A Brief Guide to Finding UN Human Rights Documents

This page provides a brief overview of how to find UN human rights documents. For help finding UN documents, ask the OHCHR Library staff. For more in-depth information, please see the UN Human Rights Research Guide, a comprehensive explanation of UN human rights documentation and how to find it.  

Main UN Databases

UN Bibliographic Information System (UNBISNET)
Start here. Includes both UN and non-UN sources so limit your search to UN publications. Covers documents indexed by the Dag Hammarskjöld Library at UN Headquarters in New York and the UN Office at Geneva (UNOG). Mainly 1979-present. Includes separate indexes to voting records and speeches. (OHCHR staff may access online or via ILL)
UN Documents Search of the Library of the UN Office at Geneva (UNOG)
For documents located in Geneva that are not available online via UNBISNET. (OHCHR staff may access in-person, online, or via ILL)
Official Documents of the United Nations (ODS)
Especially useful if you already have a UN document symbol. Provides access to resolutions of the General Assembly, Security Council, Economic and Social Council, and the Trusteeship Council (1946-present) and all types of official UN documentation (1993-present). Older documents are added daily.

Specialized UN Human Rights Sources/Databases

OHCHR Publications
Find OHCHR Publications online and view an up-to-date list of OHCHR publications (pdf]) that indicates which documents are available in which languages and formats.
Human Rights Charter-based Bodies Database
Searchable by document symbol or UN charter-based human rights body with limits for session number, type of document, country, subject, and mandate. [For database-specific list see: Add a Mandate—Complete List of Mandates]
Covers documents produced by the:

  • General Assembly
  • Security Council
  • Economic & Social Council
  • Human Rights Council
  • Commission on Human Rights
  • Human Rights Advisory Committee
  • Sub-commission on the Promotion & Protection of Human Rights
  • Special Procedures
    • Special Procedures are the means by which the Human Rights Council addresses either country specific situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. These include: Independent Experts, Special Rapporteurs, and Working Groups (complete MS Excel list).

Human Rights Treaty-based Bodies Database
Searchable by convention (i.e. treaty), country, type of document, and document symbol, with limits for date range. No keyword search.
Covers documents produced by official UN treaty-based bodies. (For list, see Human Rights Bodies—Treaty-based bodies.)

Universal Human Rights Index of United Nations Documents
Information from the seven treaty bodies’ monitoring of the implementation of the core international human rights treaties (2000-present) and the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council (2006-present). Includes basic search—by keyword limited by country, by rights, and/or by body—advanced search; and direct access to documents by country, rights, or body.
Covers documents produced by:

  • Treaty bodies (see Human Rights Bodies—Treaty-based bodies.)
  • Special Procedures include Independent Experts (IE), Special Rapporteurs (SR), and Working Groups (WR)
    • Special Procedures are the means by which the Human Rights Council addresses either country specific situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.(complete MS Excel list).
  • Ad Hoc Missions

Access to classified records

Access to classified records may be granted on request on certain conditions. For more information, read this explanatory one-pager (PDF)

Contact information

Tel.: +41 22 928 9790
Fax: +41 22 928 9065
E-mail: OHCHR-library@un.org

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