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Finland nominated its 1000th UN Junior Professional Officer

Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Publication date 5.8.2021 16.23 | Published in English on 5.8.2021 at 16.30
News item

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.

Emma Honkala
Emma Honkala, 30, graduated Master of Science in Global Health. She will first work at the UN Global Pulse Headquarters in New York and transfer to the Pulse Lab Kampala in Uganda for the second year of assignment. The innovation initiative is a programme under the administration of the UN Secretary-General, promoting the use of data and artificial intelligence for development, humanitarian activities and peacemaking. UN Global Pulse Finland, which joined the UN Global Pulse Network in 2020, specialises in foresight and innovation. Photo: Janne Hirvasvuopio

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.


Organisations that have recruited Finnish JPOs the most:  NEP 32, FPA 34, WHO 43, WFP 48, UNICEF 60, UNHCR 60, UNESCO 64, ILO 76, FAO 115, UNDP 129.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) have recruited Finns the most through the JPO Programme. The graph contains 10 UN organisations/agencies that have recruited Finnish young professionals the most through the JPO Programme. (Source: Ministry for Foreign Affairs)

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.


Continents where Finnish UN JPOs are working: Africa 31%, Asia 25%, Europe 23%, North America 14%, South America 5%, Oceania 1%
The majority of Finnish JPOs work in Africa, Asia or Europe. The graphic presentation shows the proportions in relation to all selected Finnish JPOs. (Source: Ministry for Foreign Affairs)


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)

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