The UN Secretariat carries out a wide range of activities around the world. The Secretariat is broadly organized into departments and offices by topic (e.g. political affairs, legal affairs, public information), with specialized divisions and units within each larger department. There are also regional offices (e.g. UN Office at Geneva, UN Office at Nairobi).
Over time, the structure of the Secretariat has evolved to reflect the changing needs of the Organization. The first resolution on the Organization of the Secretariat was A/RES/13 (I) of 13 February 1946.
Most programmes and activities carried out by the Secretariat are mandated by a principal organ. An organ's request for an activity or programme often includes a request for a report of the Secretary-General on the actions carried out to fulfill the mandate. The mandate may not specify which department should carry out the activity.
Research on the activities of a particular department, office, division or unit, can be complicated due to changes in name, reporting structure and/or size. In general, identify the time period of interest then use secondary or reference resources to find UN primary materials. Some suggestions for starting research on the Secretariat are:
The Secretariat performs many activities in a wide variety of areas, from servicing meetings to serving in peacekeeping operations. Much of the work of the Secretariat is reflected in documentation about the activities of the organization.
Key documents related to the Secretariat are:
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:
The symbol assigned to the Organization of the Secretariat Manuals has changed over the years. We have the following information in our files: