Skip to main content
UN Library logo
Research Guides

UN Documentation: Researching UN Mandates

What is a mandate?

The term "mandate" may be used in many different ways in the United Nations.

Usually in the UN context, a mandate refers the decision that gives a body authority to carry out its functions.

Some examples are:

  • establishment of a subsidiary organ and definition of its core functions
  • establishment of a peacekeeping mission and enumeration of the types of activities to be carried out by the mission
  • foundation of a UN Secretariat department, office, or division
  • terms of reference for a Commission of Inquiry or Group of Experts
  • original request for a study or report

Other terms that may be used to refer to such documents are:

  • terms of reference
  • founding documents
  • authorization
  • approval

In the League of Nations context, "Mandates" refer to the system of international supervision over colonial territories. This guide does not concern this type of mandate.

Where are UN mandates found?

UN mandates may be found in various types of documents, such as:

  • Resolutions or decisions
    • Principal organs 
    • Subsidiary bodies
  • Reports
    • Secretary-General
    • Subsidiary bodies

Because most mandates have "budgetary implications" (i.e. cost money), budget documents often contain information about mandates.