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Research Guides

Types of UN Documents

UN Conference Documentation

The UN holds conferences on many topics and has done so throughout its history. This box describes the types of documents, publications and information resources that may be issued before, during and after a UN conference, with examples and links to additional research guides.

Types of documents issued for UN conferences

  • Agenda
  • Background papers, Conference Room Papers or Working papers
    • symbol elements that may used for this type of document: BP, CRP, WP
  • Journal, daily programme
  • List of participants/delegates
  • National reports
  • NGO statements
    • symbol element: NGO
  • Official Records
    • may have symbol and/or UN Sales Number, ISBN, ISSN, other identifiers
    • proceedings or selected statements as well as outcome documents adopted by the conference
  • Outcome documents may include
    • Final act, if any, may be issued separately or as part of a report
    • Declaration/ treaty text/ statute : any legal text that may have been adopted by the conference
  • Press releases, audiovisual recordings and archival material and other non-official documentation, generally not held by the UN Library
  • Proceedings
    • Meeting records, transcripts, summaries or summary records, verbatim records, audiovisual recordings
  • Proposals, draft resolutions, negotiating texts
    • symbol element that may used for this type of document: L.-
  • Report of conference
    • includes summaries of background and convening; facts such as dates, places, meetings, participants, officers elected, documents issued and resolutions and decisions, including the text, if any, of final agreed outcome(s)
  • Reports of subsidiaries
    • Preparatory Committee
    • Credentials Committee
    • Other subsidiaries established to carry out certain aspects of the work of the conference, such as
      • Drafting committee, legal committee, regional committees, etc.
      • Expert groups, working groups, round tables, etc.
    • Subsidiaries of some conferences have extensive documentation 
  • Rules of Procedure
  • Websites
    • Many UN conferences have or had websites with extensive information resources

NOTE: The terminology used to describe types of documents may vary. For example: these or other terms may be used for documents that contain record of what was said during formal meetings of the conference: statements, speeches, transcripts, meeting records, verbatim, interventions...

Conference outcomes documentation

Conference outcomes vary widely, depending on the purpose of the conference and the topic. Most UN conferences issue reports upon conclusion. Some examples of outcome documents are:

What makes UN conference documentation unique?

  • Distinct from meetings or sessions of the UN principal organs
    • example: UN conferences are different from sessions of the UN General Assembly
  • Often held in major cities around the world, away from UN headquarters
  • Often convened by resolutions of the General Assembly or Economic and Social Council
  • Participants may include:
    • States (Countries or Nations)
      • Heads of state or government, if considered a Summit
      • States may be represented by diplomats and/or experts in the topic of the conference
    • UN System organizations
    • Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or civil society representatives, and others
    • related documentation: statements/proceedings/meeting records; list of participants/delegates; Credentials Committee report

Availability of UN Conference Documentation

  • Not every conference has every type of document
  • Some conferences have extensive, complex documentation, others may have few documents
  • Most UN conference documents issued before 1993 are not available online
    • Projects are ongoing to scan and make them available in the UN Digital Library
  • As the UN Dag Hammarskjold Library does not index documents issued outside of NY and Geneva, researchers should also check the Official Document System for conference documents issued from other duty stations. (This is a major area of disjoint between the UNDL and the ODS)
  • Many UN conferences have/had websites with extensive information resources. Because UN conferences are usually time-limited events, these websites may not be maintained over the long-term. Web archiving services may have captured websites cited in UN documents and publications that are no longer found on the current UN website.

Ask DAG! FAQs about conferences

Examples of UN conferences

Displayed below are examples of UN conferences and their patterns of documentation, re-used from the UN Document Symbols & Series Symbols research guide.

E/CONF.41/

  • World Population Conference
  • Belgrade (2nd, 1965)
  • 1964-1967
  • International Cooperation Year: A/RES/1907 (XVIII)
  • World Population Conference (2nd)
    • Belgrade, 30 Aug.-10 Sept. 1965
    • Report
      • Vol. I: E/CONF.41/2 (66.XIII.5) Summary Report
      • Vol. II: E/CONF.41/3 (66.XIII.6) Fertility, Family Planning, Mortality
      • Vol. III: E/CONF.41/4 (66.XIII.7) Projections, Measurement of Population Trends
      • Vol. IV: E/CONF.41/5 (66.XIII.8) Migration, Urbanization, Economic Development

E/CONF.66/

World Conference of the International Women's Year

  • 1st World Conference on Women
  • 19 June-2 July 1975, Mexico City 
  • E/CONF.66/34 (76.IV.1)
  • Document series symbol for working documents include:
    • E/CONF.66/-
      • example: E/CONF.66/7: Agenda of the Conference
      • this series includes statements by heads of state/government to the Conference
    • E/CONF.66/BP/- : Conference Background Paper
      • example: E/CONF.66/BP/1
    • E/CONF.66/CC/- : Consultative Committee
    • E/CONF.66/C.1/- : First Committee
    • E/CONF.66/C.2/-: Second Committee
    • E/CONF.66/NGO/- : Written Statements of non-governmental organizations
      • example: E/CONF.66/NGO/2
  • Agenda: E/CONF.66/7

A/CONF.62/

Third Conference on the Law of the Sea

A/CONF.151/

United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (1992)

  • Established by General Assembly resolution 45/211 of 21 December 1990 & General Assembly Decision 46/468 (see A/INF/46/8/Add.2, page 4) of 13 April 1992
  • Meetings held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • Dates of conference: 3 - 14 June 1992
  • Outcome document in 3 volumes: A/CONF.151/26/Rev.1

    • Vol.I + Corr.1: Resolutions adopted by the Conference, 3 agreements adopted:
      • Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, a series of principles defining the rights and responsibilities of States
      • Agenda 21, a global plan of action to promote sustainable development 
      • Statement of Forest Principles, a set of principles to underpin the sustainable management of forests worldwide
    • Vol.II: Proceedings of the Conference
    • Vol.III Corr.1: Statements made by Heads of State or Government at the summit segment of the Conference
  • Document series symbol for working documents:
    • A/CONF.151/-
    • A/CONF.151/PC/- : Preparatory Committee
      • A/CONF.151/PC/WG.I/- : Preparatory Committee - Working Group I
      • A/CONF.151/PC/WG.II/- : Preparatory Committee - Working Group II
      • A/CONF.151/PC/WG.III/- : Preparatory Committee - Working Group III
  • Reports:
    • Report of the Conference - A/CONF.151/26/Rev.1 (Vol.I-IV)
    • Report of the Credentials Committee - A/CONF.151/17
    • Nations of the Earth Report - A/CONF.151/N.2 (Vol.1-2)
    • Secretary-General Reports
    • Report of the Main Committee
  • Press releases
  • Key documents:
    • Adoption of Texts on Environment and Development - A/CONF.151/RES/1
    • Rio Declaration on Environment and Development - A/CONF.151/PC/DEC/4/10
    • Rio Declaration - A/CONF.151/5/Rev.1
    • Conference Resolutions and Decisions
    • The Global Partnership for Environment and Development : A guide to Agenda 21 - A/CONF.151/GUIDE/1
    • Adoption of Agreements on Environment and Development : Agenda 21 - A/CONF.151/4 (Part I-IV)
  • Misc.: