database of regularly published reports. Search results
show proper titles, publication dates, U.N. classification numbers and,
occasionally, hyperlinks for documents.
- Yearbook of the United Nations-
Search collectively or individually through these annual summaries of work
done throughout this vast organization.
- Infonation- Comparative and
collective statistics for all U.N. member countries on many issues.
- ODS Official Document System- reports and
publications from headquarters and major divisions.
- Index to Speeches (Library)
- Press Releases (public
12. Directories of U.N. Staff and Components
These directories primarily list national representatives who
participate in the named entities. Where possible, staff directories are also
linked. Generic "contact us" links are purposely omitted because
those are not informational in themselves and they can already be efficiently
Units subsidiary to the General Assembly:
Units under the Security Council:
Units under the Economic and Social Council: (This list only
includes the units that have online directories).
International Court of Justice
- Members of the court (chambers and