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Public International Law: United Nations

This guide will help you find resources for researching public international law.

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Recent Books on the UN

Print books on the UN are at KC 405 on Level 5 in the Law Library.

Online Tutorial on UN Research

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The United Nations

 

The League of Nations (1919 - 1946) was the forerunner to the United Nations.

The United Nations is an international organisation founded in 1945 after the Second World War by 51 countries committed to maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations and promoting social progress, better living standards and human rights. More about the UN.

See also:

Finding UN Documents

Finding UN documents is not always easy or straightforward! The UN's Dag Hammarskjöld Library has produced an extremely helpful research guide on UN System documentation. For each of the programmes, funds, specialized agencies and regional commissions, the guide provides information about:

  • Founding documents
  • Governing body’s pattern of documentation
  • Flagship publications
  • Information resources, databases
  • Chief Administrative Officers

The UN website includes the following:

  • The Charter of the United Nations
  • The UN and the Rule of Law - the principle that everyone – from the individual right up to the State itself – is accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, is a fundamental concept which drives much of the United Nations work.
  • UN Rule of Law Documents
  • Official Document Centre includes all types of official United Nations documentation, beginning in 1993. Older UN documents are being constantly added. The ODS also provides access to the resolutions of the General Assembly, Security Council, Economic and Social Council and the Trusteeship Council from 1946 onwards.
  • General Assembly and Security Council - 'landmark' documents
  • Year book of the UN - full text, free and complete collection 1946 to date (note: publication is several years behind - for example the 2007 Yearbook was published in 2011). The Yearbook is the principal reference work of the United Nations and provides a detailed overview of the Organization's activities. Each Yearbook is fully indexed and includes all major General Assembly, Security Council and Economic and Social Council resolutions.
  • The Journal of the United Nations - full text from 2003+. The Journal contains the daily programme of meetings at Headquarters of the General Assembly, Security Council, Economic and Social Council and other bodies scheduled to take place on a given day, as well as identifies the symbols of major documents to be considered at the meetings -- even when the documents may not yet have been officially released. It also summarises treaty actions which have been undertaken at the previous day by States in respect of multilateral treaties deposited with the Secretary-General.

UN Treaties

The United Nations Treaty Series (UNTS) 1946+ is available freely on the UN Treaties website.

For more information about treaties and treaty research, see the Treaties page of this Guide.

League of Nations

The League of Nations (1919 - 1946) was the forunner to the United Nations. It was established in 1919 under the Treaty of Versailles 'to promote international cooperation and to achieve peace and security'. More on the League of Nations on Wikipedia.

League of Nations Chronology

Establishment and Organisation of the League of Nations

League of Nations treaties

League of Nations documents

  • Selected founding documents of the League are freely available at the Avalon Project website of the Yale Law School.
  • The Official Journal of the League of Nations is available on HeinOnline, within its Law Journal Library and United Nations Law Collection respectively.  
  • The League of Nations Statistical and Disarmament Documents digital library, produced by Northwestern University Library, contains the full text of 260 League of Nations statistical publications and documents related to international disarmament. This collection can be browsed by year, title, and sales number, or searched by keyword.
  • The League of Nations Photo Archives at Indiana University contains photos and visual material from the collection of the League of Nations Archives.

League of Nations Research Guides

 

UN Collections on HeinOnline

The UN Collection on HeinOnline - this collection contains exact reproductions of major United Nations legal publications, including the complete collection of the United Nations Treaty Series, the League of Nations Treaty Series, the Monthly Statement of Treaties & International Agreements, UNCITRAL Publications, UNIDIR Publications, the United Nations Legislative Series and much more. Additional useful information includes  ‘finding aids', to enable you to eg: search across all UN publications.

Main UN Organs

The General Assembly is the main deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the United Nations. Comprising all 193 Members of the United Nations, it provides a unique forum for multilateral discussion of the full spectrum of international issues covered by the Charter. The Assembly meets in regular session intensively from September to December each year, and thereafter as required.

The International Court of Justice is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations.

The Security Council has primary responsibility, under the Charter,for the maintenance of international peace and security. 

The Economic and Social Council  (ECOSOC) is a founding UN Charter body established in 1946. The world’s economic, social and environmental challenges are discussed by the Council, which issues policy recommendations.

The Secretariat — comprising an international staff working in duty stations around the world — carries out the diverse day-to-day work of the Organization. It services the other principal organs of the United Nations and administers the programmes and policies laid down by them.