Skip to main content
UN Library logo
Research Guides

UN Documentation: Researching UN Mandates

How to start research on UN mandates?

In general, it is best to start research on UN mandates with secondary sources, such as:

  • Website of the body
  • United Nations Handbook
  • Yearbook of the United Nations
  • UN-I-QUE database
  • Books and articles

Often, these sources will provide the symbol of the resolution or document that established the body of interest.

For example, the UN Handbook entry for UNICEF provides the initial resolution as well as subsequent resolutions that modified the mandate of UNICEF.

UN Handbook entry on UNICEF highlighting mandates

Links

Mandate of a UN Body

Most UN bodies are established by resolutions of their parent organ. Each principal organ has subsidiaries.

Most UN programmes and funds were established by resolutions of the Economic and Social Council and/or the General Assembly.

UN Specialized Agencies may have been established by, or brought into relationship with the UN through, a General Assembly resolution.

To begin research on the mandate of a UN body, check the following:

  • Website of the body
  • UN Handbook
  • UN-I-QUE: search for the body name and "report", then read the NOTE field 
  • Ask DAG: we have added information about many subsidiaries to the FAQ database

Mandate of a Peacekeeping Mission

UN peacekeeping missions are usually established by resolutions of the Security Council. To find the initial resolution for a mission, check the following:

  • Peacekeeping website
  • Mission website
  • UN-I-QUE: search for the mission name and "Security Council resolutions", then read the NOTE field
  • Yearbook of the United Nations
  • Secondary sources, such as Higgins, United Nations peacekeeping, 1946-1967 : documents and commentary

Links

Books

Mandate of a UN Secretariat Department, Office or Division

To find the original mandate of a UN Secretariat department, office or division can be challenging.

Since the first General Assembly resolution on the Organization of the Secretariat (A/RES/13 (I) of 13 Feb. 1946), the structure and mandates of many parts of the Secretariat have been modified, expanded, re-organized, and otherwise modified. In some cases, the General Assembly adopts a resolution endorsing a new department. In other cases, the Secretary-General may submit information within the proposed programme budget and the General Assembly resolution adopting the budget may not explicitly mention the name of the department or office.

In some cases, the Secretary-General's Bulletin on the Organization of the Secretariat and the related documents issued for each office may provide the mandate.

To get started on researching the mandate of a UN Secretariat department, office or division, check the following:

  • Department website
  • United Nations Handbook
  • Yearbook of the United Nations
  • UNBISnet, the Library's catalogue
    • ST/SGBs with title "Organization of ..."
    • Resolutions with subject "Department of ..."

Historic Note

The symbol assigned to the Organization of the Secretariat Manuals has changed over the years. We have the following information in our files:

  • 1945: UNPC/EX 113/Rev.1
  • 1951: ST/AFS/2
  • 1959: ST/SGB/122 (ST/ADM/1)
  • 1960: ST/SGB/123
  • 1961: ST/SGB/124
  • 1964: ST/SGB/128
  • 1966: ST/SGB/131
  • 1974: ST/SGB/Organization

Links

Mandate for a UN report, programme or activity

Some activities, such as certain publications or events, are mandated by resolutions. Others may be proposed in a proposed programme budget and then approved by the General Assembly resolution that adopted the budget for the biennium.

Reports of the Secretary-General usually indicate in the first paragraphs the resolution or decision that calls for the report.

Subsidiary bodies generally report to their parent organ after each session or after each year (if they hold multiple sessions in a year). 

For example, General Assembly resolution 1814 (XVII) sets out what should be included in the United Nations Juridical Yearbook, a legal publication.

UN Juridical Yearbook website highlighting the mandate for the Juridical Yearbook.

To begin research on the initial request for a report, publication, or activity, check:

  • the latest report or publication 
    • may cite the mandating resolution
  • Yearbook of the United Nations
  • UNBISnet, the Library's catalogue
    • search for Type of Material: B01 (Resolutions/ decisions) and Subject: title of publication
    • search for Type of Material: B15 (Reports/letters UN Secretary-General) and Subject: title of publication
    • search for Type of Material: B15 (Reports/letters UN Secretary-General) and Subject: name of department
  • UN-I-QUE for publication title to find the earliest edition, then check for citation to mandating resolution
  • Index to the Proceedings