Website Review: United Nations

The UN’s Web site is a logical starting point for international law researchers.

By Erik J. Heels

First published 11/4/1997; LegalResearcher.com; publisher: New York Law Publishing Company

The United Nations (http://www.un.org/) registered the domain name “un.org” on January 31, 1995. By comparison, the domain name “un.com” was registered by Solana Systems on October 24, 1994. And none of unitednations.com, unitednations.org, and unitednations.net is registered to the United Nations. Perhaps the UN should step in and take over the job of domain name registration!

The UN’s Web site is a logical starting point for international law researchers. Not surprisingly, the site is available in English, French, and Spanish. And like most corporate Web sites, you’ll find the basic who-what-where-when information here. The site is published by the UN Department of Public Information – the functional equivalent of a corporate public relations department. So it should come as no surprise that the bulk of the site is devoted to explaining why the UN is important.

It should also come as no surprise that there is little substantive international law on the site. The Statute of the International Court of Justice (ICJ – also called the World Court) is available online (http://www.un.org/Overview/Statute/contents.html), but the decisions of that court are not. That said, there is a good deal of information here about international law (http://www.un.org/law/), including what it is and how the UN is trying to codify it.

Treaties – 1450 volumes of them – are available online, but not for free. Prices for subscriptions are not disclosed on the site. You have to register to get a username and password. But here’s a handy dandy tip for the adventurous. You might, just maybe, perhaps be able to access the site with the username (and password) “guest.” Gotta love security!

The site appears to be updated every week or so. You can check with AltaVista to see that over 200 documents have been updated since September 1, 1997.

You can register the “What’s New” page (http://www.un.org/NewLinks/) with URL Minder (http://www.netmind.com/html/register.html) so that you’ll get e-mail whenever that page is updated.

In fact, from the “What’s New” page, we learn that the International Court of Justice has its own Web site (http://www.icj-cij.org/), born on April 2, 1997. That site is listed as “under construction,” but does contain a list of ICJ cases (http://www.icj-cij.org/idecis.htm) as well as documents related to disputes currently on the docket of the ICJ (http://www.icj-cij.org/idocket.htm).

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