The Yearbook of the United Nations—published by the Department of Public Information—stands as the authoritative reference work on the activities and concerns of the Organization. Based on official UN documents, the Yearbook provides comprehensive coverage of political and security matters, human rights issues, economic and social questions, legal issues, and institutional, administrative and budgetary matters. Each of the sixty-five volumes of the Yearbook, dating back to the 1946–47 edition, includes the texts of all major General Assembly, Security Council and Economic and Social Council resolutions and decisions, and places them in a narrative context of UN consideration, deliberation and action. The latest edition, theYearbook of the United Nations, 2012 (Vol. 66), was published in March 2017.
The history of the Yearbook is itself representative of the history of the United Nations, from the First General Assembly of representatives of 51 Member States held in 1946 until the Organization today made up of 193 Member States. The structure and subject matter of the Yearbook have evolved with the values and concerns of the international community, and its willingness to engage collectively in maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among countries and promoting social progress, better living standards and human rights. This is evidenced, for example, by the initial appearance of and then increasing number of references in the Yearbook over time to subjects such as climate change, peacekeeping, sustainability, and women’s rights and gender equality, among many others. In the 1968 Yearbook, as another example, the environment first became the topic of an independent chapter in the section on Economic and social questions. Although the status of women has been an abiding concern of the United Nations since its inception, the mention of women has grown ten-fold in the Yearbook since its first edition. Peacekeeping and related operations have been another major focus whose increasingly complex and multidimensional nature, especially since the 1990s, has been directly reflected in Yearbook chapters on questions of policy and practice in international peace and security. The key role played by the United Nations in advancing decolonization, principally through the work of the Trusteeship Council, through which many nations gained independence, predominates in the Yearbooks of the 1960s. More recently, significant developments in the worldwide promotion and protection of human rights led to the creation of an entire Yearbook section devoted to a topic that, until the 1995 edition, was treated in a single chapter.
As an exceptional singular publication, the commemorative Special Edition: UN Fiftieth Anniversary 1945-1995 (The Hague/Boston/London 1995) of the Yearbook, through a combination of excerpts from past editions and newly written narrative, highlights milestones in the first 50 years of United Nations history, and gives an outlook on potential future developments based on international consensus of the time.
While the Yearbook is regularly published only in English, the 1946–47 Yearbook was translated into French (Annuaire des Nations Unies, Paris 1948). It remains the only fully translated edition. The recently inaugurated online-only Yearbook Express, however, provides chapter introductions in all six UN official languages, beginning with more recent Yearbooks. Further afield from its original print format, the Yearbook of the United Nations—of which an increasing number of editions are also available as an ebook—can be found on Twitter, where @UNYearbook provides a unique historical perspective on current UN issues by linking these to their background in related published Yearbook coverage. The Yearbook Pre-press section found on this website also affords readers and researchers access to draft chapters and detailed chapter research outlines of Yearbooks currently in production.