Research Associate (Systemic Risk and Climate-resilient development)

United Nations University (UNU)

Bonn, Germany 🇩🇪

Job description

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, furthering the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations. UNU’s mission 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, United Nations University (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, 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.

About 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) Section:

The VARMAP section conducts policy-oriented research on vulnerabilities and risks to inform risk reduction and adaptation choices in the context of global change. Its vision is to provide actionable knowledge on systemic risks and pathways to sustainability. VARMAP develops and applies conceptual frameworks and scientific methods to assess socio-economic vulnerability and risk in the context of natural hazards, environmental change and societal transformation. The section explores opportunities to reduce risks and to evaluate competing adaptation options. In doing so, VARMAP examines ways to strengthen adaptive governance. VARMAP has a strong focus on urban areas and rural-urban linkages. Drawing on scenario techniques and dynamic assessment tools, it examines the trends in vulnerability and adaptive capacity as societies undergo wider cultural, economic, demographic and political transformation. VARMAP convenes an interdisciplinary team of researchers and has a wide network of scientific and practical partners. It draws on a mixed methods approach, integrating qualitative and quantitative tools for the analysis. The section combines a global focus with clusters of specific regional expertise, notably in Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia, West Africa and Europe

CARICO project:

In an increasingly interconnected and globalized world, COVID-19 has been a drastic reminder of the cascading, complex and systemic nature of risks. Drawing on desk research, expert consultation and research in five case studies (Bangladesh, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, and Togo), Phase I of the project focused on concept development and identifying lessons for understanding and managing the systemic nature of risks – including the development of policy recommendations. Since Phase I of the project did not include a strategic advocacy component, Phase II of the project will focus on further disseminating the findings to a wider audience (incl. academia, but also the general public).


Under the authority of the Vice-Rector/Director of UNU-EHS and the direct supervision of the Head of the VARMAP section, the successful candidate will be entrusted with the following tasks:

1. Support implementation of the CARICO Project

  • Support the development of an interactive web-based publication (supporting a science writer) by reviewing case study findings for updates and providing feedback on content delivered by the science writer
  • Lead the organization and hosting of a hybrid expert workshop on the topic of systemic risks (incl. preparation, hosting, documentation & reporting of key messages)
  • Support the organization of side events/sessions on the topic of systemic risk at relevant platforms/conferences
  • Support case study experts in the dissemination of findings from their case studies (e.g. by supporting the organization of webinars or expert workshops etc.)
  • Support project management and administration (incl. frequent exchange with case study experts and reporting)
  • Prepare research reports, policy briefs, factsheets, and presentations and coordinate publication efforts of the team (incl. case study experts)
  • Support the organization of project related events such as meetings, seminars, and workshops
  • Coordinate publication efforts

2.  Support implementation of new project in the VARMAP team

  • Design and perform an evaluation of the InsuRisk tool, developed by UNU-EHS
  • Contribute to the update of vulnerability assessment approaches
  • Provide input to UNFCCC’s adaptation stocktaking and the global goal on adaptation

3.  Provide team support in the following areas:

  • Support the development of research proposals targeting national or international donors
  • Set-up an operational monitoring and evaluation process for the VARMAP team
  • Support administrative tasks in the VARMP section (e.g. donor and project reporting, onboarding of new team members, supporting team meetings)
  • Support the supervision of student assistants and interns in VARMAP

4.  Facilitate the educational activities across VARMAP team:

  • Support educational activities of VARMAP team members
  • (Co)supervise master students

5.  Perform other duties as assigned by supervisor

Key performance indicators

  • Timely and quality delivery of CARICO products
  • Quality and timely delivery of the VARMAP team to UNU-EHS reporting
  • Engagement in educational activities of VARMAP team members
  • UNU-EHS is seen as a reliable and trustworthy partner in projects and proposal writing
  • Personal development aligned with the UNU-EHS and VARMAP vision



  • 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
  • Analyse 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 with high academic standing in Geography, Environmental Governance, Climate studies, Environmental Management, or other relevant discipline;


  • Relevant work experience (1year desirable), some of which preferably in an international setting
  • Familiarity with concepts and methods related to vulnerability and risk assessment
  • Experience with adaptation and climate resilient development pathways is a strong asset
  • Experience with project management and monitoring and evaluation frameworks is a strong asset
  • Demonstrated ability to synthesize complex information and to translate into impactful communications and work on the ground.
  • Field experience from developing countries is highly desired.
  • Experience with workshop development and facilitation of online meetings is desired
  • Other Desirable Skills: Ability to communicate clearly and efficiently with different actor groups. 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.

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: 12 May 2022


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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