About the UNBIS Thesaurus

This online database represents the fourth edition of the UNBIS Thesaurus and the first in all the official languages of the United Nations: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.

The multilingual UNBIS Thesaurus, created by the Dag Hammarskj÷ld Library, United Nations Department of Public Information, contains the terminology used in subject analysis of documents and other materials relevant to United Nations programmes and activities. It is used as the subject authority of the United Nations Bibliographic Information System (UNBIS) and has been incorporated as the subject lexicon of the United Nations Official Document System. It is multidisciplinary in scope, reflecting the Organization’s wide-ranging concerns. The terms included are meant to reflect accurately, clearly, concisely and with a sufficient degree of specificity, matters of importance and interest to the United Nations. In addition, since the inception of the Thesaurus in 1981, two primary criteria in the selection of descriptors have been:

a) consistency with the terminology used by the Organization itself as reflected in its documents; and

b) compatibility with terms included in thesauri produced or utilized within the UN System, in order to facilitate exchange of information with other organizations. The organizations of the United Nations System, such as the World Bank, ILO, WHO, FAO, IAEA and Unesco, are lead agencies in their particular areas of activity and their choice of descriptors has been preferred.

The UNBIS Thesaurus is continuously being expanded and updated. New terms are proposed, as needed, to reflect the concerns of the United Nations; they may be used provisionally until, after discussion and evaluation, they are officially adopted and rendered in the six official languages. Users, therefore, may encounter newer terms at different stages in the process. The third, 1995, edition of the Thesaurus was trilingual; it has been a major undertaking to have the nearly 7,000 terms translated into three additional languages (to say nothing of the technical challenges of mounting a multilingual, multi-script thesaurus). The first, preliminary, online version was launched in November 2001. While the current version features some significant improvements, it too represents but a stage in the development of the Thesaurus, and comments on this product are welcome.

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