Presentation of the JPO Programme

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The Junior Professional Officer (JPO) Programme provides young professionals pursuing a career in development with hands-on experience in multi-lateral technical co-operation.

The JPO Programme is administered by the JPO Service Centre (JPOSC) for the following organizations:

  • United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and its affiliated funds/programmes:

      • United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF);

      • United Nations Development Operations Coordination Office (UNDOCO);

      • United Nations Volunteers (UNV);

  • United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women);

  • Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS);

  • United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA);

  • United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO)*;

  • United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR)*;

  • United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS);

  • United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA);

  • United Nations System Staff College (UNSSC);

  • United Nations University (UNU);

  • Universal Postal Union (UPU);

  • World Health Organization (WHO).

* On occasional cases.


As of 1st August 2014, 245 JPOs are participating in the Programme with 54% of them directly working with UNDP.

JPOs are an important and valuable workforce for the participating organizations, as they represent depending on the organization 10-13% of their professional staff.

JPOs are sponsored by their respective governments.

The following donor governments currently sponsor JPOs administered by the UNDP JPO Service Centre:

The following donor governments have sponsored JPO positions in the past, but are currently inactive:

  •   Canada
  •   Iceland
  •   Ireland
  •   Liechtenstein
  •   Monaco
  •   Portugal
  •   Saudi Arabia
  •   United Arab Emirates

In very limited circumstances, a JPO Programme-participating government may also sponsor a small number of developing country nationals.

JPOs serve primarily in one of the country offices of the participating organizations in the developing countries. Under the supervision of a senior staff member, JPOs work with international and national staff and are involved in the identification, design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the UN organizations-supported programmes. Purposes of assignments vary and may have a country-specific, regional, sector-based or thematic focus. The UN organizations participating in the Programme make every effort to match individual's qualifications and interests with the requirements of the country office.


Candidates for the JPO Programme are selected on a highly competitive basis. The qualifications below are required for consideration:

  • Usually be under 32 years of age;

  • Academic qualifications: Master's degree (or equivalent) in a development-related discipline;

  • A minimum of two years of paid working experience in a relevant field, preferably in a developing country;

  • Language skills: written and spoken proficiency in at least two of the three working languages used by UNDP: English, French and Spanish. Fluency in Arabic, Russian or Portuguese is an asset;

  • Excellent information technology skills, including word-processing, database applications, presentation software and Internet;

  • Evidence of ability to think strategically; to express ideas clearly; to work independently and in teams; to demonstrate a sense of self-assuredness combined with cultural and gender sensitivity;

  • A strong commitment to development; an interest in adapting to varied physical and professional environments; and a desire to work with people with different language, national and cultural backgrounds;

  • Respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter and the participating UN organizations Mission Statements.

For more information on eligibility criteria, please consult How to become a JPO?

Training and learning

Training is a key component of the JPO Programme. In addition to the on-the-job guidance and training, the JPO Programme provides the following training/learning opportunities:

  • UNDP Programme Policy and Operations Course. This two and one half week training course is held at Headquarters, New York, and designed for JPOs with three to six months experience in their respective assignment. The curriculum focuses on strategic, macro-level issues, UN/UNDP policies and development trends, including individual meetings with key counterparts in relevant areas of their work.

  • Other participating organizations organise similar trainings for their JPOs, in New York, Geneva or Vienna.

  • Annual duty-related travel and training (allocated by the sponsoring government) for work-related activities, such as participation in seminars, workshops, round-table discussions at national, regional, sub-regional and/or international level.

To know more, please consult our Training and learning page.


JPOs are offered one year fixed term contracts which are normally renewed for a second year (two years being the usual length of assignment), subject to satisfactory performance. In exceptional circumstances, several donors sponsor assignments of up to four years. Salaries correspond with those of entry-level UN professional staff (P1 - P2).

For more information, please consult our FAQ page.

Outcomes for the stakeholders

The overall goal of the JPO Programme is to enhance the development and aid coordination work of UNDP Country Offices and other UN partner organizations.

The JPO Programme aims at meeting the following objectives:

  • for recipient countries, the Programme represents a continuous flow of technical cooperation personnel from various donors and provides room for privileged relationships with the donors, because of the continuity and history of their programmes. It also provides opportunities for national counterpart colleagues and beneficiaries to experience cross-cultural relationships in many specialised areas of professional work;

  • for donors, it represents another form of development aid through the United Nations System, especially targeted at benefiting the Least Developed Countries. It also provides vast opportunities for on-the-job training in multilateral technical assistance for their nationals and enables donors to contribute multilateral technical cooperation personnel to developing countries where they have no official representation. It can support as well specific goals of the donor in promoting and advancing priority areas in priority countries;

  • for the participating organizations and Programmes/Funds, the JPO Programme represents a significant window for additional contribution from some donors. It serves to augment professional staffing capacity and gives Country Offices immediate access to human resources with recognised talent, up-to-date general or specialised knowledge and academic credentials. It also allows the organizations to discharge more effectively their increased and more complex responsibilities;

  • for the JPOs themselves, it offers possibilities for participation in the developmental activities of the United Nations System as well as immediate exposure to the development processes and interaction in developing countries. It enables them to obtain work experience in developing countries and offers consideration for a career in the development field.

More generally, the JPO Programme contributes also to the promotion of cultural exchanges and a better understanding of diverse cultures and societies, while increasing the pool of "internationalists" who learn the complexities of international matters for the vantage of the less rich countries.

In September 2000, the participants of the Millennium Summit have agreed upon a set of development targets to halve extreme poverty by 2015. Through their expertise and commitment to the UN organizations' programmes of action, and thanks to the support of the donors, the Junior Professional Officers contribute undoubtedly to the achievement of the Millennium Declaration Targets.

The JPO Service Centre

The JPO Service Centre is an outpost of the UNDP's Office of Human Resources, which is part of the Bureau of Management. The JPO Service Centre was relocated to Copenhagen in July 2001.

The JPO Service Centre is at the hub of the UNDP and other organizations' JPO Programmes. It acts as the focal point with donors on day-to-day human resources matters, including JPO recruitment, selection, placement and reassignment as well as on a variety of financial and administrative issues. The JPOSC works closely in these areas with the UNDP regional bureaux and managers of other participating organizations and funds, providing advice and developing new tools to improve the JPO Programme.

The JPO recruitment is an annual exercise. It is based on the financial cycle of the donors, which for most of them follows the calendar year. Decisions on sponsorship are made at the beginning of each year and the number of JPOs selected will vary according to the donors' financial resources allocated to overseas development and to their development priorities.

In accordance with the JPO Programme policy, JPOs are placed in country offices in response to specific requirements and are not recruited for established job vacancies. JPO assignments are not filled on a "replacement" basis and are not considered an entitlement.


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