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UN Document Symbols & Series Symbols

Structure of UN Document Symbols

First component

The first component indicates the organ to which the document is submitted or the organ that is issuing the document.

A/- General Assembly
S/- Security Council
E/- Economic and Social Council
ST/- Secretariat

Some bodies have a special series symbol that does not reflect the parent organ. For example:

CRC/C/- Committee on the Rights of the Child
DP/- United Nations Development Programme
TD/- United Nations Conference on Trade and Development
UNEP/-

United Nations Environment Programme

Second component

Secondary and tertiary components indicate subsidiary bodies:

-/AC. .../- Ad hoc committee
-/C. .../- Standing, permanent, or main committee
-/CN. .../- Commission
-/CONF. .../- Conference
-/GC. .../- Governing council
-/PC/. .../- Preparatory committee
-/SC. .../- Subcommittee
-/Sub. .../- Subcommission
-/WG. .../- Working group

Special components

Special components reflect the nature of the document:

-/CRP. ... Conference room paper
-/INF/- Information series (e.g., lists of participants)
-/L. ... Limited distribution (generally draft documents)
-/NGO/- Statements by non-governmental organizations
-/PET/- Petitions
-/PRST/- Statements by the President of the Security Council
-/PV. ... Verbatim records of meetings (i.e., proces-verbaux)
-/R. ... Restricted distribution or access (unless subsequently derestricted)
-/RES/- Resolutions
-/SR. ... Summary records of meetings
-/WP. ...

Working papers

Final component

The final component reflects modifications to the original text:

-/Add.... Addendum
-/Amend.... Amendment: Alteration by decision of a competent authority, of a portion of an adopted formal text
-/Corr.... Corrigendum (which may not apply to all language versions)
-/Rev.... Revision (replacing texts previously issued)
-/Summary Summarized version
-/-* Reissuance of a document for technical reasons

Session or year component

Many document symbols include sessional or year components following the body elements.

General Assembly  session 31st sess. (1976)- A/31/99
Security Council  year 1994- S/1994/99
Economic and Social council  year 1978- E/1978/99

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.

UN Document Series Symbols

UN document series symbols are a repeated pattern at the beginning of a symbol. They 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 such as UN Sales Number, ISBN, ISSN, DOI, and/or library call number

Series symbols have various patterns.

UN body series symbols usually have:

  • First symbol component: indicating parent organ
  • Second component: type of subsidiary and number
  • Additional symbol components may include:
    • sub-subsidiary bodies
    • year/session
    • type of document
  • example: Human Rights Commission, Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (1947-2006)
    • E/-- = Economic and Social Council (parent organ)
    • E/CN.4/-- = Human Rights Commission (subsidiary of Economic and Social Council)
    • E/CN.4/Sub.2/-- = Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (subsidiary of Human Rights Commission)
    • E/CN.4/Sub.2/2004/--: 2004 session of the Subcommission
    • E/CN.4/Sub.2/2004/NGO/--: NGO submission to the 2004 session of the Subcommission
    • E/CN.4/Sub.2/2004/SR.--: Summary Record of meeting of 2004 session of the Subcommission
    • E/CN.4/Sub.2/L.308/Add.1/Rev.1/Corr.1 : Correction to a Revision of an Addendum to a draft document of the Subcommission

UN serial publications series symbols usually have:

  • First symbol component(s): issuing body series symbol
  • Additional component possible for serials: /SER. /--
  • example: Yearbook of the International Law Commission
    • A/-- = General Assembly (parent organ)
    • A/CN.4/-- = International Law Commission (subsidiary of General Assembly)
    • A/CN.4/SER.A/-- = Yearbook of the International Law Commission (series issued by the International Law Commission)
  • example: Monthly Bulletin of Statistics
    • ST/-- = Secretariat
    • ST/ESA/-- = Department of Economic and Social Affairs
    • ST/ESA/STAT/-- = Statistics Division 
    • ST/ESA/STAT/SER.Q/-- = Monthly Bulletin of Statistics (series issued by the Statistics Division)

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.

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