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United Nations: Guide to publication symbols and document types

Brief guide

The UN publications are split into several categories. The Official Papers section holds the Official Records, sales publications and documents, which are the three main categories of publications.

Useful guides from the UN on UN documentation :  UN Documentation How to find UN documents and UN Documentation and Overview

Official Records

Official records constitute the primary documents issued by the major organs of the United Nations. This category of records includes records of meetings, resolutions and decisions, committees, commissions and supplements, which are issued by session.

The four primary bodies are:

  1. General Assembly
  2. Security Council
  3. Economic and Social Council
  4. Trusteeship Council

Other bodies also issue official records.

The Index to Proceedings is a powerful tool which provides a window into the annual  meetings of the main UN organs. The publication is comprised of a subject index to all the documents issued by the body in question during a particular session/year and an index to speeches delivered before the forum in question during a particular session/year.

United Nations Sales Publications

These are publications offered for sale to the general public. The sales numbers are split into broad subject categories/issuing bodies. Sales publications are on open shelf and are arranged by sales number category, to include both monographs and periodicals. Not all the sales categories are listed here as we do not receive them under depository status. Please use SOLO to search for sales publications

Sales No. Category


General information and reference


Business, Economics, Science and Technology


Economic Development


World Economy


Trade, Finance and Commerce


European Economy (ECE)


Asian Economy (ESCAP)


Latin American Economy (ECLAC)


Public Administration


African Economy (ECA)


Western Asian Economy (ESCWA)


Social Questions


International Law


Security Council and Peace-Keeping Operations


Transport and Communications


Disarmament and Atomic Energy


International Administration


Narcotic Drugs




Human Rights


Public Finance and Fiscal Questions


International Statistics


An example of a UN sales publication is E.89.IIK.4. The E stands for the language it is published in, in this case English, 89 refers to the year of publication, IIK the sales category of African Economy and 4 is the 4th publication for that year.

The majority of monographs and periodicals under the sales no. categories are accessible via OLIS.  

United Nations Documents

The United Nations documents are referenced by a combination of letters and numbers. They are the working documents of the United Nations and are not meant for formal publication. The first letters are usually the issuing body and they also contain a publication date or indication of the session. They are kept in alphabetical order in Official Papers in acid free boxes. To give an idea of scale, we have nearly 350 metres of UN loose leaf documents.

General examples:

A/ General Assembly
S/ Security Council
E/ Economic and Social Council
ST/ Secretariat
CRC/ Committee on the rights of the child
A/54/2 General Assembly, 54th session, document no.2
E/CN.4/Sub.2/1998/NGO/32 Economic and Social Commission, Sub-Commissionon Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, year: 1998, Statement by non-Government Organization, document no.32