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UN Documentation: International Law  

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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International law is a primary concern of the United Nations. The third preambular paragraph of the UN Charter states as a key goal of the organization "to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained". The Statute of the International Court of Justice is an integral part of the Charter, and the ICJ is a principal organ of the UN.

International law is a complex and specialized field. This guide provides an introduction to the key documentation of the UN.

The UN Juridical Yearbook provides an overview of the legal activities of the organization during the year.

A more comprehensive listing of United Nations documents and publications on law-related topics can be retrieved through UNBISnet. UNBISnet provides links to the full text of recent documentation. Some subject terms which might prove useful in conducting a search are:

  • environmental law
  • international criminal courts
  • international trade law
  • judicial system
  • law of the sea
  • law of treaties
  • space law
  • war crimes

Additional descriptors may be identified through the UNBIS Thesaurus.

Proper names may also be used for constructing subject searches:

  • Conference on the Law of Treaties between States and International Organizations or between International Organizations;
  • Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses.

The Peace Palace Library is not a UN body.  It provides excellent research guides on a variety of international law topics.

Key Resources

  • Audiovisual Library of International Law
    The research library contains links to other web-based resources providing international law-related materials. The library is divided into four components: resources relating to treaties; materials concerning the jurisprudence of international courts and tribunals; access to selected UN publications and repositories; and selected scholarly writings in international law.
  • International Law Commission Yearbook
    Vol. I contains the Meeting records of the ILC. Vol. II reproduces texts of major reports produced during the year, including the annual report to the General Assembly.
  • UNCITRAL Yearbook
    Reproduces the annual report of the Commission as well as actions and comments on it, studies and reports on major subjects, the full text of legal instruments and the records of selected meetings which took place in a given year;
  • UN Juridical Yearbook
    Since 1962, the Secretary-General has published, on an annual basis, a Juridical Yearbook which includes documentary materials of a legal character concerning the United Nations and related intergovernmental organizations. Coverage: 1963-2011.
  • UN Treaty Collection
    This database provides information on the status of over 500 major multilateral instruments deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations and covers a range of subject matter such as Human Rights, Disarmament, Commodities, Refugees, the Environment and the Law of the Sea.
  • Official Document System (ODS)
    United Nations official document system: provides full text search of documents issued since 1993; resolutions of all principal organ & Security Council plenary documents since 1946 ; older documents are added regularly. Includes the Daily Journals of New York and Geneva.
  • Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs
    Analytical studies of the decisions of the UN principal organs under each of the Articles of the Charter ; Comprehensive summary of the decisions of United Nations Organs, together with review of related material, organized by Charter Articles.
  • UNBISnet - Bibliographic Records
    UNBISnet is the catalogue of the UN Library in New York. In addition to the library's holdings it accesses multilingual versions of UN documents (1993-present), citation to documents (1979-present) ; metadata and online links to older documents are added regularly.
  • UN-I-QUE
    UN Info Quest (UN-I-QUE) provides citation to the symbols for documents throughout the history of the organization: each record within UN-I-QUE is historically comprehensive. UN-I-QUE does not provide citation to all documents, but to certain documents of a recurrent nature.
  • UN Yearbook
    The Yearbook of the United Nations is the principal reference work of the UN and provides a detailed overview of the Organization's activities during the course of a year. All the Yearbooks, 1945 to the most recent, are available online and provide citation to the documentation and include the full text of resolutions.

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