Skip to main content
UN Library logo
Research Guides

UN Documentation: Overview


Reports are among the most common UN documents. Not all reports are issued as documents with symbols. Some may be published only on the website of the body that issued or received the report. There are many types of reports on a wide variety of topics.

Reports of UN Bodies

Most UN bodies, such as committees, commissions, boards, councils, and conferences, report on their work.

These reports include summaries of the work of the body for a given time period or session.

In general, UN bodies report to their parent organ on the work of a session or year and include:

  • dates of sessions and meetings
  • membership during the sessions covered
  • summaries of discussions held
  • full text of resolutions or decisions adopted by the body
  • recommended actions to be taken by parent organ, including draft resolutions for consideration by parent organ.

Often the reports of subsidiary bodies are supplements to the Official Records of the parent organ.

  • General Assembly Official Records: GAOR
    • example: A/70/16 (GAOR, 70th sess., Suppl. no. 16)
  • Economic and Social Council Official Records:  ESCOR

Because most UN bodies are not entitled to meeting records or resolutions as individual documents, the annual or sessional report is the source for  information about statements and adopted resolutions.

The free online Word - HTML converter helps you get rid of the dirty code when converting documents for the web.

Reports of Principal Organs to the General Assembly

The principal organs report to the General Assembly every year on their work during the past year, as mandated by Article 15 of the UN Charter.

The annual reports of the Secretary-General, Security Council, Economic and Social Council and International Court of Justice offer excellent starting points for research.

These reports are supplements to the General Assembly Official Records (GAOR) for each session.

  • Supplement 1: Report of the Secretary-General on the work of the Organization
    • symbol pattern: A/session/1
    • example: A/71/1
    • summarizes major activities of the UN around the world
    • cites to other reports with more in-depth information
  • Supplement 2:  Report of the Security Council
    • symbol pattern: A/session/2
    • example: A/70/2
    • gives an overview of all Security Council actions
      • on procedural matters
      • on regional-, country-, or subject-specific topics
    • cites key resolutions related to peacekeeping
  • Supplement 3: Report of the Economic and Social Council
    • symbol pattern: A/session/3
    • example: A/71/3
    • includes recommendations to the General Assembly, usually draft resolutions for General Assembly consideration
    • summarizes high-level and thematic segments of substantive session, as well as organization sessions
    • lists actions on drafts before the Council, including vote, but not the full text of resolutions
  • Supplement 4: Report of the International Court of Justice
    • symbol pattern: A/session/4
    • example: A/70/4
    • Summarizes Court activities for the year
    • Includes information about
      • Contentious cases
      • Advisory proceedings
      • Administrative activities
  • The Trusteeship Council is no longer active
    • The last report of the Trusteeship Council included as a supplement to the GAOR was in the 30th session, covering 1974-1975.
    • full list of symbols in UN-I-QUE

Prior to the 31st session, documents were sequentially numbered. The supplements to the Official Records were renumbered for each session. 

  • For example, document A/9601, the report of the Secretary-General on the work of the organization, was Supplement 1 to the Official Records of the 29th session. 

Reports of the Secretary-General, in general

In addition to the annual report of the Secretary-General on the work of the Organization, the Secretary-General reports to the principal organs and their subsidiaries on a broad range of topics.

In general, reports of the Secretary-General are issued in response to request from one of the principal organs or a subsidiary body. The report usually cites the resolution or decision that called for it.

The symbol assigned to a Secretary-General report usually indicates the body to which the report is submitted.

For example, the Secretary-General reports to the General Assembly, symbol A/-, on:

  • Budgetary matters (including peacekeeping financing)
  • Human resources matters
  • Other substantive questions on the agenda of the General Assembly
  • example: A/70/125

The Secretary-General reports to the Security Council, symbol S/-, on topics such as:

  • Peacekeeping missions, with maps
  • Regional or country situations
  • Other topics under consideration by the Security Council, such as Women, peace and security, and Rule of law
  • example: S/2015/619

The Secretary-General reports to the Economic and Social Council, symbol E/-, on topics such as:

  • Development
  • Economics
  • Regional cooperation
  • Statistics
  • example: E/2014/12

The Secretary-General reports to other organs and subsidiary bodies on topics on their agendas.

Content edited with the HTML G online editor program. Please purchase a license to stop adding similar ads to the edited documents.

Reports Transmitted by Letter

Some reports are transmitted by a letter, note, or note verbale. 

This happens frequently with reports issued by:

  • Security Council subsidiary bodies:
    • Letter from the Chair to the President of the Security Council.
    • example: S/2015/31
  • Specialized Agencies:
    • Letter or note from UN official transmitting report or comments;
    • examples: A/70/365S/2013/103
  • Non-UN bodies:
    • Letter or note from Secretary-General or from a UN Member State official, on behalf of the non-UN organization;
    • May transmit reports, outcomes, resolutions, communiqués, note verbales, or other types of documents.
    • example: S/2013/66
  • Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC):
    • Transmitted to ECOSOC by note from the Secretary-General;
    • Each note has multiple addenda;
    • Each addendum includes several reports;
  • Officials appointed by the Secretary-General, in exercise of good offices or in response to a request from an organ:
    • Letter or note from Secretary-General.
    • example: A/66/89 + Corr.1

Flagship Reports

UN bodies publish flagship reports to share information about the work of the organization with the public. These reports usually come out annually to report global or regional statistics on a certain topic. They often have a theme for the year. Many flagship reports were traditionally issued as books, but are becoming multimedia publications.

Flagships of UN and its Programmes and Funds and Specialized Agencies include:

Online Tutorials