Wednesday, September 22, 2004

How to Get a Job--at the UN

The United Nations operates on a very tight budget and recruits its employees from 191 countries around the world. Consequently, the odds of landing a job in the Secretariat are slim, but speaking English (one of the official languages of the Secretariat) is an advantage. How does one go about finding--and applying for--vacant positions within the UN?

The first step is to go to the UN web site and click on "UN Employment." At present, there are 199 openings listed in 24 different occupational groups. Looking at the "Human Rights" group (8 vacancies), one would find positions at the P3 and P4 levels (requiring advanced degrees and/or significant work experience in the field of human rights), all but one of which would be in Geneva at the UN Human Rights Center.

For lower-level positions (P2) requiring an undergraduate degree only, there is a National Competitive Recruitment Examination (NCRE). This will be offered in the United States next February (but the application deadline has already passed). The NCRE is in two parts: a General Exam to test basic writing skills and lasting about one hour and a Specialized Exam to test substantive knowledge of the position being applied for and lasting about three hours and forty-five minutes. For human rights positions, the sample Specialized Exam includes these questions:

  • Describe the role and mandate of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
  • Explain the legal differences between a declaration, a covenant, and a convention adopted by the United Nations organs.
  • List the six principal (UN) international human rights treaties currently in force.
  • Recent years have brought important developments in strengthening the judicial enforcement of international human rights and humanitarian law. Name three (3) such developments since the 1990s.
  • One aspect of the Secretary-General’s Reform programme of 1997 called for integrating the human rights programme into a broad range of the organization’s activities, including in the peacekeeping, development and humanitarian areas. Discuss the objectives of this process and provide three examples of how it is being accomplished.
  • Describe the “Global Compact” and discuss its importance for human rights.
Internships are described here.