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 November/December 2016
Table of Contents
11.1 Case Databases
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.
- Finding people involved with the U.N.
- Finding issues handled by the U.N.
- Finding the work of one U.N. entity
- Finding treaties
- Operating Documents
- Topical Research Guides
- System-wide Databases
- Database Training Manuals
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.
- Use a directory.
- Look for speeches given by that person.
- Search for publications authored by that person or referencing that person's work.
- Search through U.N. press releases.
- Use the document research guides for each of the U.N.'s broad categories of UN work:
o Economic & Social Development Reports & Databases
o Human Rights Documents Research Guide
o International Law Documents Research Guide
o Peacekeeping Documents Research Guide
- Select from the list of Issues on the U.N. Agenda.
- Use your browser's edit and find functions to jump through the Directory 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 U.N.
- 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 Directory 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.
- U.N. Security Council – Database of best practices in counter-terrorism
- Counter-Terrorism Online Handbook
- Department of Peacekeeping Operations – peacekeeping guides and manuals
- Guidelines for UN Police Officers on Assignment with Peacekeeping Operations
- United Nations Police in Peacekeeping Operations and Special Political Missions
- Rule of Law Guidance and Policy Materials
- Peace & Security – landmine action standards
- Peace & Security – landmine strategy & guidance resources
- Handbook on the Crime Prevention Guidelines
- Handbook for Parliamentarians on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Public Administration Network – electronic government training materials
- Civil Affairs Handbook
- Human Rights- handbooks for U.N. staff, judges, police, social workers, and governments
- High Commissioner for Refugees – guidelines & manuals for emergencies, repatriation, self-reliance, protection of displaced persons, etc.
- Reporting on Gender-Based Violence in the Syria Crisis – a Training Manual
- UNCITRAL – legislative guides & model laws related to trade and commerce.
- Office of Legal Affairs – handbook, reference guide and other treaty participation assistance. Division of Ocean Affairs and Law of the Sea – practical guidelines for maritime law.
- World Bank handbooks
- UN Women - Handbook and Supplement for Legislation on Violence Against Women
- 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."
- Find treaty signatories, ratifications, and accessions in the Status of Treaties tool.
- Find very recent treaties and related writings by browsing through “this month’s documents.”
- 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.
- Check the Journal of the UN daily news about treaties.
- UN Terminology Portal (This portal leads to definitions from throughout the UN system.)
- Children's Issues- Glossary
- Climate Terminology
- Corruption: Glossary of International Criminal Standards
- Cultural Heritage Glossary
- Detention Alternatives Glossary
- Development Terms
- Disaster Glossary
- Drug Abuse Terms
- Economic and Social Classifications
- Education Terms
- Environmental Terms
- Human Rights Treaty Terms
- Juvenile Justice Glossary
- Nutrition Glossary
- Peacekeeping Terms
- Refugee Terminology
- Trade Terms
- Treaty Glossary
- World Investment Terms
- The official UN Research Guide - tells about the types of documents produced by the U.N. and any symbols or techniques necessary for understanding those documents.
- Topical UN Research Guides
- UN Documents Definitions and Symbol Explanation
- Official Document System – a collection of parliamentary writings and other administrative records.
- U.N. Documentation Centre – a browsing table showing the main bodies of the U.N. with hyperlinks to all of the records, decisions, press releases, etc, produced by each.
- Member States On the Record – Browse by country name for direct access to UN documents about and by that country.
- UN Yearbook
- UN Juridical Yearbook
- UNCITRAL Yearbook
- UN Environmental Program Yearbook
- UN Disarmament Yearbook
- Universal Periodic Reviews of Countries’ Human Rights
- Reports Link directly to Flagship Reports by individual organizations and see how to locate regularly filed reports from various UN entities.
This list is only intended to contain true finding aides that point to assorted information sources in a subject area. The Dag Hammarskjold Library has a comprehensive list of UN entity research and reference materials here. An alternative way to find subject-based resources is to click on the 'Publications' link on the home page of any U.N. body or organization.
- 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.
- International Law – from the UN Office in Geneva
- UN Statistical Research—from the UN Office in Geneva
- 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 Organization).
- 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 Development).
- Refugee Law and Protection Policy – The UNCHR's policy papers and expert meeting proceedings.
- Food & Agriculture – descriptive alphabetical listing of databases about planting, growing, and producing food (From FAO the Food and Agriculture Organization).
- 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 Social Development.
- 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 research publications.
- 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 – portal to resources on gender equality and empowerment.
- Children - studies, statistics, and numerous databases about child welfare from UNICEF (the UN Children's Emergency Fund).
- Population - data reports about population characteristics and behaviors.
Safety and Security
- Disarmament – resource guides pointing to books and chapters, articles, databases, UN documents, UN offices, etc.
- Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice
- Drugs & Crime- data and analysis
- Resources on Peace and Security
- 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 Maritime Organization).
- Flight Safety – national regulations, safety management data, airworthiness information, etc. (International Civil Aviation Organization).
9. Guides to U.N. Research from Non-U.N. Entities: This list has a small sample of the many UN research guides online:
- Columbia Law School Library
- Peace Palace Library
- Yale University Library
- Gallagher Law Library – University of Washington
10. U.N. Entities’ Compilations of National Laws
- FAOLEX, from the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization, links to national agricultural laws.
- NATLEX, from the International Labor Organization, collects national labor and employment laws.
- ECOLEX has environmental laws.
- UNESCO collects national copyright laws.
- UNESCO also compiles national laws about cultural heritage.
- WIPO links to patent, trademark, design, and copyright laws.
- The WTO has summaries of countries' trade policies.
- UNODC has a database of Cybercrime Legislation
- UNODC also has a database of counterterrorism laws
- The Division of Ocean Affairs & Law of the Sea collects national maritime laws.
- UNCHR’s Refworld links to national laws about immigration and asylum.
- 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.
- Activities of Member States – Portal to member state interactions with the UN and periodic reports on treaty compliance.
- UN Statistical Division
- ODS Official Document System- reports and publications from headquarters and major divisions.
- Index to Speeches (Library)
- Press Releases (public information)
- NGO Database -detailed profiles of NGO’s including funding sources, consultative status, and records of meeting participation. (search box is at the top right corner of the screen)
11.1 Case Databases
- Constitutional Case Law- Venice Commission
- Corruption Cases
- Domain Name Disputes
- Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission Decision (Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission – The Hague Justice Portal)
- Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission (The Hague Justice Portal)
- Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia
- Human Rights Council Complaint Procedure
- Human Trafficking cases
- Immigration Decisions (national & international)
- International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea cases
- International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala
- International Court of Justice cases
- International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
- International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
- International Labor Standards Cases (domestic & international)
- Investment Dispute Cases (ICSID)
- Patent Cooperation Treaty Cases
- Permanent Court of Arbitration
- Reports of International Arbitral Awards
- Special Court for Sierra Leone
- Special Tribunal for Lebanon
- UN Compensation Commission (Iraq-Kuwait claims)
- UN Dispute Tribunal – cases involving UN staff
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 located.
- Contact information for UN senior officials
- U.N. Information Centre Directory
- Directory of Permanent Missions
- Secretariat Structure
- Dag Hammarskjold Library – New York
- FAO Library
- ILO Library
- ITLOS Library (law of the sea)
- Peace Palace Library – Hague, Netherlands
- UN Office at Geneva Library
- UN Office at Vienna
- UN System Depository Libraries
- UNCITRAL Library
- UNESCO Library
- UNICRI Library (international crime & justice)
- World Bank – IMF Library
- WHO Library
- WIPO Library
- WTO Library