Consultancies at the United Nations

Consultancies are popular and often necessary for experienced professionals to enter the UN system and increase their chances of obtaining a staff position. Interns or other junior-level professionals can also use this channel to gain more experience and temporarily join a UN organisation.

Latest research: «Consultancy opportunities at the UN and in IFIsInternational Financial Institutions »

How can a consultancy open a way to fixed-term employment? What is required to become a consultant? Where can information about hiring conditions and vacancies be found? Can consultancies also offer entry to junior professionals? cinfo's latest research provides an overview and answers to frequently asked questions.

Good to know

The United Nations and specialised agencies frequently engage experts under individual contracts to work on short-term projects in their area of expertise.

Consultancies usually involve analysing problems, directing seminars and training courses, preparing documents for conferences and meetings, or writing reports. Many UN organisations often hire local consultants for service and support functions.

Contract types and duration

UN organisations have different contracts for consultants:

  • Consultant Contract
  • Special Service Agreement (SSA)
  • Individual Contractor (IC)
  • Individual Contractor Agreement (ICA)

Terms and conditions of each contract vary quite substantively. For example, UNDPUnited Nations Development Programme offers SSAs for full-time engagement of up to 11 months and ICs for shorter or part-time assignments, e.g. workshop moderators working for several clients at a time.

Next: salaries and benefits
Salaries and benefits

Consultants generally receive a net salary with no additional benefits (medical insurance, pension fund, etc.). These salaries may be lower than for similar work with a Swiss organisation but they are usually tax-exempt. Use UNDP's salary calculator for estimates of consultant salaries at UNDPUnited Nations Development Programme .

When preparing an offer or budget, bear in mind that UN organisations rarely pay additional overheads to cover administrative costs, nor are they legally bound to pay Value-Added Tax (VAT). The salary will mostly depend on the following factors:

  • Prevailing market forces
  • Complexity of the project
  • Qualifications and experience
  • Length of the assignment
  • Available funds
  • Candidate’s negotiating skills
Next: requirements

Although requirements vary according to the assignment, professionals interested in consultancies should generally possess the following skills and qualifications:

  • University degree and professional experience in their area of expertise
  • Flexibility and geographic mobility, as opportunities anywhere in the world can arise at short notice
  • Other ‘soft skills’ and a commitment to UN values (see Requirements and recruitment for UN staff positions)
  • Ideally prior work experience with the UN and experience working with governments and/or civil society
Next: application

While some UN organisations, such as UNDPUnited Nations Development Programme and UNICEFUnited Nations Children's Fund , have webpages specifically for consultancies, others publish them on their employment or procurement webpages.

For short-term consultancies with the UN Secretariat, join the Consultant Roster through the career platform ‘inspira’. Search and apply directly to consultancies through the platform, and always keep your personal history profile (PHP) up to date.

You will find links to the respective websites in the box on the right.

Build and use your network

Not all UN consultancies are publicly advertised, particularly those below a certain budget threshold that do not require an external bidding process. To find such rare opportunities, you will need to build and use your network.

Contact those who might be aware of consultancies in your area of expertise. For example, if you are completing an internship with the UN, mention your interest in a consultancy to the contacts you have made during your internship.

Also use LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media channels to connect with people in your area of expertise or at the organisation you are interested in.

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