Job Opportunities at United Nations University: Research Associate Positions Available

About UN University (UNU)

The United Nations University (UNU) is an international community of scholars engaged in policy-oriented research, capacity development and dissemination of knowledge in furthering the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations. The mission of UNU is to contribute, through research and capacity building, to efforts to resolve the pressing global problems that are the concern of the United Nations and its Member States.

For the past four decades, UNU has been a go-to think tank for impartial research on human survival, conflict prevention, sustainable development, and welfare. With more than 400 researchers in 12 countries, UNU’s work spans the 17 Sustainable Development Goals’ full breadth, generating policy-relevant knowledge to effect positive global change. UNU maintains more than 200 collaborations with UN agencies and leading universities and research institutions across the globe. For more information, please visit

United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS):

UNU-EHS, established in December 2003, is part of the UNU system, a worldwide network of Research and Training Institutes. Its mission is to advance human security through knowledge-based approaches to reducing vulnerability and environmental risks. For more information, please visit

Vulnerability Assessment, Risk Management & Adaptive Planning (VARMAP) division:

The VARMAP division conducts policy-oriented research on systemic risks and pathways to sustainability in the context of climate change. Its vision is to provide actionable knowledge for climate-resilient futures. VARMAP has a strong track record in developing and applying conceptual frameworks to understand the complex nature of risks. VARMAP explores opportunities for risk reduction and examines diverse adaptation options and pathways towards sustainability and resilient societies. Supporting informed decision-making by digital means and ensuring an inclusive and just digitalization are of growing importance in VARMAP’s work. VARMAP helps to implement the UN’s 2030 Development Agenda, the Sendai Framework, the Paris Agreement and other sustainability-oriented international initiatives. VARMAP convenes an interdisciplinary team and works with a wide network of partners from science and practice. The division draws on mixed methods approaches, integrating qualitative and quantitative tools. It unites a global orientation with empirical work in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas.

The Global Drought Atlas project:

The Global Drought Atlas project responds to an initiative of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), aiming at raising global awareness on drought risks, impacts and adaptation. In order to do so, UNU-EHS joined a prestigious consortium of partners to develop a Global Drought Atlas. This publication, designed for a general audience but with special attention for policy-makers, will use a variety of mediums (including maps, datasets and textual narratives) to present a comprehensive collection of state-of-the-art knowledge about drought at the global level. In particular, the Atlas will explore drought hazard, drought risks and their interconnections, and drought adaptation options, focusing on different sectors and systems. The geographical focus will span from global to regional, complementing an overview of global challenges with regional deep-dives, thus highlighting local responses, emerging best practices and lessons learned that could be transferred or upscaled. To do so, the latest analysis, data and information on drought and drought risks available in the scientific and grey literature will be collected, reviewed and showcased though a series of original maps and infographics, accompanied by descriptive narratives and visual conceptual models to support and enhance understanding. UNU-EHS will lead work on the development of sectoral and cross-sectoral conceptual models of drought risks, and on the review of adaptation measures. The Global Drought Atlas shall be launched at the UNCCD COP16 in December 2024 in Saudi Arabia.

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Under the authority of the Vice-Rector/Director of UNU-EHS and the direct co-supervision of the Head of the VARMAP division and the Academic Officer/PI of the project, the successful candidate will be entrusted with the following tasks:

1) Conduct research for the Global Drought Atlas

  • Conduct the research on drought risk management and adaptation policies, options and best practices (including compilation of data and information);
  • Support the development of conceptual drought risk models following the impact chain methodology for different sectors and systems (e.g. agriculture, public water supply, ecosystems);
  • Support the desk-based collection and review of existing information (including scientific literature and datasets) on global drought risks for these different sectors and systems.

2) Contribute to the writing of the Global Drought Atlas

  • Conduct the drafting of inputs (incl. development of visuals/maps/infographics) for the chapter on adaptation to droughts and drought risks;
  • Support the development and writing of the remaining chapters.

3) Support, conduct and contribute to additional scientific outputs

  • (Co)author scientific publications in the domain of drought risk and adaptation.

4) Support project management and administration

  • Support project management and administration (incl. co-organization and documentation of project events and reporting).

5) Provide team support in the following areas

  • Support tasks in the VARMAP division (e.g. donor and project reporting, supporting team meetings);
  • Support the development of research proposals targeting national or international donors;
  • Support educational activities of the VARMAP division.

6) Perform other duties as assigned by supervisor

Key Performance Indicators

  • Quality of innovative research in the domain of drought risks and adaptation
  • Timely and quality collection and analysis of relevant data and information
  • Timely and quality delivery on milestones and deliverables in the Global Drought Atlas project
  • Quality and level of engagement with project team, consortium partners and beneficiaries
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  • Inclusion —Take action to create an environment of dignity and respect for all, regardless of age, culture, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, gender expression, geography, grade, language, nationality, racial identity, religion, sex, sex characteristics, sexual orientation, social origin or any other aspect of identity
  • Integrity — Act ethically, demonstrating the standards of conduct of the United Nations and taking prompt action in case of witnessing unprofessional or unethical behaviour, or any other breach of UN standards
  • Humility — Demonstrate self-awareness and willingness to learn from others
  • Humanity — Act according to the purposes of the United Nations: peace, dignity and equality on a healthy planet


  • Connect and Collaborate — Build positive relationships with others to advance the work of the United Nations and work coherently as One UN
  • Analyze and Plan — Seek out and use data from a wide range of sources to understand problems, inform decision-making, propose evidence-based solutions and plan action
  • Deliver Results with Positive Impact — Hold oneself and others accountable for delivering results and making a positive difference to the people and causes that the United Nations serves
  • Learn and Develop — Pursue own learning and development and contribute to the learning and development of others
  • Adapt and Innovate — Demonstrate flexibility, agility and the ability to think and act in novel ways


Education and certification

  • Completed Master’s degree or equivalent in environmental, natural or social sciences, geography, climate impact studies, adaptation or another related field



  • Relevant work experience (1 year desirable) in the field of adaptation and/or risk research with particular focus on droughts, some of which preferably in an international setting;
  • Familiarity with vulnerability, risk and adaptation concepts;
  • Experience in drafting reports and/or policy briefs is a strong asset
  • Other Desirable Skills: Interest in communicating information visually (e.g. through infographics); initiative seeker; strong ability to carry out work independently; curious personality; team player with strong interpersonal skills demonstrated by the ability to work in a multi-cultural environment with sensitivity and respect for diversity.

Language Requirements

  • Fluency in English is required;
  • Knowledge of another UN official working language is an asset.


The successful candidate will be employed under a national PSA contract. UNU offers an attractive compensation package including an annual net salary, commensurate with the experience and qualifications of the candidate. Benefits include 30 days annual leave and a health insurance scheme.

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UNU is not liable for any taxes that may be levied on the remuneration you receive under this contract. Payment of any such taxes remains the sole responsibility of PSA holders.

Duration of contract

This is a full-time employment on a twelve (12) months Personnel Service Agreement (PSA) contract with possibility for renewal subject to requirements and satisfactory work performance, with the combined duration of appointments not exceeding six (6) years. The mandatory age of retirement for PSA holders is 65 years.

This post is open to applicants from all countries and UNU will aid the successful applicant in securing a work visa for Germany, as necessary. It is, however, a locally recruited post and no relocation allowances apply. The duty station will be Bonn, Germany.

Expected start date: As soon as possible

How to Apply:

To apply to UNU, you will not need an account. Instead, we ask that you:

  • Fill out the UNU P11 form (please avoid using similar forms provided by other United Nations organisations);
  • provide a motivation statement (in the P11 form);
  • provide a cover letter setting out how the qualifications and experience match the requirements of the position;
  • answer a few questions that are tailored to the position; and
  • apply via the apply link.

You may wish to refer to the UN Values and Behaviours Framework for more information.

Application Deadline: 20 February 2024


Evaluation of qualified candidates may include an assessment exercise which may be followed by a competency-based interview, background checks and references.

Special notice

PSA holders do no hold international civil servant status nor are they considered a “staff member” as defined in the UN Staff Rules and Regulations.

UNU is committed to diversity and inclusion within its workforce, and encourages all candidates, irrespective of gender, nationality, religious and ethnic backgrounds, including persons living with disabilities to apply and become part of the organization. Applications from developing countries, and from women are strongly encouraged. Eligible internal applicants are also encouraged to apply.

UNU has a zero-tolerance policy on conduct that is incompatible with the aims and objectives of the United Nations and UNU, including sexual exploitation and abuse, sexual harassment, abuse of authority and discrimination.

Information about UNU rosters

UNU reserves the right to select one or more candidates from this vacancy announcement. We may also retain applications and consider candidates applying to this post for other similar positions with UNU.

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