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UN Document Symbols & Series Symbols

UN Document Symbols & Series Symbols Functions

UN document symbols are used to:

  • Identify individual UN documents
  • Cite UN documents in
    • UN documents and publications
    • Books, articles, websites, etc. about UN activities
  • Search for UN documents
  • Link to UN documents

UN document series symbols are assigned to:

  • UN documents created by or for a particular UN body, or
  • UN publications issued in a series
    • UN publications may have additional identifiers including UN Sales Number, ISBN, ISSN, DOI, and/or library call number

UN document symbols can be complex and have changed over time.

Each UN body has its own pattern of documentation that reflects the body's rules of procedure, working methods, and budgeted resources. Research into UN documentation can be challenging at times. Expect the unexpected!

Definition of UN Document & UN Publication

The Regulations for the Control and Limitation of Documentation, ST/AI/189/Add.3/Rev.2, define documents and publications:

"A document is a text submitted to a principal organ or a subsidiary organ of the United Nations for consideration by it, usually in connection with item(s) on its agenda."
"The term 'United Nations publication' refers to any written material which is issued by the United Nations to the general public."

UN Document Symbols

Each UN document has a unique symbol at the top corner of the document, on the front or back cover, or on a title page.

All language versions of a document have the same symbol.

image of UN document showing the symbol in the right corner


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.

Search & Find

About this Guide

In the Dag Hammarskjöld Library, UN collections are shelved in order of UN document symbol or a Library-assigned UN call number, based on the series symbol for the issuing body. For older material not available online, a document symbol or call number is necessary for us to locate material in our collections. Records in the UN Digital Library usually have either UN document symbol or UN call number in the metadata. This guide was originally developed for internal Library use and is still under development.

Parts of this guide are based on the UN publication, "United Nations Document Series Symbols, 1946-1996" (ST/LIB/SER.B/5/Rev.5). Information for series symbols assigned since 1996 has been added. Additional information about selected bodies has also been added to help researchers.

More information about series symbols can be found in the series symbol authority records in the UN Digital Library.