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Thread: UN career

  1. #1

    UN career

    I am a planning student in my second year, I know a few people will be rolling their eyes think here is another student who wants to change the world, but something which I am really interested in is planning for developing countries. I know that the UN has planners who do these kinds of jobs.

    What I wanted to know is if anyone knows the sort of career path which I would need to take to do something like this. I am currently just doing an undergraduate degree in urban and regional planning and it will be a few years before anything happens, I am guessing that post graduate would probably be an essential and maybe experience in a variety of different countries. I would appreciate any advice.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian joshking2's avatar
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    Peace Corps uses planners in developing countries

    http://www.peacecorps.gov/

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    hey i'm interested in working for the NGOs or supra-national agencies as well..did an earlier post but had no replies...

    unfortunately peace corps is open only to american citizens and i noticed that whitey is from brisbane, oz, so perhaps i can assume that he/she isn't american?

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    UN careers

    The UN does offer possibilities for young professionals to get involved internationally. One route is to sign up to be a UN Volunteer, then go on to be a junior professional, before ultimately becoming a UN "expert." This is not the only route. For urban planners the most appropriate organisation is the United Nations Commission for Human Settlements, commonly known as UN-HABITAT, headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.
    I will warn you though that UN bureaucracy is immense, so if you can't take spending a LOT of time filling in forms and following adminstrative procedures, you may find yourself quite frustrated.
    Another thing to remember is that entry into the UN system is based on a quota system and professionals from industrialised countries are not given any special preference. The best thing is to get in touch with your local UN contact, or go straight to the UN-HABITAT home page and see what pertains for your nationality specifically.
    There are many other ways to get involved internationally. AUSAID probably has a fair bit of info on how to get involved from Australia, Peace Corps and USAID in America, CUSO, WUSC and CIDA in Canada, and so on. These all have their own programs, and they may not necessarily include anything on urban planning. Inquire though if AUSAID has any young professional program.
    Swedish SIDA for example finances university students who do some type of practical abroad, though loosely connected to a Sida-financed project. They also will finance a Swedish young professional (under 35) for six months working for a company that is executing a Sida-financed project abroad. At this moment I am sitting in Cairo on such a project and have in front of me a guy that got involved this way last year, and he is now a full project member. So check out your country's aid organisation and explore the possibilities.
    You might try other international organisations too. If you can't get in as a professional consultant because of your "lack of international experience" you may have to take a lower status to start. But in Asia don't ignore emergency organisations that may need planners for rehabilitation of communities.
    That's a long start. Don't give up your search. Working in the developing world is one of the most challenging and enriching experiences you can have. Nothing works as planned, so you are constantly faced with the need to think laterally, find innovative solutions.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    What do you do as a planner based in the UN/aid agencies? On a side note, I know that the World Bank requires planners as well.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    From Joshww81
    What do you do as a planner based in the UN/aid agencies? On a side note, I know that the World Bank requires planners as well.
    A lot of different things. At this moment I am sitting in Cairo working with the national authority responsible for urban and regional planning. Our project includes developing new locally adapted participatory approaches to strategic urban planning - undertaking pilot case to finesse the approaches; preparation of Guidelines on Strategic Urban Planning (for the Egyptian scene) suitable for use by the authority, its consultants and as a reference for urban planning university faculties; developing and implementing the authority's information management policy and a planning data warehouse; institutional and human resource development; development of monitoring and evaluation of plans and planning.

    In a separate project I assist a coastal municipality incorporate marine and coastal resource management concepts into their planning, as well as support local fishing communities undertake their own community level planning (in the context of the municipal plan) incorporating sustainable use of coastal and marine resources; setting up a comuity based revolving fund to help the develop these sustainable uses, and so on.

    In another one i have been helping national, regional and local level authorities with coastal hazard management and integrating this into comprehensive and detailed plans.

    I know of projects working exclusively with upgrading slums and illegal/informal settlements, working on urban security and safety, urban development financing, and more. So the range is immense.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    What sort of complementary degree would you recommend (they all seem to require postgraduate Masters at the very least). I'm thinking of Transport Engineering as I'm more interested in infrastructure and transport provision and upgrading of slums.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally posted by Monamogolo View post
    From Joshww81
    A lot of different things. At this moment I am sitting in Cairo working with the national authority responsible for urban and regional planning. Our project includes developing new locally adapted participatory approaches to strategic urban planning - undertaking pilot case to finesse the approaches; preparation of Guidelines on Strategic Urban Planning (for the Egyptian scene) suitable for use by the authority, its consultants and as a reference for urban planning university faculties; developing and implementing the authority's information management policy and a planning data warehouse; institutional and human resource development; development of monitoring and evaluation of plans and planning.

    In a separate project I assist a coastal municipality incorporate marine and coastal resource management concepts into their planning, as well as support local fishing communities undertake their own community level planning (in the context of the municipal plan) incorporating sustainable use of coastal and marine resources; setting up a comuity based revolving fund to help the develop these sustainable uses, and so on.

    In another one i have been helping national, regional and local level authorities with coastal hazard management and integrating this into comprehensive and detailed plans.

    I know of projects working exclusively with upgrading slums and illegal/informal settlements, working on urban security and safety, urban development financing, and more. So the range is immense.
    Thanks that is great!!! Could you also tell me what paths you have taken within your career to get to this sort of job, e.g. worked for local government in your home country, learnt new languages, post graduate studies etc. Also as mention previously what sort of post-graduate degrees are organisations like the UN looking for when they are hiring people like yourself

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    In answer to Whitey_49_5 and Joshww81:
    I have had the advantage of growing up in Africa. Did both unergraduate and graduate studies in Canada (geography, geology and economics at undergrad, advanced urban & regional planning at graduate level. I did my Master's thesis on a real problem in Botswana where I got a job as a regular District Officer with responsibility for land issues.)
    The job was announced through the Canadian Universities Services Overseas, but it was a normal employment contract at local rates with the Government. The job was very broad, from doing rangeland carrying capacity and water source surveys to land tenure reform programmes, institution building, responding to drought crises etc.
    Before the contract was finished I was asked to join the national Department of Town and Regional Planning, which I agreed to as long as they set up a regional office. They agreed to do so, so I got into the business of decentralising planning from central to local government level, while still doing a lot of planning.
    Then an offer came from PNG to work on a provincial 5 year development plan with responsibilities in land and sea administration, urban and transportation development.
    This could get long...so it continued from contract to contract - in various countries until the Government of Sweden asked me to come here to an international arm of their Housing, building and planning organisation. Since then I have worked for three different companies doing much the same type of thing - consulting internationally in many fields.
    What you need more than anything else in this job is a willingness to work in totally horrendous situations without complaint, listen a lot, be innovative in your thinking, always trying to adjust the theory you know to local conditions. Accepting that you will learn more than you teach (many assignments involve knowledge transfer). Perhaps also working in the knowledge that what you're doing is going to be one step only in a journey of a 1000 miles - so no expectations that you're going to work miracles. And therefore less risk of frustrations. My motto is "nothing succeeds as planned."

    Transport engineering and urban upgrading are going to be in demand for a long time, so they're good subjects. Participatory approaches are popular, a broader understanding of urban management is good to have. Partly because finances are always a headache.

    I hope this helps. If you want more perhaps you should write to my e-mail instead of in the discussion forum. mona.mogolo@gmail.com

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    UN jobs

    there is a website with that name where you can start getting in contact with the various UN organisations and see what conditions apply.
    unjobs.org ...with the usual other www bits of course.

  11. #11
    Thanks mate

  12. #12
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Well......

    All I can suggest is that you better get a PhD if you want to compete for UN or aid agency work.
    Skilled Adoxographer

  13. #13
    Cyburbian
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    Qualifications for international work

    Initial quote from The One
    All I can suggest is that you better get a PhD if you want to compete for UN or aid agency work
    You may be right if you want a World Bank project position, but there are lots of possibilities for non-PhDs. And there are ways into the UN system that don't need such advanced degrees, and from which you can work your way up. For me the UN system has other drawbacks like enormous bureaucracy. I'd say that a Masters level is pretty much a must. And there are many non-government actors through whom you can find employment abroad.

    What you do need for most interesting positions is proven international experience. And how do you get that if you can't get into the field in the first place?

    One of the problems we have in our company is finding the younger professionals (30-45) who have some experience in their home countries and are WILLING to sign up, even for short term assignments, in odd ball or "dangerous" situations. There are loads of opportunities in Afghanistan, for example, for the right type of skills.

    Some aid agencies still try to restrict positions to their own nationals, but most European agencies, including the EU itself, no longer have this condition.

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    Hi Monamogolo,

    Your line of work sounds exactly like what I want to do. I'm beginning a degree in international relations in DC this fall, but recently realized that the field I'd most like to enter is urban planning. As such, I'm in the process of looking into ad hoc dual degree options in IR and planning, which would hopefully allow me to attain both degrees in 3 years. I'd then like to work in planning either for a multilateral institution or a private firm with a broad array of international clients.

    In your line of work, have you often come across people with both IR and planning degrees? Do you think, given my career goals, that this is a worthwhile path to pursue? My hope is to integrate my international experience (4 years living and working in Korea) with my IR and planning coursework, and to use that as a platform for continued international work in Asia and elsewhere.

    If you have any thoughts to offer, I'd love to hear them!

  15. #15
    Cyburbian
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    Mikedson

    What level of degree are you aiming for - MA/MSc or PhD?

    Have I met many with the IR/Planning combination? - No can't say as I have. But maybe something close to it, like Political Science (with emphasis on international issues) and planning.

    I can imagine that there are multilateral agencies that would find the combination useful. There are many situations where planning needs to be done across borders (the EU has a significant institution doing this) and in which the IR knowledge/experience would undoubtedly be valuable. As TO said, if you want to work for one of the international development banks (WB, IADB, AsDB, AfDB, ArDB, ERBD etc), you would have a better chance with the PhD, unless you have a very good CV and an even better contact in the bank.

    Even in aid agencies, there could be an interest in such a combination - or should be. Many of these agencies are beginning to focus on slum and informal settlement upgrading. But my experience is that a lot of them have inadequate understanding and sensitivity of the complexity of social issues involved, tending to think of slums as "poor and ignorant people dumps" having the same mold all over the world. IR MIGHT (depending on the quality of the training) lead to a better attitude and more specific/sensitive approach to HOW one government (the aid agency's) could assist other governments tackle their informal settlement problems. In this particular case, I think a sociology or socio-economic/planning combination would be better.

    Then there are international associations of planners, local authorities, municipalities and so on. Often they try to be focal points for inter-change of ideas and experience, and multi-lateral lobbyists for urban issues. The IR/Planning combination might be very appropriate here also. I suspect that there aren't a lot of these positions available though.

    Does that help?

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    Thank you very much for the reply.

    I intend to go for a masters in urban planning rather than a PhD. My IR program is top-notch, and heavily focused on economics. It also offers an array of courses in Int'l development, microfinance, natural resources, humanitarianism, aid, etc. With any luck, I'll be able to steer my studies in that direction, get the degree in planning, and find interesting, gainful employment when I'm finished with school in three years.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian
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    International jobs

    Mikedson, your IR sounds real good. I wish you all the best!

    You and anybody else who's interested in the international job scene should keep tabs on the web site of the Development Executive Group. It is at ...developmentex.com/index.jsp.

    there is a free individual membership that gives limited but enough info.
    You can also sign up for international briefings on the current situation in many parts of the world. Very good if you're interested but don't have time to search newspapers daily.

    Having the list of jobs also gives you the list of employers...so you can see which private companies, aid organisations, international institutions or NGOs or whatever are involved, and contact them directly.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Well.....

    Quote Originally posted by Monamogolo View post
    You may be right if you want a World Bank project position, but there are lots of possibilities for non-PhDs. And there are ways into the UN system that don't need such advanced degrees, and from which you can work your way up. For me the UN system has other drawbacks like enormous bureaucracy. I'd say that a Masters level is pretty much a must. And there are many non-government actors through whom you can find employment abroad.

    What you do need for most interesting positions is proven international experience. And how do you get that if you can't get into the field in the first place?

    One of the problems we have in our company is finding the younger professionals (30-45) who have some experience in their home countries and are WILLING to sign up, even for short term assignments, in odd ball or "dangerous" situations. There are loads of opportunities in Afghanistan, for example, for the right type of skills.

    Some aid agencies still try to restrict positions to their own nationals, but most European agencies, including the EU itself, no longer have this condition.
    From what I've heard, seen and discussed with relatives in the "BIZZ" I still don't think anything less than a PhD will get "interesting" work in the international development arena or a research position with an international aid group. Maybe some of the more mid level stuff would be open to non-PhD's but with the competition out there and the sheer number of degree's that these people have.....it continues to become more and more difficult to get these jobs.
    Skilled Adoxographer

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