United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs Launches the Disarmament Digital Documents Library

October 3rd, 2017


    The Disarmament Digital Documents Library is a specialised archive that provides quick and easy access to an extensive collection of United Nations disarmament-related documents in one convenient location. It includes historical documents of the first General Assembly session and reports from the Special Sessions on Disarmament (SSOD-I, SSOD-II and SSOD-III), disarmament-related meetings and conferences, and treaty review declarations.

    The team who brought this about, was made up of staff and interns and included extensive cooperation between UNODA and OICT. The work involved analysing and exporting data from Lotus Notes and creating a new database structure on UNODA’s website. Many of the documents are linked to UN Optical Disk System (UNODS) while some of the rarer documents are hosted on UNODA’s cloud.

UNODA Political Affairs Officer Katherine Prizeman using the Digital Library.

    The work to digitize these documents started in 2009 when the UNODA Library, in its physical form, was reduced by 80 per cent in preparation for UN Headquarters’ major renovation. To preserve the historical collection for future researchers, a dedicated team of UNODA staff members headed by Bertha Ortiz devoted extensive time to digitize over 12,000 documents that were not available in the UN Official Document System (ODS) . Ms. Ortiz said, “The process of archiving these documents was a learning experience. It was very engaging to go through records that covered important moments in history. It brought me back in time. “

    Hosted on UNODA’s website, documents are categorised by the activity (e.g. General Assembly, Groups of Governmental Experts, treaty review conferences, etc.) and its session or meeting. In each category, documents are formatted into a sortable table by symbol and title. Documents archived in the UNDOCS system are available in all official languages while older documents are available in English only.

    UNODA Political Affairs Officer Katherine Prizeman, a frequent user of the database, said “The Disarmament Reference Library is a critical tool in my work from researching the evolution of resolutions and mandates to locating a specific report of the Secretary-General. This library covers the wide range of disarmament-related resources in a systematic and logical way. To have all disarmament-related documents in one convenient place makes for much more efficient work.”

    The Disarmament Digital Documents Library has come a long way since its inception in Lotus Notes in the early 2000’s. Randy Rydell, Executive Advisor for Mayors for Peace and former UNODA Senior Political Affairs Officer says “Dedicated disarmament scholars, diplomats, and activists have been seen acting like ‘kids in a candy store’ when they first encounter this reference library maintained by the Office for Disarmament Affairs. It is a robust collection of primary documents in this field, many of which are very hard to find elsewhere. Its scope is comprehensive both in covering the entire UN disarmament machinery and in including historical materials, often dating back decades. This is UNODA at is best.”

    The team of staff and interns who created the digital library were: Mohamad Reza, Associate Information Technology Officer; Tomas Malik, Associate Information Technology Officer; Bertha Ortiz, Senior Library Assistant, IT Interns Qiyue Ma, Qing Yang, and Paolo Rivas (all from the UNODA) and Stefan Cochrane, Senior Information Systems Assistant in the Office of Information and Communications Technology.


  Disarmament Digital Documents Library