Finland nominated its 1000th UN Junior Professional Officer
Finland has sponsored the United Nations Junior Professional Officers (JPO) Programme since 1965, encouraging young Finnish nationals to work in UN agencies and international financial and research institutions. The newly selected Finnish JPO will be posted to work in the UN Global Pulse innovation initiative.
Of the approximately 460 Finns that the Ministry for Foreign Affairs knows to be working for the UN, more than 60 % have started their career through a JPO programme sponsored by Finland.
“The Junior Professional Officers Programme is a channel of influence and an important means for Finns to enter upon a career in the UN,” says Pasi Pöysäri, Director of the Unit for Sustainable Development and Climate Policy.
Finland nominates young professionals upon secondments that support the objectives of Finland’s development policy, including equality, quality education, fight against climate change, digitalisation or disability inclusion.
Pöysäri heads a unit that is responsible for making the preliminary assessment of JPOs’ duty stations and job descriptions. However, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs does not play any role in the final recruitment decisions, but the UN agencies select the persons that they consider the most suitable ones for the positions in question.
Well-educated, indefatigable Finns who have already travelled and possess good language skills are favoured candidates.
A JPO Programme can be a springboard for leading positions in international organisations
Kirsi Madi’s career in the service of the United Nations, which started in the 1990s when she was a JPO specialising in humanitarian work, has continued without interruption for almost 30 years.
She says that the term as a JPO sparked a burning ambition and desire to work in areas to do with development issues. Working in the field gave concrete experience of the huge impacts of the work.
After the term as a JPO, Madi has held several different UN positions. In 2019, she was offered the opportunity to return to UNICEF where she is currently Chief of Staff.
She considers that the most important qualifications in international positions are analytical skills, and capacity and skills to express one’s ideas clearly and to push things forward.
“It is important to understand what is required in work in international organisations with different people who have different opinions. It is rewarding but at the same time you must be flexible and prepared to listen to others and to change your viewpoints as necessary,” Madi says.
Candidates for JPO positions have diverse backgrounds
The JPO Programme is open for persons under 32 years of age with a Master’s degree, a minimum of two years of professional experience and good language skills.
Applicants for JPO positions may have diverse profiles, such as expertise in social and natural sciences or human resources administration. Finnish young professionals have found positions not only in countries where the working language is English but also in countries where Spanish, French, Russian, Arabic or Chinese is needed.
According to Pöysäri, Finland seeks JPO positions that offer also further employment opportunities. However, the intention is not as such to advance the career of individuals but to promote Finland's interests more widely.
Young professionals do not necessarily continue their career in an international organisation after their JPO assignment, but they have gathered unique experience when returning to Finland.
Should they later decide to apply for an international position, the previous work experience in the UN will be a valuable asset.
Sanna Lindgren, Consult
Unit for Communications on Sustainable Development and Trade (VIE-30)