ACCESS: gopher://gopher.undp.org CONTACT: UNDP Gopher Adminstrator, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Electronic access to United Nations documents has two obvious advantages over print: timeliness and ease of distribution. The United Nations gopher represents a commitment to both and, although still relatively small, promises improved access to information generated by and about this important international body.
The opening menu features fourteen choices. Although there is no menu item offering a keyword search of the directories, files, or contents of the UN gopher, the available categories are clearly labeled and organized. The first, "The United Nations, what it is and what it does," provides the full text of the UN Charter, the Statute of the International Court of Justice, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as folders of additional material describing the UN system, organization, resources, and peacekeeping functions.
The second item on the opening menu links the user to the daily journal and highlights as well as to press briefings and releases, current-year Security Council resolutions, and statements by the Secretary General. Users with only a vague idea of when the Security Council passed a particular resolution may find the chronological ordering cumbersome as they work first through filenames such as "94-03: March 94/" and then through files labeled with resolution numbers rather than with topical keywords. The rapid availability of the text of resolutions probably outweighs such inconveniences for many researchers, however.
Menu categories for General Assembly and Security Council material and documents from such widely publicized meetings as the International Conference on Population and Development contribute to the gopher's usefulness. The United Nations Economic and Social Council has its own spot on the menu; it includes a link to the Commission on Sustainable Development gopher complete with an excellent users' manual. Another main menu heading, "United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Documents," provides the UNDP's statement of purpose, a description of the organization, a well- organized collection of statements by officials, and similar documents. The UN gopher also makes it easy to connect to the gophers of the International Atomic Energy Agency, International Telecommunication Union, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, United Nations Children's Fund, the World Health Organization, the World Bank, and others.
Two items on the UN Gopher main menu lead to directories and a telecommunications catalog for phone numbers and email addresses of individuals affiliated with the U.N. Selections for environmental information, other gopher servers, and external public databases provide connections to networked resources beyond those offered by the U.N., while two final menu items celebrate the organization's 50th anniversary and announce new developments.
As the UN gopher continues to grow, it will serve as a timely and easily accessible alternative to the rather slow publishing program of the organization and its many affiliated agencies. College students, Model U.N. participants, researchers working on world affairs and international relations, and the librarians who serve them will find much to appreciate about the UN gopher.
Cheryl Knott Malone
The University of Texas at Austin
Jan. 18th, 1995