Americans Making a Difference: Junior Professional Officers at UN Humanitarian Organizations

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Americans Making a Difference: Junior Professional Officers at UN Humanitarian Organizations

Americans are the world’s most generous contributors to humanitarian assistance -- not just with dollars, but with human capital. Thousands of Americans work across the globe in international humanitarian organizations, responding to crises, ensuring access to life-saving necessities, and protecting the most vulnerable populations.

Americans working within the United Nations ranks bring unique expertise, insight, and commitment. The Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) funds Junior Professional Officer (JPO) positions for qualified and passionate young Americans to work with our humanitarian partners the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). These positions provide young Americans an opportunity to expand their experience in refugee protection, refugee status determination, resettlement, and other positions.

Shahrzad Tadjbakhsh is a former JPO who now ranks among senior leadership at UNHCR as the Deputy Director of the Division of International Protection.

The hands-on nature of her work in a small regional office during her first JPO posting in Southeast Asia gave Shahrzad the opportunity to work directly on projects that would quite literally change lives. From implementing a family reunification program for refugees who fled Vietnam during the Vietnam War to influencing policy at the highest levels of the organization, Sharzhad’s career has allowed her to address the needs of some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

As far as advice for prospective JPOs, Shahrzad encourages applicants to “speak forthright about your passion” during the interview process.  A JPO position is not only a step to further your career, it is an opportunity to positively impact the lives of people in need and the policies of UNHCR, so passion is a prerequisite.

The JPO program provides a vital entry path for Americans into UNHCR, which has an extremely competitive hiring environment. It provides a positive avenue for meeting the joint needs of the United States government, which wants to see talented Americans fill positions in critical international organizations; the United Nations, which will benefit from the talent America has to offer; and young Americans, who are eager for the opportunity to pursue their passions and positively impact the lives of people in need.

Preferred candidates have backgrounds in fields related to forced migration, human rights, humanitarian assistance, immigration law, or other relevant fields, preferably with a graduate or law degree, and preferably speaks a second UN language. A familiarity with the UN system would also be helpful for candidates to the JPO program. However, qualifications vary depending on the assignment, and if you are passionate about UNHCR's humanitarian work and would like to assist in the protection and care of refugees, internally displaced persons, or stateless persons, this opportunity may be perfect for you.

You may be the next Junior Professional Officer, ten positions are open now, the application can be found here.

About the Author: Courtney Fatigato serves as an Humanitarian Affairs Intern at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva.

Editor Notes: This entry has also been published on the U.S. Department of State's Medium publication. 

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