Each UN document has a unique symbol at the top right of the document or on the cover page.
All language versions of a document have the same symbol.
Symbols include both letters and numbers. Some elements of the symbol have meaning, while other elements do not.
In general, the symbol does not indicate the topic of the document. Some publications have both a symbol and a sales number.
Structure of the Symbols
The first component indicates the organ to which the document is submitted or the organ that is issuing the document.
Economic and Social Council
Some bodies have a special series symbol that does not reflect the parent organ. For example:
Committee on the Rights of the Child
United Nations Development Programme
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development
United Nations Environment Programme
Secondary and tertiary components indicate subsidiary bodies:
Ad hoc committee
Standing, permanent, or main committee
Special components reflect the nature of the document:
Conference room paper
Information series (e.g., lists of participants)
Limited distribution (generally draft documents)
Statements by non-governmental organizations
Statements by the President of the Security Council
Verbatim records of meetings (i.e., proces-verbaux)
Restricted distribution or access (unless subsequently derestricted)
Summary records of meetings
The final component reflects modifications to the original text:
Amendment: Alteration by decision of a competent authority, of a portion of an adopted formal text
Corrigendum (which may not apply to all language versions)
Revision (replacing texts previously issued)
Reissuance of a document for technical reasons
Session or year component
Many document symbols include sessional or year components following the body elements.
31st sess. (1978)-
Economic and Social council
In 1976 the General Assembly began the practice of including the session information in all document symbols. Before 1976, this information was not included in most document symbols. Session information appeared in Roman numerals in parentheses after the symbol for resolutions only. After 1976, other organs adopted similar practices.
Subsidiary bodies generally follow the practice of the parent organ.
A more exhaustive list of symbols can be found in ST/LIB/SER.B/5/Rev.5, United Nations Document Series Symbols, 1946-1996.