UNHCR launches initiative to expand mid- to senior-level talent pool

UNHCR staff members discuss the support of returnees at the Torit waystation in Eastern Equatoria, South Sudan. Photo by: Arsenie Coseac / CC BY-ND

After a series of regional and complex emergencies have stretched the United Nations High Commission for Refugees’ human resources, the agency has identified a number of critical skills gaps across various functional areas — and launched a new initiative to fill them.

The Capacity Building Initiative, referred to as CBI, is a recruitment and conversion program geared to attract mid-career level professionals with expertise and working experience in areas where the organization needs to enhance its internal capacity.

As the humanitarian environment becomes more complex, so does the caseload UNHCR handles, along with the responses required to meet protection and assistance needs. And with the estimated 40 million refugees and internally displaced persons the agency seeks to serve, “we need an increase in capacity, both in new skills and in numbers,” said Antonio Fidalgo, head of the talent outreach unit for UNHCR.

The agency has identified 14 key functional areas that could benefit from a boost in numbers and skill level, and listed them as general profiles under which interested applicants can apply, including administrative and finance work, cash-based interventions, child protection, resettlement and information management, to name a few. The UNHCR team will then match successful candidates with specific jobs around the world under each of the profiles.

Selected candidates will join the CBI program at varying professional levels depending on their experience and academic achievement, and will be assigned to their posts after having completed a comprehensive induction and orientation program in early 2015.

The initiative won’t only serve as a means to bring in fresh talent, but is also considered a conversion program, or an opportunity for internal candidates to apply. And it will definitely be competitive, Fidalgo suggested. The agency last year launched its entry-level humanitarian professional program and successfully placed 44 young professionals throughout its field offices — after receiving more than 13,000 applications.  

Aside from basic requirements, such as an advanced university degree, at least four years of relevant work experience in the respective functional area, excellent English as well as one other U.N. language and willingness to serve in deep field locations, it’s passion UNHCR is after.

“The work we do is really unique … we work in interesting and sometimes very difficult places,” said Barbara Kalema-Musoke, deputy director of human resources for the agency. “We really are interested in hiring people who have a passion in doing humanitarian work, and we need to be striving to recruit and retain people who love what they do.”

Applicants, including UNHCR staff members, will be screened based on technical, written and online psychometric assessments, and can also expect to be interviewed by a UNHCR panel.

The deadline for applications is August 17, although it could be extended for certain profiles that aren’t immediately filled, according to Fidalgo. The agency plans to fill approximately 100 positions through the CBI program.

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    Kelli Rogers

    Kelli Rogers is an Associate Editor for Devex. Based on the U.S. West Coast, she works with Devex's team of correspondents and editors around the world, with a particular focus on gender. She previously worked as Devex’s Southeast Asia correspondent based in Bangkok, covering disaster and crisis response, resilience, women’s rights, and climate change throughout the region. Prior to that, she reported on social and environmental issues from Nairobi, Kenya. Kelli holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri, and has since reported from more than 20 countries.

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