United Nations classification numbers--known as "symbols"--are composed of letters and numerals separated by slashes. A symbol is printed on the cover of a document--usually in the upper right-hand corner--and is made up of three to five segments:
The first segment--and sometimes the second as well--identifies the document's issuing body. Ordinarily, the first segments of documents issued by the U.N.'s main bodies consisted of the following:
- Symbol: Issuing Body
- A/: General Assembly
- E/: Economic and Social Council
- S/: Security Council
- ST/: Secretariat
- T/: Trusteeship Council
The most common segments for subsidiary bodies include the following.
- Symbol: Subsidiary Body
- AC.: Ad hoc committee
- E C.: Standing or permanent committee
- CN.: Commission
- CONF.: Conference
- GC.: Governing Council
- PC.: Preparatory Committee
- SC.: Subcommittee
- Sub.: Subcommission
- WG.: Working group
- WP.: Working party
Example: A/ in the symbol A/50/PV.45 indicates that the document was issued by the General Assembly.
Example: In the symbol A/C.5/49/25, the first two segments-A/C.5/--indicate that the document was produced by the General Assembly's Fifth Committee.
Occasionally, the second segment indicates not the issuing subbody but rather the type of document, as in the case of resolutions. Documents that follow the format S/RES/[number] are Security Council resolutions, and those that follow the format A/RES/[session]/[number] are General Assembly resolutions.
- The segment following the issuing body usually indicates the session or year in which the
document was published.
Example: The symbol A/C.5/49/25 was assigned to a document produced during the General Assembly's 49th session.
Example:The symbol E/1996/28 was assigned to a document issued in 1996.
- The number following the session or year is the individual document number.
Example: A/C.5/49/25 is the classification number for the 25th document produced by its issuing body in the 49th session.
- Some symbols also include an acronym or abbreviation-placed in the middle or at the end--
denoting a document type or distribution classification or indicating that the original text has
Example: In E/CN.4/1996/NGO/75, "NGO/" indicates that the document was produced by a nongovernmental organization.
Other acronyms and abbreviations include the following:
- Add.: Addendum (an addition of text to the main document)
- Amend.: Amendment
- Corr.: Corrigendum (a modification of a document)
- CRP.: Conference room paper
- Excerpt: Excerpt
- INF.: Information series
- L.: Limited distribution
- MIN.: Minutes
- NGO/: Non-governmental organization
- PET/: Petition
- PV.: Verbatim record of a meeting
- R.: Restricted distribution
- RES/: Resolution
- Rev.: Revision
- RT/: Record of testimony
- SR.: Summary record
- WP: Working paper
The symbols for certain subsidiary bodies begin with the subbody's acronym, omitting the letter that identifies the parent body. Symbols for the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) are a case in point. Even though the committee is part of the General Assembly, symbols for CEDAW always begin with CEDAW/ rather than A/CEDAW/. The table below lists some of the U.N. subbodies to which this practice applies.
- Symbol: Subsidiary Body
- AT/: Administrative Tribunal
- CAT/C/: Committee Against Torture
- CCPR/C/: Human Rights Committee
- CEDAW/C/: Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women
- CERD/C/: Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
- CRC/C/: Committee on the Rights of the Childd
- DP/: United Nations Development Programme
- DPI/: Dept. of Public Information
- ECE/: Economic Commission for Europe
- ID/: United Nations Industrial Development Organization*
- LC/: Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean
- UNCTAD/: United Nations Conference on Trade and Development
- UNEP/: United Nations Environment Programme
- UNIDIR/: United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research
- UNIDO/: United Nations Industrial Development Organization*
*These prefixes were used for UNIDO documents when the organization was a division within the United Nations. UNIDO became an independent, Specialized Agency in 1985.
The United Nations Collection on Deck 5 East of the Main Stacks includes both catalogued and uncatalogued materials in paper format.
All U.N. documents on Deck 5 East and in the U.N. reference collection (located in room 200 of the Main Library) are arranged by symbol. An initial letter(s) in upper case followed immediately by a slash (e.g., A/ or TD/) distinguishes a document's symbol from other numbers that may appear on the piece.
The following rules will allow you to determine the proper shelving sequence of any item:
- Segments beginning with letters should be compared letter by letter and arranged alphabetically. A document bearing the symbol A/CN.1/1 would be shelved before a document having the symbol A/CONF.1/1, since "CN" precedes "CONF" when both abbreviations are placed in alphabetic order.
- All numbers (including years) are treated as whole numbers and never as decimals. The symbol A/50/PV.10 would be found immediately after A/50/PV.9 on the shelf, since the number 10 is greater than 9.
- Segments beginning with numbers come before segments beginning with letters. A/50/2 is shelved before A/50/PV.1 since 2 is a numeral and the corresponding segment of A/50/PV.1 begins with the letter "P."
- The call number for a
cataloged U.N. document consists of the prefix "UN." followed by the document's
symbol. The call number for a piece having the symbol A/50/238 would appear as follows:
UN. A/50/ 238
- Cataloged documents in the U.N. Collection are interfiled with uncataloged documents. A cataloged document with the call number UN.A/50/238 would be shelved between the documents bearing the symbols A/50/237 and A/50/239.
Text of this page created by David Griffiths, United Nations Documents Librarian. Used with permission.