United Nations logo

United Nations Editorial Manual Online

 
 

Resolutions and other formal decisions of United Nations organs

II. Drafting and editing

Contents

A. General observation
B. Titles
C. Order of elements
D. Numbering and arrangement of paragraphs
E. References to paragraphs
F. Internal references to the resolution as a whole
G. Use of italics
H. Punctuation

I. Abbreviations and acronyms
J. References to other resolutions and decisions
K. Wording of resolutions
L. References to the Secretary-General or to the Secretariat
M. References to money
N. Names of newly established bodies
O. Annexed matter

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).

B. Titles

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.

C. Order of elements

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.

Examples:

       The General Assembly,

       Having examined the report...

       1. Decides...

*   *   *

       The General Assembly

       1. Takes note with appreciation of the report of the Secretary-General on the establishment of...

       2. Requests the Secretary-General...

The text of the resolution is normally followed by an indication of the meeting at which it was adopted and the date of adoption.

Example:

82nd plenary meeting     
29 November 1979     

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. 

TOP

D. Numbering and arrangement of paragraphs

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.

Example 1:

The Security Council

Decides:

(a) To defer consideration of...

(b) To invite...

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:

Example 2:

The Security Council

1. Decides to defer consideration of...

2. Invites...

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.

Example:

       Takes note of the report of the Secretary-General, and agrees with the recommendation that...

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).

Example :

       The General Assembly,

       Taking note of the report of the Secretary-General on...

       Taking note also of the conclusions of the United Nations Conference on...

       Taking note further of the views expressed during the debate in the Commission...

TOP

E. References to paragraphs

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”.

Examples:

       ... as indicated in General Assembly resolution 2091 (XX), paragraph 2

       ... as described in the operative paragraph of General Assembly resolution 34/3 of 4 October 1979

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.

Examples:

... in pursuance of paragraphs 3 and 4 above

... the study referred to in paragraph 6 below

F. Internal references to the resolution as a whole

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.

Example:

       The General Assembly

       ...

       2. Also requests the Secretary-General to report to the General Assembly at its ... session on the progress achieved in the implementation of the present resolution.

This practice should also be followed when an internal reference is made to matter annexed to the resolution, such as a convention or statute.

Example:

      The General Assembly

      Approves the Convention on ..., the text of which is annexed to the present resolution.

G. Use of italics

In resolutions, the following words should be italicized:

               (a) The name of the organ at the beginning of the text;

Examples:

The General Assembly,

[Believing...]

The Security Council

[Decides...]

               (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;

Examples:

[The General Assembly,]

Believing ...

Convinced of...

Desirous of...

Expressing confidence ...

Noting with satisfaction ...

Taking note of...

Having examined ...

               (c) The operative verb or phrase at the beginning of each paragraph of the operative part.

Examples:

[The General Assembly]

Decides to...

Recommends that...

Expresses its appreciation to...

Requests the Secretary-General to...

Also requests the Secretary-General to...

Expresses the hope that...

Takes note with satisfaction of the...

Calls upon the Governments...

Calls for...

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.

Example:

       Expresses the hope that ..., and requests the Secretary-General to report on the question at the ... session.

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.

TOP

H. Punctuation

1. Titles

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.

Example:

35/219. Use of Arabic in the subsidiary organs of the General Assembly, in the Security Council and in the Economic and Social Council: amendments to rules 51, 52, 54 and 56 of the rules of procedure of the Assembly
2. Resolutions

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).

Example 1:

      The Economic and Social Council,

      Bearing in mind paragraph 15 of the terms of reference of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean and rules 1 and 2 of the rules of procedure of the Commission,

      Considering the invitation of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to host the thirtieth session of the Commission,

      1. Expresses its gratitude to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico for its generous invitation;

      2. Accepts this invitation with pleasure;

      3. Approves the holding of the thirtieth session of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean in Puerto Rico during the first half of 2004.

Example 2:

      The General Assembly

      1. Accepts the financial report ... Board of Auditors;

      2. Concurs in the observations ... session.

Example 3:

      The General Assembly,

      Recalling its resolution 44/23 of 17 November 1989 , by which it declared the period 1990–1999 the United Nations Decade of International Law,

      Recalling also that the main purposes of the Decade, according to resolution 44/23, should be, inter alia:

      (a) To promote acceptance of and respect for the principles of international law,

      (b) To promote means and methods for the peaceful settlement of disputes between States, including resort to and full respect for the International Court of Justice,

      …

Example 4:

      The General Assembly,

      Recalling its resolutions 51/122 of 13 December 1996, 54/68 of 6 December 1999 and 55/122 of 8 December 2000,

      1. Endorses the recommendation of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space that the Legal Subcommittee, at its forty-first session, taking into account the concerns of all countries, in particular those of developing countries:

      (a) Consider the following as regular agenda items:

      (i) General exchange of views;

      (ii) Status and application of the five United Nations treaties on outer space;

      (iii) Information on the activities of international organizations relating to space
      law;       

      (b) Consider the following single issue items for discussion:

      ...

      2. Invites the Committee to expand the scope of international cooperation...

Example 5:

      The General Assembly,

      Recalling its resolutions 51/217 of 18 December 1996 and 56/255 of 24 December 2001,

      Having considered the report of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Board,

      Endorses the observations and recommendations contained in the report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions.

3. Decisions

Decisions should be presented in the form of a paragraph introduced by the words:

      “At its ...meeting, on ..., the [General Assembly], [on the recommendation of the ... Committee,]...”

If the paragraph has subparagraphs containing action verbs, the introductory phrase is normally followed by a colon.

Example:

      At its 67th plenary meeting, on 4 December 2002, the General Assembly, on the recommendation of the Fifth Committee:

      (a) Took note of...

      (b) Decided to...

               (No italics are used.)

TOP

I. Abbreviations and acronyms

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.

Example:

      The General Assembly,

      Having examined the report of the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples relating to this question,

      ...

      1. Approves the report of the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples relating to this question;

      2. Requests the Special Committee to continue to study this question and to report thereon to the General Assembly at its ... session.

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.

J. References to other resolutions and decisions

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.

Example:

      The General Assembly,

      Recalling its resolutions 55/212 of 20 December 2000 and 56/209 of 21 December 2001 ...

      Recalling also its resolution 56/210 B of 9 July 2002 ...

      ...

      1. Renews its request to the Secretary‑General that, in pursuance of General Assembly resolution 56/210 B, he should...

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).

TOP

K. Wording of resolutions

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.

Examples :

      Takes note with satisfaction of the report of the Secretary-General…

*   *   *

      Taking note of the statements made by Member States…

*   *   *

      Takes note of Commission on Human Rights resolution 2001/53 of 24 April 2001 ...

"Noting" (or “notes”) in the sense of “observing” is used instead of “taking note” when the object is a fact or an event.

Examples :

      Noting with satisfaction the financial, economic and technical support that Member States… have provided to those countries,

*   *   *

      Noting the importance of the documents adopted by the World Conference...

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.

Examples :

      Recalling its resolution 57/135 of 11 December 2003,

      Recalling also Security Council resolution 658 (1990) of 27 June 1990…

      Recalling further Security Council resolution 1359 (2001) of 29 June 2001…

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.

Example:

      1. Requests the Secretary-General to continue his efforts…

      2. Also requests the Secretary-General to take into consideration…

      3. Further requests the Secretary-General to submit a report to the General Assembly…

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.

Example:

     ...requests the Committee to continue to study this question and to report thereon to the General Assembly at its thirty-seventh session.

(not to the thirty-seventh session of the General Assembly)

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".

TOP

L. References to the Secretary-General or to the Secretariat

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.

M. References to money

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.

Example:

      The General Assembly

      Notes that ...a development fund of 5.2 million United States dollars…

      Decides in principle to contribute 2 million dollars to the Development Fund...

N. Names of newly established bodies

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.

Example:

      The General Assembly,

      ...

      Approves the idea of establishing a University for Peace as an international centre of higher learning for postgraduate studies ...aimed at training for peace...

O. Annexed matter

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.

Examples:

      The General Assembly

      Commends the Agreement on ..., the text of which is annexed to the present resolution.

*   *   *

      The General Assembly,

      ...

      3. Adopts the provisional regulations ... set out in annex II to the present resolution.

*   *   *

      The General Assembly

      Approves the annexed Convention on the...

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.

TOP

 

 
     
   
 


United Nations Editorial Manual Online © 2004–2019 (New York). Prepared and maintained for the United Nations under the authority of the Chiefs of the Editing Sections/Units, Department for General Assembly and Conference Management. Mention of the names of firms and commercial products does not imply the endorsement of the United Nations. For technical or editorial enquiries, please contact the Editing Section at editingny@un.org.