United Nations Editorial Manual Online
Resolutions and other formal decisions of United Nations organs
A. General observation
Draft texts of resolutions are submitted in one language only.
They are given limited distribution and are issued with an /L. ... component in the symbol (see United Nations Documentation: Research Guide for additional information on document symbols).
In many cases, the title of a resolution is that of the relevant agenda item. However, a modification of the wording may sometimes be required. Where a number of resolutions relating to the same agenda item have been adopted, they should be given different titles. The title of a draft resolution is normally given by the sponsor. If no title is supplied, the editor should consult with the secretariat of the body concerned.
Security Council resolutions do not bear a title.
The names of organs, offices and instruments used in titles should always be given in full.
The order of the component elements of resolutions of United Nations organs should be as follows: (a) the name of the organ; (b) the preamble, if any; (c) the operative part.
Each preambular paragraph begins with a present, past or perfect participle or participial phrase or an adjective. Each operative paragraph begins with an operative verb (or phrase) in the present indicative tense.
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The text of the resolution is normally followed by an indication of the meeting at which it was adopted and the date of adoption.
82nd plenary meeting
In the case of a resolution adopted at a meeting that continued after midnight, the actual date of adoption should be given. For instance, if a meeting began on 16 December and finished at 12.45 a.m. on 17 December, and a resolution was adopted after midnight, the date of adoption of the resolution would be 17 December.
The indication of the meeting and the date of adoption should follow each resolution in the case of two or more resolutions grouped under a single number and title and identified by capital letters.
When a Security Council resolution is issued in the S/RES form, the indication of the meeting and the date of adoption precede the text of the resolution. In the final, edited form in the Official Records supplement, this information, together with the result of the vote, appears after the text of the resolution.
When General Assembly resolutions are incorporated in final, edited form in the Official Records supplement for a given session, the indication of the meeting and the date of adoption are included in the information provided before the text of each resolution, pursuant to section C, paragraph 3, of Assembly resolution 54/248 of 23 December 1999.
According to the current practice, preambular paragraphs are not numbered; operative paragraphs are numbered with arabic numerals, but a single operative paragraph is not numbered. Some early resolutions followed a different style. When it is necessary to refer to or quote texts following an earlier style, such references or quotations should conform to the earlier style.
If a paragraph of either the preamble or the operative part is subdivided, the first degree of subparagraphs should be identified by lower-case letters between parentheses: (a), (b), etc.; the second degree by lower-case roman numerals between parentheses: (i), (ii), etc.
Note: Styles may vary according to the language.
The word “and” should not be used to link any of the paragraphs or subparagraphs of a resolution, whether in the preamble or in the operative part.
Note that an operative paragraph is one that begins with an operative verb. An operative paragraph that is subdivided after the operative verb is a single paragraph and the subdivisions are subparagraphs.
It is normally desirable that a new idea should be expressed in a separate paragraph. The example given above might therefore be better expressed as follows:
It is also undesirable to include two operative verbs in one paragraph. The form shown in the following example should be avoided, unless the verbs are closely interlinked.
Only the opening operative verb is italicized in such cases (see also section G below).
The same principle applies to preambular paragraphs. The form shown in the following example is preferable to a single preambular paragraph divided into subparagraphs (a), (b) and (c).
When it is necessary to refer to a particular paragraph of a preamble, ordinal numbers should be used, for example the first, the second preambular paragraph.
An operative paragraph of an adopted resolution should be identified by its number, for example resolution 34/50, paragraph 5. Note that the word “operative” should not be used in specific references to numbered operative paragraphs of adopted resolutions; occasionally, however, a resolution may have a single, unnumbered operative paragraph, and such a paragraph should be referred to as “the operative paragraph”.
The word “operative” may, however, be used with reference to numbered operative paragraphs of a draft resolution, particularly in the record of a debate on the text. It may also be kept in a verbatim record when it is used by a speaker in the explanation of a vote on a resolution just adopted.
When a reference is made in an operative paragraph to another operative paragraph of the same resolution, it may sometimes be useful to indicate its position in the text, that is, to state whether it is above or below the paragraph in which the reference is made.
A reference in a resolution to the text of the same resolution as a whole should be to “the present resolution”, not to “this resolution”, which may be ambiguous.
This practice should also be followed when an internal reference is made to matter annexed to the resolution, such as a convention or statute.
In resolutions, the following words should be italicized:
(a) The name of the organ at the beginning of the text;
(b) The word or words at the beginning of each paragraph of the preamble expressive of the mood or the action, past or present, of the organ;
(c) The operative verb or phrase at the beginning of each paragraph of the operative part.
Note: Only an opening operative verb or phrase is italicized; if a second operative verb or phrase appears in a paragraph, it should not be italicized.
The use of italics explained above applies to resolutions and draft resolutions only; decisions are normally presented in the form of a paragraph, without italics. For additional information on the use of italics, see Style/Italics and bold print.
Though there may be punctuation within the title of a resolution or decision, there should be no final punctuation mark. Within a title, a colon is generally preferred to a dash.
When a resolution has a preamble, there is a comma after the name of the organ and a comma after each paragraph or subparagraph of the preamble; if the resolution has no preamble, there is no punctuation mark after the name of the organ.
In the operative part, there is a semicolon after each paragraph or subparagraph and a full stop at the end, which should be the only full stop in the resolution.
When a paragraph, in either the preamble or the operative part, is divided into subparagraphs identified by letters or lower-case roman numerals, a colon is placed after the words that introduce the first subparagraph.
The use of punctuation in the various cases described above is shown in the following examples (see also draft resolution).
Decisions should be presented in the form of a paragraph introduced by the words:
If the paragraph has subparagraphs containing action verbs, the introductory phrase is normally followed by a colon.
Names of organs, organizations, offices and the like must be given in full when mentioned in a resolution. Drafters of resolutions should see to it that any names that appear in the text are given in full and in the correct form. However, to avoid excessive repetition, long titles, though they should be given in full the first time they occur in the preamble and the first time in the operative part of a resolution, may thereafter be shortened, provided that no possible ambiguity exists.
Great care should be taken in the abbreviation of names of United Nations organs. The Security Council and the Economic and Social Council, for example, should be referred to as “the Council” only if it has already been made quite clear which Council is meant. References to the General Assembly as "the Assembly” should be made only to avoid excessive repetition of the full name and certainly not when another Assembly, for example the World Health Assembly, is mentioned in the same paragraph. Generally speaking, the short form is used whenever the name occurs more than once in the same paragraph.
Abbreviations and acronyms are not normally used in resolutions. For additional information, see Style/Abbreviations and acronyms.
The full title of “the Charter of the United Nations” should be used the first time it occurs in the preamble and the first time in the operative part. Thereafter, “the Charter” may be used, unless there is a possibility that it may be taken to mean some other Charter – for example, the Charter of the Organization of African Unity. The expression “United Nations Charter” should be avoided.
Whenever reference is made, within a resolution or decision, to an earlier resolution or decision or to a resolution or decision of another organ, the date of the resolution or decision should be given the first time it is mentioned. The correct forms are shown below.
It should be noted that when a resolution has been issued in provisional form in a document bearing a symbol such as A/RES/57/15, it should never be referred to by that document symbol but rather by the number assigned to it (for example: resolution 57/15).
Special care must be taken, in drafting and editing resolutions, to ensure accuracy in terminology, particularly in the designation of persons, offices, bodies, organizations, titles of legal instruments, and the like.
Titles or names and elements of text that recur in the preamble and in the operative part must agree.
Names of organs, organizations, offices, and the like, must be given in full. To avoid excessive repetition, long titles, although they must be given in full the first time they occur in the preamble and the first time in the operative part, may thereafter be shortened, provided that no possibility of ambiguity exists. To avoid repetition also the title of a report is omitted when it is the same as the title of the resolution.
References to the seasons of the year (spring, summer, autumn, winter) should be avoided unless accompanied by the geographical location. A conference to be convened “in the spring of 2005” would be held at different times of the year depending on the hemisphere, whereas a conference to be convened “in the spring of 2005 in New York ” is unambiguous. In the first case, it would be preferable to say “early in 2005”.
A session of the General Assembly should always be referred to by its number, for example, “the fifty-seventh session”, not “the current session” or “the next session”. A session of a body that does not have numbered sessions should be identified by the time of the session, for example, “at its session to be held in 2005”, or “at its most recent session, held in 2003”.
If reference is made in a draft resolution to a statement, specific identification of the statement should be given, including, as applicable, the name and/or title of the speaker, the meeting number (if any), the date of the statement, the document number (if any) and the occasion on which the statement was delivered.
Wording such as “15–16 June” or “12–16 June” should be avoided. Instead, “15 and 16 June”’ and “from 12 to 16 June” or, if necessary, “from 12 to 16 June, inclusive” should be used.
Generally speaking, the General Assembly or other organ “takes note” when the object is a report, a statement, or a decision taken by another body, which is being brought to its attention for the first time.
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"Noting" (or “notes”) in the sense of “observing” is used instead of “taking note” when the object is a fact or an event.
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When two or more consecutive paragraphs begin with the same preambular/operative verb, “also” is added in the second and “further” in the third paragraph; the additional word should be italicized.
However, when the paragraphs contain a form of request or appeal, “also” and “further” should be added only if the request or appeal is directed to the same entity.
The general rule that numbers under 10 should be written out and numbers from 10 on expressed in numerals also applies to resolutions.
Reports should not be spoken of as being submitted to a session of an organ but rather as being submitted to an organ at its session.
The expression "[States] Members of the United Nations and of the specialized agencies" should not be used. The correct forms are, according to the construction of the sentence, "[States] Members of the United Nations and members of the specialized agencies", "[States] Members of the United Nations or members of specialized agencies" or "a [State] Member of the United Nations or member of a specialized agency". The term "Member States" may be used when it is clear that the reference is to Members of the United Nations.
The expression "Member Governments" should not be used. The following phrases may be used, as appropriate: "Governments of States Members of the United Nations or members of specialized agencies", "Governments of Member States", or simply "Member States".
When reference is made to the Secretary-General or to the Secretariat, it is not normally necessary to add the words "of the United Nations".
An exception would be made in a text in which there was a reference to the secretary-general or to the secretariat of some other organization.
References to sums of money should be given in figures with the type and unit of currency expressed in words. The type of currency must be made absolutely clear at the first mention; thereafter, the unit alone may be used. Where the sums mentioned are in millions or billions and can be conveniently expressed in decimal form to not more than one decimal point, the word "million" or "billion" is spelled out.
Whenever a body is established by a resolution, the name used to designate it should be the official name and not a provisional or descriptive name subject to later change.
If the organ adopting a resolution is thereby adopting or approving a text other than the resolution itself, that text should, where appropriate, be annexed to the resolution, not inserted in it.
Matter annexed to a resolution may be referred to in the text of the resolution in various ways. Examples of acceptable wording are given below.
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Matter annexed to a resolution immediately follows the text of the resolution. It is headed by the word "Annex" and usually has a title also.
If there are two or more annexes to a resolution, they should be identified by roman numerals, so that the headings would read "Annex I", "Annex II" and so on.
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