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Thursday, February 4, 2016

UN Alphabet Soup

United Nations insiders have a language of their own known fondly to those who speak it as "Unese." An essential part of the lingo is an alphabet soup of organs and organizations. The ones below appeared in just one recent document on the "Composition of UN Staff."

ASG Assistant Secretary-General
BINUCA United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic
BNUB United Nations Office in Burundi 
CNMC Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission 
CTED Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate    
DESA Department of Economic and Social Affairs
DFS Department of Field Support 
DGACM  Department for General Assembly and Conference Management 
DM Department of Management
DPA Department of Political Affairs
DPI Department of Public Information 
DPKO Department of Peacekeeping Operations 
DSS Department of Safety and Security 
ECA Economic Commission for Africa 
ECE Economic Commission for Europe 
ECLAC Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean
EOSG Executive Office of the Secretary -General
ESCAP Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
ESCWA Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia 
ETHICS Ethics Office
FS Field Service
FT Fixed-term
GS+ General Service and related categories 
ICJ International Court of Justice 
ICSC International Civil Service Commission
ICTR International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda 
ICTY International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia 
IMIS Integrated Management Information System
INT Interpreters
INTERORG Inter-organizational bodies, including the secretariat of the Joint Inspection Unit
IRM International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals 
ITC International Trade Centre 
MENUB United Nations Electoral Observer Mission in Burundi 
MINURCA United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic 
MINURSO United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara
MINUSCA United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic 
MINUSMA United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali
MINUSTAH United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti 
MONUSCO United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
NPO National Professional Officers 
OAJ Office of Administration of Justice 
OCHA Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 
ODA Office for Disarmament Affairs 
OHCHR Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
OHRLLS Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States
OHRM Office of Human Resources Management
OIOS Office of Internal Oversight Services 
OJSRS Office of the Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the League of Arab States for Syria
OLA Office of Legal Affairs
OPCW-UN Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons -United Nations Joint Mission for the Elimination of the Chemical Weapons Programme of the Syrian Arab Republic 
OSAA Office of the Special Adviser on Africa 
OSE-Syria Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary -General for Syria
OSES Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary -General for the Sahel
OSESSS Office of the Special Envoy for the Sudan and South Sudan 
OSRSGCAAC  Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary -General for Children and Armed Conflict 
PIA Public information assistants 
POE-Yemen Panel of Experts on Yemen 
PSO Peacebuilding Support Office 
ROL Rule of Law Unit
UNAMA United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan
UNAMI United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq 
UNAMID African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur 
UNCC United Nations Compensation Commission 
UNCTAD United Nations Conference on Trade and Development 
UNDOF United Nations Disengagement Observer Force 
UNDP United Nations Development Programme 
UNEP United Nations Environment Programme 
UNFICYP  United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus
UNIFIL United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon 
UNIOGBIS United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Support Office in Guinea-Bissau
UNIPSIL United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone 
UNISFA United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei 
UNITAR United Nations Institute for Training and Research 
UNJSPF United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund 
UNLB United Nations Logistics Base 
UNMEER United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response 
UNMIK United Nations Interim Administration Mission  in Kosovo
UNMIL United Nations Mission in Liberia 
UNMISS United Nations Mission in South Sudan 
UNMIT United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor -Leste
UNMOGIP United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan 
UNOAU United Nations Office to the African Union
UNOCA United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa 
UNOCI United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire 
UNODC United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 
UNOG United Nations Office at Geneva 
UNOM United Nations Office in Mali 
UNOMS United Nations Office of the Ombudsman and Mediation Services 
UNON United Nations Office at Nairobi 
UNOPS United Nations Office for Project Services 
UNOSDP United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace
UNOV United Nations Office at Vienna 
UNOWA United Nations Office for West Africa 
UNPOS United Nations Political Office for Somalia 
UNRCCA United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia
UNRGID United Nations Representative to the Geneva International Discussions
UNRWA United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East
UNSCO Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process
UNSCOL Office of the Special Coordinator of the Secretary -General for Lebanon
UNSMIL United Nations Support Mission in Libya       
UNSOA United Nations Support Office for the African Union Mission in Somalia
UNSOM United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia 
UNTSO United Nations Truce Supervision Organization 
UNU United Nations University
UN-Women United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women
USG Under-Secretary-General

Friday, January 1, 2016

Status of Women Report

There have been some remarkable improvements in the status of women in the last two decades but for some reason, the United Nations has chosen not to blow the trumpets about that in the sixth edition of The World’s Women 2015: Trends and Statistics. Some of the items that deserve a fanfare:

  • The gender gap in education has not only closed at the primary level, at the tertiary level women outnumber men in many countries. At the secondary level the picture is mixed, with girls doing better than boys in a number of countries and the opposite situation in others. (The bad news is that 58 million children of primary school age are out of school worldwide and more than half are girls in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia.) 
  • Globally, women have an average life span of 72 years compared to 68 for men, with both genders registering an eight-year gain in two decades.
  • The number of women dying in childbirth has fallen dramatically: from over a half million women in 1990 to under 300,000 in 2013, a decline of 45 per cent.
On most other aspects, the gender gap has narrowed but not rapidly or in all countries. The unmitigated bad news is that:

  • Physical, sexual, psychological and economic violence affects women around the world regardless of income, age or education. One third of all women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner or sexual violence by a non-partner.
  • The rate of child marriage has declined only slightly and the latest statistics show that almost half of the women between the ages of 20 and 24 in South Asia and two fifths in sub-Saharan Africa were married before 18.
  • Women continue to be grossly under-represented at decision-making levels in all sectors of life. Half the world’s women are in the rank and file of the labour force, compared to three quarters of men, a situation little different from 20 years ago.

The publication is part of a series mandated by the 1995 World Conference on Women and that probably explains some of its meta presumptions. Why, for instance, should we take the equal involvement of women in the labour force as a sign of progress? Could it not signify economic hardship? And is it not rather glib to wave away as a matter of “traditional gender expectations” and “risky behaviours” the fact that men die off much faster than women? Perhaps the main cause is unsafe working conditions?

Thursday, November 26, 2015

"Bracketing Out" the Metaphysical From the Buddha!

Somerset Maugham’s novel The Razor’s Edge has a European character who goes to India in search of enlightenment and lands up at a monastery in the Himalayas carrying a backpack full of books.

The abbot of the monastery agrees to be his instructor and, as initiation, sends him to meditate overnight at a small shrine higher up the mountain. The young man lugs his backpack up there and to survive the bitter cold of the night burns all his books. When he returns the next day the abbot says with a broad smile, “Now we can begin.”

Stephen Batchelor, the author of After Buddhism: rethinking the Dharma for a secular age evidently never had such a wise instructor.

His work is burdened not only with a lifetime of arid book-learning but a massive load of cultural baggage. He proclaims himself a British/European Protestant Christian “conscious of [his] indebtedness to the thinkers of ancient Greece who understood philosophy as a practice for the healing and care of the soul” (page 5).

That “embedded cultural world-view” (page 16) is something he can “no more discard than I could wilfully cease to comprehend the English language.”

He finds it “disturbing when Western converts to Buddhism with a background and upbringing similar to my own uncritically adopt beliefs – in karma and rebirth for example – that traditional Buddhists simply take for granted.”

Noting the failure of modern Buddhist movements “to critically reexamine the underlying worldview of Buddhism, in which are still embedded the cosmology and metaphysics of ancient India,” he asserts the need to confront “the traditional doctrines of karma, rebirth, heavens, hells and supra-normal powers” (page 19).

The “long-lost enchanted world where gods and devils alike descended to earth to commune with human beings” appears to him as “either figments of the imagination or signs of incipient madness” (page 26).

He suggests “bracketing off such metaphysical views” to achieve a modern understanding of the “four central ideas” of Buddhism that have no “direct precedents in Indian tradition” (page 27). The four are the “principle of conditionality,” the practices of the eight-fold path, the perspective of mindful awareness and the power of self-reliance.” Most of the book is an effort to “tease out the implications” of those “four Ps.

It is difficult to decide where to start critiquing this wholesale merchandising of smug ignorance.

His basic attitude reminds me of the early British merchants in India who went around in the tropical heat dressed in wool and would not bathe because it was considered unhealthy back home.

Like them, he is so immersed in his native habits of mind as to be impervious to new information.

Consider, for instance, his dismissal of karma and rebirth. Both are now scientifically valid concepts because of two major 20th Century advances in the understanding of the nature of reality:

One is the proven continuum of matter and energy (the basis of Einstein’s E=MC2).

The other is the genetic code.

In combination, those two advances signify that when a person dies, his/her genetic code will endure as an indestructible energy pattern.

As with a radio wave carrying the human voice, that pattern can resonate in a receptive antenna to recreate the original.

In the case of an energy wave carrying the genetic code the antenna would be a cell at the moment of conception.

Theoretically, that explanation brings rebirth fully into the realm of scientific possibility. At some time in the future the phenomenon should be verifiable in the laboratory.

If we consider further that causality is an inescapable law at every level of our being, it is not difficult to envisage a soul (genetic code) floating free from a dead body with a permanent record of its past life. That is karmic transmission from one life to the next.

At other points in the book Batchelor is laughably obtuse. On page 128, for instance, he writes: “In taking a metaphysical turn toward truth, Buddhists shifted away from an emphasis on know-how to an emphasis on knowledge.”

That is a meaningless statement. Truth in its universal manifestation is inescapably metaphysical. It can be known only with spiritual intuition and then only inexpressibly.

That is why Hindus postulated ultimate reality as the featureless abstraction of Brahman.

The Buddha, in a period of great confusion about the nature of that abstraction, sidestepped arguments by saying ultimate reality was Sunyatta, a complete void. (It is easy to see in that dodge the subsequent birth of the Zero, the most powerful of numbers.)

In Hindu philosophy, the unknowable Brahman is manifested in Creation as Rita (Rule). In the human context it is Sanathana Dharma, the Eternal Law. A subset of that applied Truth is Karma, the causality of action.

Batchelor seems to be oblivious of all this. He thinks “the doctrine of karma is a theory of cosmic justice” and that rebirth is “simply the medium within which such justice plays itself out.”

The book ends with Batchelor extolling “Secular Dharma” as the “consequence of modernity’s encounter” with Buddhism.

Its practitioners are people unaffiliated to any traditional school of Buddhist belief, “spiritual nomads” guided by "writings and podcasts" from across the virtual spectrum, some happily identifying themselves as “Christians, Jews or non-believers.”

Some of his “Ten Theses” defining that “secular Buddhist space” are a prime facie rejection of key Buddhist teachings.

The first thesis is that a “secular Buddhist is committed to the practice of the dharma for the sake of this world alone.”

The second is that the “practice of the dharma consists of four tasks: to embrace suffering, to let go of reactivity, to behold the ceasing of reactivity, and to cultivate an integrated way of life.”

Number five says “Each form the dharma assumes is a transient human creation, contingent upon the historical, cultural, social and economic conditions that generated it.”

Number ten says a practitioner of the dharma finds “inspiration in Buddhist and non-Buddhist religions and secular sources alike.

Nowhere does Batchelor consider the cardinal Hindu/Buddhist concern with Maya, the delusion that encompasses the concrete material world. Not surprisingly, he never questions the origin of the “secular” space the book sells.

It originated not in a confident overflow of humanism after the “Enlightenment” but in the bloody religious wars that preceded it.

The Roman hijacking of the legacy of Jesus let loose relentless centuries of horrific “conversion,” inquisitions, oppressions and war that ultimately fatigued Europeans with the very concept of God.

That falling away from divinity led into the dogma of “I think therefore I am” and the Newtonian construct of a soulless mechanistic universe; it is a descent Europe still celebrates as the onset of “modernity.”

The nightmares that ensued from that disconnect with God and Nature made the spirituality of India attractive to Europeans fleeing the death march. The obverse of that coin is that those who remain committed to the "modernity" narrative are made deeply insecure by talk of spiritual matters. That is the root of Batchelor’s effort to bracket out the spiritual from the Buddha. He deserves our sympathy.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Women in Parliaments

Developing countries top the list of the countries with the highest percentages of women in their parliaments. 

Rwanda (63%), Bolivia (53.1%), Cuba (48.9%) and the Seychelles (43.8%) have the highest percentages of women in the Lower Houses of parliaments. Sweden (43.6%) is the fifth on the list. There is only one other affluent country in the top ten, Finland, which comes in at number 10.

Other surprises on the list are that China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia place higher than the world’s oldest and largest democracies, the United States and India respectively.

The list below is an edited version of the table on the web site of the Inter-Parliamentary Union which contains information also on the representation of women in Upper Houses of parliaments.

Rank
Country
Lower or single House


1
Rwanda
9 2013
80
51
63.8%



2
Bolivia
10 2014
130
69
53.1%



3
Cuba
2 2013
612
299
48.9%



4
Seychelles
9 2011
32
14
43.8%



5
Sweden
9 2014
349
152
43.6%



6
Senegal
7 2012
150
64
42.7%



7
Mexico
6 2015
498
211
42.4%



8
South Africa 
5 2014
396
166
41.9%



9
Ecuador
2 2013
137
57
41.6%



10
Finland
4 2015
200
83
41.5%



11
Iceland
4 2013
63
26
41.3%



"
Namibia
11 2014
104
43
41.3%



"
Nicaragua
11 2011
92
38
41.3%



12
Spain
11 2011
350
144
41.1%



13
Mozambique
10 2014
250
99
39.6%



"
Norway
9 2013
169
67
39.6%



14
Andorra
3 2015
28
11
39.3%



"
Belgium
5 2014
150
59
39.3%



15
Ethiopia
5 2015
546
212
38.8%



16
Timor-Leste
7 2012
65
25
38.5%



17
Denmark
6 2015
179
67
37.4%



18
Netherlands
9 2012
150
56
37.3%



19
Angola
8 2012
220
81
36.8%



20
Slovenia
7 2014
90
33
36.7%



21
Germany
9 2013
631
230
36.5%



22
Burundi
6 2015
121
44
36.4%



23
Argentina
10 2013
257
93
36.2%



24
Tanzania
10 2010
350
126
36.0%



25
Uganda
2 2011
386
135
35.0%



26
Serbia
3 2014
250
85
34.0%



27
Costa Rica
2 2014
57
19
33.3%



"
Grenada
2 2013
15
5
33.3%



"
Macedonia
4 2014
123
41
33.3%



28
El Salvador
3 2015
84
27
32.1%



29
Algeria
5 2012
462
146
31.6%



30
Zimbabwe
7 2013
270
85
31.5%



31
New Zealand
9 2014
121
38
31.4%



32
Portugal
6 2011
230
72
31.3%



"
Tunisia
10 2014
217
68
31.3%



33
Cameroon
9 2013
180
56
31.1%



34
Italy
2 2013
630
195
31.0%



35
Austria
9 2013
183
56
30.6%



36
Sudan
4 2015
426
130
30.5%



"
Switzerland
10 2011
200
61
30.5%



37
Guyana
5 2015
69
21
30.4%



38
Nepal
11 2013
599
177
29.5%



39
United Kingdom
5 2015
650
191
29.4%



40
Trinidad and Tobago
5 2010
42
12
28.6%



41
Luxembourg
10 2013
60
17
28.3%



42
Afghanistan
9 2010
249
69
27.7%



43
Belarus
9 2012
110
30
27.3%



44
Philippines
5 2013
290
79
27.2%



45
Australia
9 2013
150
40
26.7%



46
Iraq
4 2014
328
87
26.5%



"
South Sudan
8 2011
332
88
26.5%



47
France
6 2012
577
151
26.2%



"
Kazakhstan
1 2012
107
28
26.2%



48
Croatia
12 2011
151
39
25.8%



"
Honduras
11 2013
128
33
25.8%



"
Turkmenistan
12 2013
124
32
25.8%



49
Suriname
5 2015
51
13
25.5%



50
Canada
5 2011
304
77
25.3%



"
Singapore
5 2011
99
25
25.3%



51
Mauritania
11 2013
147
37
25.2%



52
Laos
4 2011
132
33
25.0%



"
Lesotho
2 2015
120
30
25.0%



53
Viet Nam
5 2011
498
121
24.3%



54
Israel
3 2015
120
29
24.2%



55
Poland
10 2011
460
111
24.1%



56
Equatorial Guinea
5 2013
100
24
24.0%



57
Estonia
3 2015
101
24
23.8%



58
China
3 2013
2959
699
23.6%



59
Lithuania
10 2012
141
33
23.4%



60
Kyrgyzstan
10 2010
120
28
23.3%



61
Greece
1 2015
300
69
23.0%



62
Peru
4 2011
130
29
22.3%



63
Eritrea
2 1994
150
33
22.0%



64
Dominica
12 2014
32
7
21.9%



"
Guinea
9 2013
114
25
21.9%



65
Moldova
11 2014
101
22
21.8%



66
Bosnia-Herzegovina
10 2014
42
9
21.4%



67
Cabo Verde
2 2011
72
15
20.8%



"
Dominican Republic
5 2010
183
38
20.8%



"
Monaco
2 2013
24
5
20.8%



68
Albania
6 2013
140
29
20.7%



69
Pakistan
5 2013
340
70
20.6%



70
Madagascar
12 2013
151
31
20.5%



71
Bulgaria
10 2014
240
49
20.4%



72
Cambodia
7 2013
123
25
20.3%



73
Bangladesh
1 2014
350
70
20.0%



"
Czech Republic
10 2013
200
40
20.0%



"
Liechtenstein
2 2013
25
5
20.0%



74
Colombia
3 2014
166
33
19.9%



"
Saudi Arabia
1 2013
151
30
19.9%



75
Kenya
3 2013
350
69
19.7%



76
United States
11 2014
434
84
19.4%



77
Tajikistan
3 2015
63
12
19.0%



78
Slovakia
3 2012
150
28
18.7%



79
Panama
5 2014
71
13
18.3%



80
Sao Tome-Principe
10 2014
55
10
18.2%



81
Latvia
10 2014
100
18
18.0%



82
Turkey
6 2015
550
98
17.8%



83
Togo
7 2013
91
16
17.6%



84
United Arab Emirates
9 2011
40
7
17.5%



85
Montenegro
10 2012
81
14
17.3%



86
Indonesia
4 2014
555
95
17.1%



87
Morocco
11 2011
395
67
17.0%



"
Venezuela
9 2010
165
28
17.0%



88
Barbados
2 2013
30
5
16.7%



"
Malawi
5 2014
192
32
16.7%



"
Saint Lucia
11 2011
18
3
16.7%



"
San Marino
11 2012
60
10
16.7%



89
DPR of Korea
3 2014
687
112
16.3%



"
Ireland
2 2011
166
27
16.3%



"
Republic of Korea
4 2012
300
49
16.3%



90
Uruguay
10 2014
99
16
16.2%



91
Fiji
9 2014
50
8
16.0%



"
Libya
6 2014
188
30
16.0%



"
Uzbekistan
12 2014
150
24
16.0%



92
Chile
11 2013
120
19
15.8%



93
Azerbaijan
11 2010
122
19
15.6%



94
Paraguay
4 2013
80
12
15.0%



95
Chad
2 2011
188
28
14.9%



96
Mongolia
6 2012
76
11
14.5%



97
Gabon
12 2011
120
17
14.2%



98
Somalia
8 2012
275
38
13.8%



99
Guinea-Bissau
4 2014
102
14
13.7%



"
Romania
12 2012
401
55
13.7%



100
Russian Federation
12 2011
450
61
13.6%



101
Burkina Faso
11 2014
90
12
13.3%



"
Guatemala
9 2011
158
21
13.3%



"
Niger
1 2011
113
15
13.3%



"
Saint Kitts and Nevis
2 2015
15
2
13.3%



102
Bahamas
5 2012
38
5
13.2%



103
St Vincent-Grenadines
12 2010
23
3
13.0%



104
Malta
3 2013
70
9
12.9%



105
Djibouti
2 2013
55
7
12.7%



"
Jamaica
12 2011
63
8
12.7%



"
Zambia
9 2011
158
20
12.7%



106
Cyprus
5 2011
56
7
12.5%



107
Sierra Leone
11 2012
121
15
12.4%



"
Syria
5 2012
250
31
12.4%



108
Ukraine
10 2014
422
51
12.1%



109
India
4 2014
543
65
12.0%



"
Jordan
1 2013
150
18
12.0%



110
Mauritius
12 2014
69
8
11.6%



111
Georgia
10 2012
150
17
11.3%



112
Antigua and Barbuda
6 2014
18
2
11.1%



113
Liberia
10 2011
73
8
11.0%



114
Ghana
12 2012
275
30
10.9%



115
Armenia
5 2012
131
14
10.7%



116
Malaysia
5 2013
222
23
10.4%



117
Hungary
4 2014
198
20
10.1%



118
Brazil
10 2014
513
51
9.9%



119
Botswana
10 2014
63
6
9.5%



"
Japan
12 2014
475
45
9.5%



120
Gambia
3 2012
53
5
9.4%



121
Cote d'Ivoire
12 2011
251
23
9.2%



122
D. R. Congo
11 2011
492
44
8.9%



123
Mali
11 2013
147
13
8.8%



124
Kiribati
10 2011
46
4
8.7%



125
Bhutan
7 2013
47
4
8.5%



126
Bahrain
11 2014
40
3
7.5%



127
Congo
7 2012
136
10
7.4%



128
Benin
4 2015
83
6
7.2%



129
Tuvalu
3 2015
15
1
6.7%



130
Myanmar
11 2010
420
26
6.2%



"
Swaziland
9 2013
65
4
6.2%



131
Samoa
3 2011
49
3
6.1%



"
Thailand
8 2014
197
12
6.1%



132
Maldives
3 2014
85
5
5.9%



133
Nigeria
3 2015
360
20
5.6%



134
Nauru
6 2013
19
1
5.3%



135
Sri Lanka
8 2015
225
11
4.9%



136
Haiti
11 2010
95
4
4.2%



137
Belize
3 2012
32
1
3.1%



"
Iran 
5 2012
290
9
3.1%



"
Lebanon
6 2009
128
4
3.1%



138
Comoros
1 2015
33
1
3.0%



"
Marshall Islands
11 2011
33
1
3.0%



139
Papua New Guinea
6 2012
111
3
2.7%



140
Solomon Islands
11 2014
50
1
2.0%



141
Kuwait
7 2013
65
1
1.5%



142
Oman
10 2011
84
1
1.2%



143
Micronesia 
3 2015
14
0
0.0%



"
Palau
11 2012
16
0
0.0%



"
Qatar
7 2013
35
0
0.0%



"
Tonga
11 2014
26
0
0.0%



"
Vanuatu
10 2012
52
0
0.0%



"
Yemen
4 2003
300
0
0.0%