Confused by UN jargon? Here’s a mobile app to help you out

CAre you among the many people who’re always confused and even irritated when reading an article based on a development or initiative by the UN then you suddenly encounter an abbreviation or jargon which throws you off-balance? Take heart, you’re not alone.

Even those within the UN itself – its own staff for that matter – also grapple with the same challenge.

That’s why three UN University (UNU-Merit) staff  – Howard Hudson, Diego Salama and Iulia Falcan – decided to compile all the UN abbreviations and jargon into a glossary and later worked with design and technical team from Mediablenders and Maastricht University’s Premium programme to transform the glossary into a mobile phone app, called UNU Jargon Buster.

“What exactly do people mean by ‘agrodiversity’, ‘formal remittances’ and ‘sustainable development’? Do leaders and scholars use similar concepts in different ways? Do they know their PoCs from their POCs?” poses an intro on the app published on the UNU-Merit website.

“In our interconnected world, global discussions rely on a shared understanding of key concepts. To this end, the United Nations University (UNU) has developed a glossary app — the ‘UNU Jargon Buster’ — that clarifies hundreds of social, political and economic terms. This fulfils one of the missions of UNU: to act as a bridge between the UN, academia and the general public.”

The app – available for both Android and iOS devices – was launched on World Science Day for Peace and Development, 10 November 2015, at the UN Regional Information Centre in Brussels. It gathers knowledge and recommended resources from five UNU sites: in Belgium (UNU-CRIS), Iceland (UNU-GEST), Japan (UNU-IAS), Malaysia (UNU-IIGH), and the Netherlands (UNU-MERIT — the lead institute for the app).

All the terms are cross-referenced with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For example, International Health terms are grouped under SDG#3; Gender Equality terms are with SDG#5; Innovation with SDG#9; Environmental Sustainability with SDG#13; and Regional Integration with SDG#16.

Version 1.0 of the mobile app presents around 450 entries, including almost 200 terms (with definitions, references and further reading), plus over 250 acronyms from across the UN (most with hyperlinks). The app is to expanded in 2016 to include more UN acronyms and more UNU terms, covering peace and governance, global development and environmental sustainability, with the developers’ ultimate aim being to scale it up within a year in order become a comprehensive ‘metaglossary’.

The app is free as a searchable, offline and one-stop shop.


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