Skip to main content
UN Library logo
Research Guides

UN Documentation: International Law

General Assembly & International Law

The General Assembly is involved international law at many levels. Many subsidiary bodies of the General Assembly consider specific areas of international law and report to the plenary. Most legal matters are referred the Sixth Committee, which then reports to the plenary.  The International Law Commission and the UN Commission on International Trade Law report to the General Assembly.

The General Assembly also considers topics related to the institutional law of the United Nations, such as the adoption of the Staff Regulations and the establishment of the system of internal justice.

Sixth Committee

Delegates attending the first meeting of the General Assembly’s Sixth Committee (Legal) for the Assembly’s sixty-seventh session. 08 October 2012. United Nations, New York

The Sixth Committee, one of the six Main Committees of the General Assembly, is allocated agenda items related to legal matters.

  • Document series symbol for working documents
  • Summary records
  • Press release series symbol 

The Sixth Committee submits a separate report to the plenary on every agenda item allocated to it. Each report:

  • indicates the meetings at which the item was considered
  • summarizes the committee's consideration of the item
  • identifies the sponsors of draft resolutions
  • reports the vote, if any, of Member States on draft texts
  • transmits the final version of draft resolutions and/or decisions recommended to the plenary for adoption
  • symbol pattern

The plenary considers each report and votes on the draft resolutions or decisions it contains.

For example, the General Assembly adopted resolution 69/123 based on the report of the Sixth Committee (A/69/502).

International Law Commission (ILC)


The International Law Commission is an expert body, composed of "persons of recognized competence in international law", that works on the progressive development and codification of international law.

  • International Law Commission (ILC) website
  • established by General Assembly resolution 174 (II) of 21 November 1947
  • Statute (pdf) found in A/CN.4/4/Rev.2 (Sales number: 82.V.8)
  • promotes of the progressive development of international law and its codification
  • meets annually in Geneva;
  • full text of all ILC documents can be accessed through the Commission's website
  • documents, 1993-present are available from UNBISnet and the Official Document System of the United Nations (ODS)
  • document series symbol for working documents
  • meeting records
    • A/CN.4/SR.-
    • example: A/CN.4/SR.3289
    • also edited and published in the Yearbook of the ILC
  • sessional reports (list of symbols)
    • Supplement 10 to the General Assembly Official Records (GAOR)
    • A/session/10
    • example: A/70/10
    • also edited and published in the Yearbook of the ILC
  • press releases series symbol L/-
  • major publications:
    • Yearbook of the International Law Commission
      • Volume I: Meeting records
      • Volume II: Texts of major reports produced during the year, including the annual report to the General Assembly
    • Analytical Guide to the Work of the International Law Commission
      • Organizes the  work of the ILC by subject
      • Provides a summary of the consideration of the topic
      • Links to the full text documentation
      • Links to any texts and/or instruments drafted through the ILC
      • Often the outcome of ILC on a topic is draft articles for a proposed multilateral agreement, and the ILC will also issue the draft articles with commentaries (e.g. Law of Treaties). This is useful for researchers looking into the "travaux preparatoires" or preparatory work of a multilateral convention.
    • The Work of the International Law Commission, 7th edition (Sales number: 07.V.9) gives an overview of the ILC's activities and reproduces the full text of legal instruments drafted under its aegis. 

UN Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL)


The UN Commission on International Trade Law works to further the progressive harmonization and unification of the law of international trade. Its 60 members are elected by the General Assembly.

  • United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) website
  • established by General Assembly resolution 2205 (XXI) of 17 December 1966
  • promotes the progressive harmonization and unification of the law of international trade
  • meets annually in New York in even years and Vienna in odd years
  • the full text of all UNCITRAL documents is available through the website of the Commission
  • documents, 1993-present, are available from UNBISnet and the Official Document System (ODS)
  • document series symbol for working documents
    •  A/CN.9/-
    • example: A/CN.9/739
    • Reports submitted by working groups constitute a major category of these documents
    • Select working documents are reprinted in the UNCITRAL Yearbook
  • meeting records
    • A/CN.9/SR.-
    • example: A/CN.9/SR.842
    • Select meeting records are reprinted in the UNCITRAL Yearbook
  • sessional reports 
    • Supplement 17 to the General Assembly Official Records (GAOR)
    • A/session/17
    • example: A/70/17
    • Reprinted in the UNCITRAL Yearbook
  • New York press release series symbol L/-
  • Press releases are issued on the UNCITRAL homepage
  • major publications and information resources: