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United Nations Research Guide

United Nations System

The United Nations was established under the UN Charter when the Organization was founded in 1945. The UN is composed of member states from around the world, each of which is represented in the General Assembly, the main deliberative body of the organization. The UN is organized into six principal organs and multiple subsidiary organs. The other main bodies of the United Nations are the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Trusteeship Council, the International Court of Justice, and the UN Secretariat.

The UN has several specialized agencies, programs, and bodies that focus on various aspects of international affairs, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and many others. For a full overview of the United Nations system click and download the PDF of the UN Organizational Chart shown below.


Map of the United Nations System

 Download the UN Organizational Chart

Key Database and Online Resources for UN Research

U.N. Collections at Penn

The Van Pelt Library has collected United Nations publications since the organization's beginnings. In Franklin, search by author or subject for "United Nations":

A Franklin search will generally find United Nations documents and publications that were issued in paper format, but the largest part of the library's UN holdings is contained in microform collections. Documents from 1946-1999 are requestable from LIBRA the library's remote storage facility: Microprint (1946-1981) and Microfiche 125 (1982-1999). Documents from 2000-present are available in the government documents filing cabinets in Van Pelt Microfiche 125. To search individual documents within the microform collections, use the AccessUN index provided by Readex. In addition, the UN provides its own index for documents and publications, UNBISnet, which contains coverage for some documents not available in the Readex set.

U.N. Official Publications

UN official publications are of two types by form: printed and letterhead. Almost everything issued by the UN, except periodicals, appears originally in letterhead document form. "Letterhead" documents, also known as "masthead" or "mimeograph documents" after their original form of publication, constitute the largest category of United Nations publications, particularly those received as depository documents. They include materials that are the basis for discussion at UN meetings, such as reports, memoranda, studies, working papers, agendas, draft and final resolutions, decisions, meeting records, etc. Many masthead documents are reprinted in other publications, including the Official Records, the Yearbook of the United Nations, and the Annual Review of United Nations Affairs. Full-text UN official documents can be searched using The Official UN Document System (UN ODS).

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