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Research Guides

Legal Research Resources

UN Finding Aids and Research Tools

Key finding aids for legal reseach published by the UN, with a brief description, are listed below.

Analytical Guide to the Work of the International Law Commission

The International Law Commission (ILC), a group of legal experts appointed by the UN General Assembly, discusses different topics in international law with the intention of codifying the law, for example, by drafting a treaty.  When the ILC drafts a text, it gets passed along to the General Assembly to be considered by the Member States.

The full text of all ILC documents can be accessed through the International Law Commission's website. 

The Analytical Guide to the work of the ILC provides access to the documents, organized by topic. 

Each topic on the Commission's website is organized into three sections: 

  • Analytical Guide gives citation to all documents related to the topic, organized chronologically. 
  • Summary is a narrative review, with links to major documents. 
  • Texts & Instruments provides an overview of the outcome and links to the text in its most final form. 

 To search for a topic, type Control F and enter keywords.

Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs

The Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs covers all Organs of the United Nations. It is divided by Article under the United Nations Charter and by a specific period of time for each supplement. The Repertory is an excellent tool for researching the practice of the United Nations organs as it relates to the United Nations Charter.

Each section includes:

  • Article text
  • General summary
  • Analytical summary of practice

The easiest way to search for material is to choose the article from the list and then choose the years for the supplement. However, you are also able to search the full-text of all the supplements from the Full-Text Search page.

Repertoire of Practice of the Security Council

The Repetoire of the Practice of the Security Council covers a specific time period in each supplement (from 2-5 years) and includes analysis of procedural matters as well as matters that fall under the Charter provisions related to the Security Council.

The Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council covers four primary areas:

  1. Application of the provisional rules of procedure
  2. Application of Articles of the Charter of the United Nations
  3. Subsidiary organs of the Security Council, including peacekeeping missions
  4. Overview of Council activities for each item on its agenda

To search a topic, use the menu on the left to select:

  • Agenda Items - organized by region or by thematic issue
  • Procedure Issues - includes rules of procedure, membership in the UN, and the Security Council's relation to other UN organs
  • Constitutional Issues - organized by chapters of the Charter
  • Subsidiary Organs - includes Standing and Ad-hoc Committees, International Tribunals, Peacekeeping Missions, Special Representatives and other subsidiary organs of the Security Council.

The online version includes datasets and tables prepared by the Security Council Practices and Charter Research Branch, which is especially useful when searching thematic topics that span a number of years.


United Nations Juridical Yearbook

The United Nations Juridical Yearbook is a comprehensive survey of the legal affairs of the UN, published on an annual basis starting from 1962.

The Juridical Yearbook is divided into four parts:

  • Part 1: selected texts of documents concerning the legal status of the UN
  • Part 2: discussions of the legal activities of the UN
  • Part 3: judicial decisions by national and international tribunals relating to the UN
  • Part 4: a legal bibliography of the UN

To search for a specific type of legal document, select the chapter that corresponds to your search. This allows you to limit your search to materials in that chapter. The default way to search is “the exact phrase”, but you can also search by “any of the words”, “all of the words”, or “boolean.”

To browse the Juridical Yearbook by year, select a year from the drop-down menu on the right hand side of the screen.  A detailed table of contents by chapter will be displayed. It is possible to browse or press CTRL + F to locate an exact word or phrase.

Another way to browse is to select the bibliography, or Part Four, at the bottom part of the homepage.  Then, you can select a specific year to view the bibliography in its entirety.  This is a great information source to research legal aspects of given subjects discussed by the UN in a particular year.

Multilateral Treaties Deposited with the Secretary-General

Multilateral Treaties Deposited with the Secretary-General (MTDSG), one of the databases available from the United Nations Treaty Information website, provides information about treaty actions taken by states, including :

  • Ratification
  • Accession
  • Signature
  • Texts of any declarations, reservations or objections

The on-line version is updated in real-time.

To find a specific treaty, browse the Chapter numbers by subject, or click on Index and search for the name of the treaty. Select the desired treaty to view information such as the: 

  • Entry into force
  • Registration
  • Current status
  • Full-text details
  • An explanatory note
  • List of participant states
  • Date of signature for the signatories
  • Date of approval, acceptance, accession, succession, and ratification
  • Details of declarations and reservations for the respective states

Participant Search allows you to browse treaties by participant (i.e. countries, international organizations, and other entities). Select a participant and click Search. You may export the list of treaties to Excel.

Advanced Search is also useful, especially when the exact title or treaty participants are unknown.

United Nations Treaty Series

The UN Treaty Series, available throught the United Nations Treaty Information website, is a collection of treaties and international agreements, published since 1946, in accordance with Article 102 of the UN Charter.

  • To be included, the treaties must be:
    • registered or filed and recorded with the Secretariat
    • in force
  • The UNTS includes the texts of treaties in their authentic languages, with translations into English and French, as appropriate
  • Both bilateral and multilateral agreements are found in the UNTS

The UNTS database contains the texts of all published volumes of the UNTS, plus the texts of treaties in volumes not yet published.

There are many options search the database, including:

  • Popular name
  • Title
  • Participant
  • Advanced
  • Full-text
  • Treaty actions

Search results can be viewed online or exported into an Excel spreadsheet and include:

  • Title
  • Registration number
  • Registration date 
  • Treaty type
  • Date of conclusion
  • UNTS volume number

Click on the title to see more detailed information.

Click on Volume in PDF at the bottom of the detailed information page to access the full text.