Human rights is one of the core fields of the United Nations, which means there are lots of job opportunities in this sector. Many fall under the umbrella of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), though some can be found in other sections, as well, like UNICEF, UNHCR, and UNFPA.
Here are five common UN careers in the human rights sector:
UN Human Rights Officer
Human rights officers are responsible for identifying and investigating human rights violations and abuses. To do that, they are required to monitor the human rights enshrined in documents like the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or other core human rights treaties established by the United Nations. In 2018, the UN employed around 900 human rights officers and support staff.
Responsibilities can include but aren’t limited to:
- Researching and analyzing human rights issues and their impact on people’s lives
- Interviewing survivors of human rights violations, local authorities and other power holders
- Observing trials and elections
- Building partnerships with other organizations on the local, regional and global level
To be a good candidate for a human rights officer position, you will need a Master’s degree in law, political science, international relations, human rights or a similar field. For previous work experience, a UN Human Rights Officer post requires a minimum of five years of experience. Proficiency in at least two UN languages (French and English) is a must, though depending on where the job is located, other languages or a third language might be necessary or considered an asset. The UN prefers candidates who have experience in human rights work of some kind.
The salary varies strongly depending on the seniority. Have a look at the UN salary schemes to learn more.
UN Human Rights Consultant
The UN frequently hires human rights experts as consultants for short-term or temporary projects. As a consultant, you need to be specialised in a particular field. That could be either a human rights topic such as freedom of expression, climate change or female genital mutilation or a specific skill such as education, communication or advocacy . The job can look similar to a human rights officer job, though more specific. If you would like to become a UN Human Rights Consultant in depth knowledge in a certain niche is a must. If you are still in the early days of your human rights career you might want to explore your interests with a free human rights course.
A human rights consultant’s exact tasks depend on the type of project they are employed for and their area of expertise. The responsibilities of a human rights consultant could include:
- Directing seminars and training courses on specific topics in their field
- Researching and analyzing problems and solutions
- Writing and presenting reports on their expertise
- Advising a team on the area and efficient procedures
Exact requirements will vary depending on the nature of the project, but in general, the UN will require their human rights consultants to have a Master’s degree or equivalent in a specific area. Meaning, if the project is based in gender rights, you need a proven track record of work experience and academic credentials to proof your proficiency in this field. At least 5 years of relevant work experience are required, and previous work with the UN or a UN-affiliated organization is desirable. A candidate should also have proficiency in English and French, and possibly another language (depending on where the job is located).
The salary for this position varies depending on the project and how long the consultant is needed, but it can range higher than the salary of a human rights officer.
UN Gender Advisor
Gender discrimination and inequality is a key issue for the UN. In the United Nations Charter, adopted in 1945, upholding the equal rights for men and women is a specific goal. A gender advisor’s role is to make sure that this principle manifests as reality.
No matter where the gender advisor is located, their job is to promote gender-sensitive procedures and approaches to UN goals, and to encourage equal gender participation. In practice, those responsibilities include:
- Providing expert advice on women’s rights and gender equality
- Researching and developing programmes
- Designing, implementing, evaluating, and reporting on projects and programmes
- Coordinating relationships with other sections of the UN
- Providing training on gender and women’s rights
A UN Gender Advisor should have a Master’s degree (or equivalent advanced university degree) in human rights, law, political science, or a related field. A suitable candidate will also need several years’ work experience in gender-specific human rights, international relations, law, or something similar. Depending on where the gender advisor position is located, experience in that region might required, as well. Language proficiency is also expected and sometimes local languages are required when conducting interviews with locals.
Pay will vary depending on the seniority of the gender advisor position. Have a look at the UN salary schemes to learn more.
UN Child Protection Officer
A child protection officer works to safeguard the rights of children. Their goal is to uphold the values of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was adopted by the General Assembly in 1959. That document outlines the civil, economic, social, cultural, and political rights of children.
A UN child protection officer job can include responsibilities such as:
- Working with UN peace organizations to address child-specific issues
- Researching and analyzing data on human rights violations pertaining to children
- Helping train and educate on child rights to civilian staff, the police, and military.
- Meeting with local authorities and NGOs about child-specific issues
A Master’s degree or equivalent in a field like political science, law, or human rights is required for candidates. This UN position also requires 5 years worth of work experience in a field involving children’s rights. Proficiency in languages is also required, usually at least English and French. Depending on where the job is located, that area’s language will most likely be expected, too.
Salary varies by position, but UNICEF salaries in general range from about $41,000 to $105,000 per year.
UN Senior Victims Rights Officer
Senior victims rights officers can be found in the UN’s field Peacekeeping Operations and Special political missions. According to the UN Careers website, officers are usually deployed in an area’s capital city. They are supposed to report to both the Assistant Secretary General, Victims’ Right Advocate, and the Secretary-General/Head of Mission.
A senior victims rights officer will be required to report in on a regular basis to their superiors. Responsibilities include:
- Making sure all activities involving the support/assistance to victims are gender and child-sensitive, and non-discriminatory.
- Supporting field actors and cooperating with other UN systems
- Maintaining contact with victims and local authorities
- Advising their superiors and team members
A Master’s degree or equivalent is a must for a good candidate. Human rights, law, political science, public administration, or a similar field is required. For work experience, this position requires a minimum of 10 years in a human rights field, along with experience in advocacy, criminal justice, and/or victim protection. Fluency in both English and French is required, though proficiency in another of the UN languages is desirable.
We couldn’t find an exact salary range for this position, but since they tend to be located in high-risk areas, the pay and benefits should reflect that.