Principal Legal Officer at United Nations Human Settlements Programme

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is the leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda, promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United Nations system and serves as an authoritative advocate for the global environment. UN-Habitat is the focal point within the United Nations system on sustainable urbanization and human settlements, including in the implementation, follow-up to and review of the New Urban Agenda. Both UNEP and UN-Habitat are co-located in Nairobi at the United Nations Office in Nairobi (UNON). Their respective governing bodies, the United Nations Environment Assembly and UN Habitat Assembly as well as their inter-sessional bodies convene in Nairobi at UNON. In addition, UNEP serves as the Secretariat for certain Multilateral Environment Agreements (MEAs) that are located at various duty stations including in Nairobi. This post is located in UNEP, Law Division at the Nairobi duty station. Under the direct supervision of the Director, Law Division, and in close collaboration with the Secretariats for the Governing Bodies of UNEP and UN-Habitat as well as the Secretariats of the MEAs, the incumbent will carry out the following duties:


– Provide authoritative advice on the applicability of the decisions of United Nations bodies to the activities of UNEP and UN-Habitat and their governing bodies. – Advise on rules of procedure. – Coordinates and oversees the service to governing body assemblies, committees, task forces, expert groups and other bodies, their secretariats and presiding officers, including through the preparation of legal opinions, background materials, review of draft decisions and proposals and review of credentials. – Advise on the accreditation and participation of inter-governmental organizations, United Nations agencies, accredited non-governmental organization and relevant civil society organizations in accordance with rules of procedure.

– Leads the inter-governmental support, procedural and legal advice to the secretariats of multilateral environmental agreements (“MEAs”), and inter-governmental platforms to which UNEP provides support. – Undertakes and oversees the preparation of official documentation for UNEP, UN-Habitat, MEAs and inter-governmental platforms. – Represents the Organization on various standing committees, ad hoc working groups and task forces, as required. Represents the Organization as the main interface with the Office of Legal Affairs of the United Nations, on governing body legal matters.

– Leads and supervises the review and preparation of new instruments, policies, guidelines and rules of procedure as they apply to governing and treaty bodies to which UNEP and UN-Habitat provides support. – Manage, guide, develop and train staff under his/her supervision. – Perform any other duty as may be assigned.


PROFESSIONALISM: Expert knowledge of intergovernmental processes, knowledge of UN policies and procedures as they apply to United Nations and treaty bodies meetings. Ability to apply expertise to analyzing a diverse range of complex and unusual issues and problems and in developing innovative and creative solutions; Analytical skills and ability to conduct comprehensive research on a range of issues, including those of a unique and/or complex nature; Discretion and sound judgment in applying expertise to sensitive, complex issues, including legal and procedural questions; Knowledge of contemporary international relations and of the UN system; Shows pride in work and in achievements; Demonstrates professional competence and mastery of subject matter; is conscientious and efficient in meeting commitments, observing deadlines and achieving results; Is Motivated by professional rather than personal concerns; Shows persistence when faced with difficult problems or challenges; remains calm in stressful situations.
PLANNING AND ORGANIZING: Develops clear goals that are consistent with agreed strategies; identifies priority activities and assignments; adjusts priorities as required; allocates appropriate amount of time and resources for completing work; foresees risks and allows for contingencies when planning; monitors and adjusts plans and actions as necessary; uses time efficiently.
COMMUNICATION: Speaks and writes clearly and effectively; listens to others, correctly interprets messages from others and responds appropriately; asks questions to clarify, and exhibits interest in having two-way communication; tailors language, tone, style and format to match audience; demonstrates openness in sharing information and keeping people informed.
LEADERSHIP: Serves as a role model that other people want to follow: empowers others to translate vision into results; is proactive in developing strategies to accomplish objectives; establishes and maintains relationships with a broad range of people to understand needs and gain support; anticipates and resolves conflicts by pursuing mutually agreeable solutions; drives for change and improvements; does not accept the status quo; shows the courage to take unpopular stands. Provides leadership and takes responsibility for incorporating gender perspectives and ensuring the equal participation of women and men in all areas of work; demonstrates knowledge of strategies and commitment to the goal of gender balance in staffing.
MANAGING PERFORMANCE: Delegates the appropriate responsibility, accountability and decision-making authority; makes sure that roles, responsibilities and reporting lines are clear to each staff member; accurately judges the amount of time and resources needed to accomplish a task and matches task to skills; monitors progress against milestones and deadlines; regularly discusses performance and provides feedback and coaching to staff; encourages risk-taking and supports creativity and initiative; actively supports the development and career aspirations of staff; appraises performance fairly.


Advanced University Degree (Masters or equivalent) in law is required. A first level university degree in combination with two additional years of qualifying experience may be accepted in lieu of the advanced degree.

Work Experience

A minimum of 15 years of progressively responsible experience, preferably in the field of international relations, international law and policy is required.
Proven experience in dealing with senior government officials and other stakeholders, multilateral governance, UN experience or similar international organization is required.
Experience in providing legal advice to Governments, intergovernmental bodies and stakeholders is desirable.


English and French are the working languages of the United Nations Secretariat. For the post advertised, fluency in oral and written English is required.


Evaluation of qualified candidates for this position may include a substantive assessment which will be followed by a competency-based interview.

Special Notice

Appointment against this post is for an initial period of one year and may be subject to extension. Staff members are subject to the authority of the Secretary-General and to assignment by him or her. In this context, all staff are expected to move periodically to new functions in their careers in accordance with established rules and procedures.

Staff members of the United Nations Secretariat must fulfill the lateral or geographical move requirements to be eligible to apply for this vacancy. Staff members are requested to indicate all qualifying lateral or geographical moves in their Personal History Profile (PHP) and cover note.

The United Nations Secretariat is committed to achieving 50/50 gender balance in its staff. Female candidates are strongly encouraged to apply for this position.

Internal Applicants – when completing the PHP, ensure ALL fields, ALL professional experience and contact information are completed and up to date. This information is the basis for the hiring manager to assess your eligibility and suitability for the position and to contact you.

Individual contractors and consultants who have worked within the UN Secretariat in the last six months, irrespective of the administering entity, are ineligible to apply for professional and higher temporary or fixed-term positions and their applications will not be considered.

All applicants are strongly encouraged to apply on-line as soon as possible after the job opening has been posted and well before the deadline stated in the job opening. On-line applications will be acknowledged where an email address has been provided. If you do not receive an e-mail acknowledgement within 24 hours of submission, your application may not have been received. If the problem persists, please seek technical assistance through the Inspira “need Help” link.

United Nations Considerations

According to article 101, paragraph 3, of the Charter of the United Nations, the paramount consideration in the employment of the staff is the necessity of securing the highest standards of efficiency, competence, and integrity. Candidates will not be considered for employment with the United Nations if they have committed violations of international human rights law, violations of international humanitarian law, sexual exploitation, sexual abuse, or sexual harassment, or if there are reasonable grounds to believe that they have been involved in the commission of any of these acts. The term “sexual exploitation” means any actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, differential power, or trust, for sexual purposes, including, but not limited to, profiting monetarily, socially or politically from the sexual exploitation of another. The term “sexual abuse” means the actual or threatened physical intrusion of a sexual nature, whether by force or under unequal or coercive conditions. The term “sexual harassment” means any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that might reasonably be expected or be perceived to cause offence or humiliation, when such conduct interferes with work, is made a condition of employment or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment, and when the gravity of the conduct warrants the termination of the perpetrator’s working relationship. Candidates who have committed crimes other than minor traffic offences may not be considered for employment.

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