Writing for the United Nations


IV. Standard report formats


Formats of United Nations reports

Earlier in the course, we looked at different kinds of reports. Many of those documents follow standard formats. If you work with United Nations documents, you are no doubt familiar with some of them.

United Nations legislative documents always have a masthead, which identifies the body for which the document was prepared and gives the scope of distribution, the symbol, the date and the language. There is also a corner notation, which gives the session at which the report is to be considered and the agenda item.

Reports of the Secretary-General deal with policy questions or respond to a request addressed to the Secretary-General in a resolution. If neither of these apply, the report would normally carry a secondary title as a note by the Secretariat. All reports of the Secretary-General should start with a summary of the report, contained in a text box on the front page, and end with conclusions and recommendations.

Another major category of reports in the United Nations includes the reports of the proceedings of intergovernmental bodies, such as the regional commissions, the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice and the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. The General Assembly has set out its policy for those reports in a number of resolutions (see for example Assembly resolution 61/236, entitled "Pattern of conferences", in particular section IV of that resolution). Briefly, the reports should be concise, action-oriented and contain precise information confined to a description of the work done by the organ concerned and its conclusions and recommendations or decisions. Each agenda item should be given a separate chapter of the report, which should include a summary of the views expressed during the discussion. Views should not normally be attributed to specific speakers. Other chapters of the report would provide any resolutions adopted by the body or approved for submission to the Economic and Social Council or General Assembly (depending on the parent body), an account of the organization of the session (attendance, election of officers, dates of the session), programme objectives and any budgetary implications arising out of the resolutions adopted. Opening statements may be mentioned in terms of their general theme, but should not be summarized at length or reproduced in the report.

The best way to familiarize yourself with the format you should follow for a report is to look at documents prepared the year before.

Now move on to chapter V, which looks at how to structure sentences and paragraphs.

  | I. Introduction | II. Reader and purpose | III. Pre-writing techniques | IV. Standard report formats | V. Sentence and paragraph development | VI. Clarity in writing | VII. Writing a summary | VIII. Writing conclusions and recommendations | IX. Some last tips |  

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