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The UN's Dag Hammarskjöld Library provides clear and thorough explanations of how to research UN materials:
Other librarians have also created helpful guides to researching the UN:
Structure of the United Nations
The United Nations was established by a 1945 treaty called the Charter of the United Nations:
The Charter establishes six main organs (also called principal organs) of the United Nations:
International Court of Justice
A court located in the Hague's Peace Palace that resolves legal disputes submitted by states and gives advisory opinions on questions referred to it by other UN bodies.
Other Main Organs
The other main organs are the:
- General Assembly
- Security Council
- Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)
- Trusteeship Council
Most main organs have dozens of subsidiary organs and other subsidiary and related bodies. Major UN subsidiary and related bodies you may encounter in legal research include:
UN Human Rights Bodies
- Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), responsible for coordinating the actions of the human rights bodies
- Human Rights Council, a subsidiary organ created by the General Assembly to monitor countries human rights records through Universal Periodic Review.
- Treaty bodies, created by human rights treaties (such as the Convention Against Torture and Convention to Eliminate Racial Discrimination) to monitor countries' compliance with the treaties.
United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL)
Created as a subsidiary body of the General Assembly, UNCITRAL is best known for deleveloping important trade related treaties and rules, including the Convention on the International Sale of Goods (CISG) and the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules. It is also known for its Case Law on UNCITRAL Texts (CLOUT) database, which tracks cases from countries across the world applying UNCITRAL treaties and rules. For more information on these sources see the Loyola Law School library's guide to the CISG
and to International Arbitration
UN High Commissioner on Refugees
A subsidiary organ created by the General Assembly to assist refugees.
World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
A specialized agency of the UN that coordinates international intellectual property issues.
International Labour Organization (ILO)
A specialized agency of the UN that produces widely adopted labor standards.
FAO and WHO: Codex Alimentarius
The World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) are two UN specialized agencies that produce widely adopted international food standards called the Codex Alimentarius.
World Trade Organization (WTO)
A non-UN agency that works closely with the UN.
Chart Showing Structure of the United Nations