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Political Science 490: United Nations: United Nations Documentation

Reading UN Documents

A symbol serves as a unique identifier for a United Nations document. Each symbol is composed of numbers and letters which do not give any significant indication of the subject of a document. All language versions of a document carry the same symbol.

Structure of Symbols

First component

Usually, the first component indicates the organ to which the document is being submitted or the organ that is issuing the document:


General Assembly


Security Council


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

Second component

Secondary and tertiary components indicate subsidiary bodies:

-/AC. .../-

Ad hoc committee

-/C. .../-

Standing, permanent, or main committee

-/CN. .../-


-/CONF. .../-


-/GC. .../-

Governing council

-/PC/. .../-

Preparatory committee

-/SC. .../-


-/Sub. .../-


-/WG. .../-

Working group

Special components

Special components reflect the nature of the document:

-/CRP. ...

Conference room paper


Information series (e.g., lists of participants)

-/L. ...

Limited distribution (i.e., generally draft documents)


Statements by non-governmental organizations




Statements by the President of the Security Council

-/PV. ...

Verbatim records of meetings (i.e., proces-verbaux)

-/R. ...

Restricted distribution; restricted access (unless subsequently derestricted)



-/SR. ...

Summary records of meetings

-/WP. ...

Working papers

Final component

The final component, appearing as a suffix to a symbol, reflects modifications to the original text:

-/Add. ...


-/Amend. ...

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)


Summarized version


Reissuance of a document for technical reasons

Session or year component

Many document symbols now include sessional or year elements, usually following the components that indicate the body. This was not the case prior to 1976 when the General Assembly began this practice. Other organs adopted similar practices. Subsidiary bodies generally follow the practice of the parent organ.

The General Assembly began to incorporate the session number into the symbols of its documents in 1976, at its 31st session (e.g., A/31/99).

In 1978, the Economic and Social Council began incorporating the year into the symbols of its documents (e.g., E/1978/99).

The Security Council began doing the same in 1994 (e.g., S/1994/99), with the exception of resolutions and meeting records.



General Assembly, 64th session, document no. 1


General Assembly, World Conference on Human Rights, Preparatory Committee, document no. 63, addendum no. 4


Economic and Social Council, Commission on Human Rights, Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, year: 2003, document no. 38, revision no. 2

Subject Guide

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