Frequently Asked Questions for the ODS Search


What is the scope of ODS?
What is a document symbol?
How do I access the restricted UN documents?
Where can I find the MS Word and scanned image files of UN documents?
How do I subscribe to RSS feed?
How do I download files without that extra click?
Is the spelling in the official UN documents in UK English?
What are the options for sorting search results?
Do I include common words in my search?

What is the scope of ODS?

The United Nations Official Document System (ODS) since its inception in 1993, covers all types of official United Nations (UN) documentation. ODS provides access to the resolutions of the General Assembly, Security Council, Economic and Social Council, and Trusteeship Council from 1946 onwards.

ODS includes pre-session, in-session and post-session documentation for meetings of the General Assembly and its subsidiary bodies; the Security Council and its subsidiary bodies; the Economic and Social Council and its subsidiary bodies; and the Trusteeship Council; and for global conferences convened by the UN, as well as for other meetings included in the Calendar of Conferences and Meetings authorized by the General Assembly.

Thanks to ongoing digitization efforts by the Dag Hammarskj÷ld Library and the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG) Library, pre-1993 older UN documents are gradually being uploaded and made available on the ODS.

The system does not contain press releases, sales publications, the United Nations Treaty Series or information brochures issued by the Department of Public Information.

The documents and official records are available in the six official languages of the UN: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. Selected documents are available in German.

Arabic coverage is as follows:

General Assembly - 1953 onwards
Security Council and Economic and Social Council - 1983 onwards
Trusteeship Council - not available

Full-text searching in Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Spanish is possible only for UN documents published from 1 January 2001 onwards.


What is a document symbol?
Each UN document has a unique document symbol (identifier). The document symbol is a combination of letters, numerals and the forward slash "/" e.g.,

A/52/100 - General Assembly document from the 52nd session 
S/1997/100 - Security Council document issued in 1997 
E/1993/100 - Economic and Social Council document from 1993 
ST/IC/2010/2 - Index to information circulars 

For more information about document symbols, click here

When searching with document symbol on the ODS Global Search and ODS Basic Search, remember to include the forward slash "/" in your search query i.e., A/64/251 instead of A64251.   


How do I access the restricted UN documents?
Restricted documents have to be accessed by login to the Classic ODS.   


Where can I find the MS Word and scanned image files of UN documents?
The MS Word and scanned image file versions of the official UN documents have to be retrieved using the Classic ODS.  


How do I subscribe to RSS feed?
I am trying to subscribe to a search results page that lets me know when documents with a symbol starting with A/64/L, are added to ODS. I tried to subscribe to a feed of that search but it showed many documents that were not relevant (I only want the ones that have that symbol, not the ones where that symbol appears). 

First, search the following keywords in ODS Global Search:   

Documents with document symbols beginning with A/64/L are draft resolutions. So having A/64/L and draft resolution as the search keywords will retrieve draft resolutions issued in the 64th session of the General Assembly. 


After retrieving the results, click on RSS at the top of your ODS page.    

Then, click on Subscribe to this feed.   

You will get this screen next:    


When you want to view the feed after a day or two, open your Internet browser and click on the button that appears as a yellow star (outlined below in red).   

How do I download files without that extra click?
When you are downloading a file from ODS, do you get the following window?   


To enable a direct file download without getting this window, go to Tools [located at the top of your Internet Explorer browser] > Internet Options > Security > Custom Level.

Scroll down until you find Automatic prompting for file downloads, enable it and click OK.



Is the spelling in the official UN documents in UK English?
Yes, official UN documents produced by the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management are in UK English. If you are searching a term that has a variant spelling, you may include both using OR as a connector in your search. Example: 

colour OR color    

What are the options for sorting search results?
By default, search results are sorted by relevance, with the most relevant result appearing at the top of the page (this is done using a patented algorithm). If you want to sort the documents by publication date instead, click the Sort by Date link. The publication date is the date on which the drafting of the document is completed and the manuscript is submitted for processing, i.e. editing, translation, text processing and printing. This date appears at the top right-hand corner of the document, usually below the document symbol. With sorting by date, the most recent document appears at the top of the page. Results that do not contain dates are displayed at the end and are sorted by relevance.  

Do I include common words in my search?
Because they tend to slow down your search without improving the results, the search appliance ignores some terms, including:  

  • Common words and characters, such as "where" and "how", when they are used in conjunction with other search terms. For example, if you search for "who," the search appliance does not ignore it. The search appliance returns results for "who." However, if you search for "Pat who", the search appliance does ignore "who" and only returns results for "Pat". 
  • Certain single digits and single letters. If a single letter or digit is essential to getting the results you want, you can do a phrase search e.g., "World War II".