Senior Urban Specialist

Washington, DC, US

Background/General Description:



Established in 1944, the WBG is one of the world’s largest sources of funding and knowledge for development solutions. In fiscal year 2014, the WBG committed $65.6 billion in loans, grants, equity investments and guarantees to its members and private businesses, of which $22.2 billion was concessional finance to its poorest members. It is governed by 188 member countries and delivers services out of 120 offices with nearly 15,000 staff located globally.

The WBG consists of five specialized institutions: the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), the International Development Association (IDA), the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), and the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). IBRD and IDA are commonly known as the World Bank, which is organized into six client-facing Regional Vice-Presidencies, several corporate functions, and – as of July 1, 2014 – has introduced fourteen Global Practices (GPs) as well as five Cross-Cutting Solution Areas (CCSAs) to bring best-in-class knowledge and solutions to regional and country clients.


The 14 GPs are: Agriculture; Education; Energy and Extractives; Environment and Natural Resources; Finance and Markets; Governance; Health, Nutrition and Population; Macroeconomics and Fiscal Management; Poverty; Social Protection and Labor; Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience; Trade and Competitiveness; Transport and ICT; and Water. The 5 CCSAs are: Climate Change; Fragility, Conflict and Violence; Gender; Jobs; and Public-Private Partnerships.  The new operating model is part of a broader internal reform aimed at delivering the best of the World Bank Group to our clients, so that together we can achieve the twin goals of (1) ending extreme poverty by 2030, and (2) promote shared prosperity for the bottom 40% of the population in every developing country.


Urbanization is occurring at an unprecedented pace. Cities generate 80% of global GDP and are key to job creation and the pursuit of shared prosperity.  Yet one billion city residents live in slums today, and by 2030 one billion new migrants will arrive in cities.  This concentration of people and assets will exacerbate risk exposure to adverse natural events and climate change, which affects the poor disproportionately.  The absence of secure land tenure underpins deprivation and is a major source of conflict in the urban and rural space.  One and a half billion people live in countries affected by repeated cycles of violence.  In the absence of services, participative planning and responsive institutions, these trends will result in increased poverty, social exclusion, vulnerability and violence.  Finally, avoiding a 4-degree warmer world requires drastically reducing the carbon footprint of cities.

The WBG is in a unique position to support national and sub-national clients to: harness urbanization and enable effective land management in support of both growth and poverty reduction; foster social inclusion of marginalized groups; support the responsiveness and fiscal, financial, and management capacities of local governments – cities, municipalities, and rural districts – to deliver local infrastructure and decentralized services; strengthen resilience and risk management related to natural disasters; reduce conflict and violence; scale-up access to finance for sub-national governments; and reduce the carbon footprint of cities.  The WBG brings a combination of lending ($7-8 billion in annual lending to cities), analytical and advisory services (e.g., social inclusion flagship, urbanization reviews, Sendai dialogue), its growing portfolio of reimbursable advisory services, its convening power (e.g., understanding risk and the land conferences), its leveraging capacity (e.g., guarantees and risk mitigation), and its ability to work with the private sector to tackle the challenges at scale and to effect.
The SURR GP covers a wide gamut: (i) developing green, inclusive and resilient cities; (ii) addressing the social inclusion of the poor, vulnerable and excluded groups through accountable institutions, and ensuring compliance with social safeguards; (iii) enhancing urban and rural development through supporting and managing the urban-rural transition, assisting local development through developing land tenure, management and information systems; and (iv) assisting in disaster risk management through issues of risk assessment, risk reduction (including flood management, urban drainage, coastal management, and retrofitting of infrastructure), disaster preparedness (including hydromet services, early warning systems, and civil defense), risk financing (including CAT-DDO), and resilient reconstruction (including post-disaster damage and loss assessment). A key responsibility of the GP is to provide professional expertise and operational support to other GPs to implement the WBG social policies (the WB’s safeguard policies and the IFC’s Performance Standards) to deliver sustainable development results that ensure that any adverse impacts of WBG interventions are limited and mitigated.
The World Bank Group is committed to achieving diversity in terms of gender, nationality, culture and educational background.  Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to apply.  All applications will be treated in the strictest confidence.


The South Asia Urban Unit within the Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice (GSURR) is seeking to recruit a qualified and motivated individual for the position of Senior Urban Specialist, who will report to the Urban Practice Manager, South Asia, in Washington DC.  S/he will work closely with the unit’s Task Team Leaders, as well as with others outside the unit in the Global Practice for Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience (GSURR).

With the highest concentration of the world’s poor, South Asia is now at the forefront of a major population shift from a largely rural population to a rapidly urban one. The Region includes eight countries with a total population of about 1.5 billion people (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka).  The region is currently the least urbanized region of the world, with only about one-third of population in cities. Yet its economy is well along the transition from farm to nonfarm sectors, the latter accounting for over two thirds of the region’s economy and over 80% of the economic growth.  As the lag between economic and spatial transitions would narrow, UN projects that half billion people will be added to, and hence more than double, the urban population in the region over the next 25 years. Moreover, South Asia has one of the world’s largest groupings of megacities and cities with over one million population. South Asia also has five of its client countries in or coming out of conflict. While they present special challenges, there are also unique opportunities to make a difference and have development impacts that directly affect the lives of many.

To support clients in addressing the large urbanization challenges, the urban group in South Asia is engaged in (i) financing investments, (ii) providing technical assistance, and (iii) undertaking non-lending analytical and policy advisory work, in response to client demands.  The group has about 50% of staff based in country offices, where Country Directors (who lead the Bank’s engagement across sectors in each country) are also based. Supporting the India government on its rural-urban transformation is one of the three pillars of the Bank’s country partnership framework for India. Support to India includes both advisory services and IDA/IBRD projects, with a strong pipeline.

Note: If the selected candidate is a current Bank Group staff member with a Regular or Open-Ended appointment, s/he will retain his/her Regular or Open-Ended appointment. All others will be offered a 3 year term appointment.

Duties and Accountabilities:

• Lead and or participate in task teams to deliver investment, programmatic and development policy lending operations, prepare analytical and advisory activities, and develop new business opportunities in the urban sector, mainly in India but also in other countries in South Asia;

• Lead and/or contribute to policy dialogue and just-in-time advisory work in intergovernmental fiscal relations, local and municipal finance, local governance and management, and help enhance the capacity of our national and sub-national clients to respond to urban development challenges through programs and projects; lead or contribute to in-country stakeholder coordination in the sectors.

• Provide operational leadership on projects in a dynamic environment where there is client demand for solutions to urban development, local governance and city finance challenges; keep updated of the needs of clients and be proactive to provide better, faster and better targeted client response; and engage with clients and other stakeholders to increase their support and understanding of project-related Bank’s policies.

• Lead and/or contribute to the sector dialogues in the country and provide just-in-time advisory work in business development and policy reform;

• Participate in professional development and knowledge sharing activities in the SURR Practice and contribute specific knowledge both within the assigned countries and in the World Bank;

• Contribute to the urban team in South Asia, facilitating team building, learning and knowledge sharing, collaboration and synergies.

• Provide coaching mentoring on-the-job to junior team members.

Selection Criteria:

• Advanced university degree (Masters) in a field relevant to urban development with a special focus on municipal finance and governance;

• At least eight years of relevant experience. Practical experiences in municipal finance, such as inter-governmental fiscal relationships, local revenue mobilization including property tax, municipal borrowing, infrastructure finance, as well as knowledge and experience on local governance and management, are strongly preferred.  

• Strong motivation to work in the urban development sector and ability to work flexibly and independently on a range of assignments, adjusting to and prioritizing a variety of complex evolving tasks.

• Experience in Bank operations and/or project management in the urban and local government sector would be an advantage.

• Excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to lead teams and also function effectively as a member of a multi-disciplinary team.

• Excellent and effective command of English both in verbal and written forms.

• Proven track record of delivery of high quality outputs while working under pressure and within tight deadlines.


• Integrative Skills – Working to develop an integrated view across all facets of current sector.

• Knowledge and Experience in Development Arena – Understands policy making process; distills operationally relevant recommendations/lessons for clients.

• Policy Dialogue Skills – Identifies and assesses policy issues and plays an active role in the dialogue with the government and/or other stakeholders.

• Urban and Spatial Economics – Familiarity with key concepts in the fields of urban and spatial economics.

• Urban Policy, Strategy, and Institutions – Familiarity with urban policies, strategies, institutions, and regulations.

• Urban Services Delivery – Foundational knowledge of urban services delivery, with ability to apply to operations and analytical work.

• Lead and Innovate – Develops innovative solutions.

• Deliver Results for Clients – Proactively addresses clients’ stated and unstated needs.

• Collaborate Within Teams and Across Boundaries – Collaborates across boundaries, gives own perspective and willingly receives diverse perspectives.

• Create, Apply and Share Knowledge – Applies knowledge across WBG to strengthen solutions for internal and/or external clients.

• Make Smart Decisions – Interprets a wide range of information and pushes to move forward.

Knowledge and Experience in at least Two of the following areas:

• Municipal Finance: Working knowledge of a range of municipal financing alternatives; can conduct a range of financial analyses.

• Urban and spatial economics: Familiarity with key concepts from the fields of urban and spatial economics, and the application of these concepts to policy analysis; can conduct a range of economic analyses drawing on concepts from these fields as input into operational and analytical work.

• Urban Policy, Strategy, and Institutions: Familiarity with urban policies, strategies, institutions, and regulations.  

• Urban Service Delivery: Foundational knowledge of urban services delivery, with ability to apply to operations and analytical work.  

• Urban Poverty and Slums:  Foundational knowledge of urban poverty, with ability to support operations and analytical work.  

• Land and Housing:  Foundational knowledge of land and housing, with ability to support operations and analytical work.  

• Urban and Regional Planning: Foundational knowledge of urban and regional planning, with ability to support operations and analytical work.  

Urban Environment and Solid Waste:  Experience in at least one subtopic: environment monitoring, planning and evaluation; air, soil, or water pollution; urban water resources management; solid waste management.