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Technical Advisor – Environmental [Senior Spatial Planning Expert, Marine and Terrestrial]

Home Based - May require travel (Home Based)

  • Organization: UNOPS - United Nations Office for Project Services
  • Location: Home Based - May require travel (Home Based)
  • Grade: IICA-3, International Individual Contractors Agreement - Mid level
  • Occupational Groups:
    • Operations and Administrations
    • Maritime
    • Project and Programme Management
    • Environment
    • Sustainable use of oceans, seas and marine resources
  • Closing Date: 2021-09-23

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Background Information - Job-specific

UNOPS supports partners to build a better future by providing services that increase the efficiency, effectiveness and sustainability of peace building, humanitarian and development projects.  Mandated as a central resource of the United Nations, UNOPS provides sustainable project management, procurement and infrastructure services to a wide range of governments, donors and United Nations organizations.

The New York Service Cluster (NYSC) supports the United Nations Secretariat, as well as other New York-based United Nations organizations, bilateral and multilateral partners in the delivery of UNOPS mandate in project management, infrastructure management, and procurement management. The Sustainable Development Cluster (SDC) supports diverse partners with their peacebuilding, humanitarian and development operations. It was formed by combining the following portfolios: Grants Management Services (GMS), UN Technology Support Services (UNTSS), Development and Special Initiatives Portfolio (DSIP) It provides Services to partners' programmes that are designed, structured, and managed with a global perspective and primarily serving partners that are headquartered in New York.  SDC has a footprint of approximately 125 countries.

UNOPS has signed an agreement with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to implement the project activities for the Global Programme on Nature for Development.

The Global Programme on Nature for Development brings together three different initiatives – the Equator Initiative, Learning for Nature, and the National Biodiversity Initiative under one program in order to identify, foster, showcase and celebrate nature-based solutions that help achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at local, national, and international levels. The work of the Global Programme on Nature for Development contributes to UNDP's Strategic Plan 2018-2021 by charting sustainable development pathways through the conservation, restoration and sustainable management of biodiversity and ecosystems; and by promoting inclusive and effective democratic governance in the area of natural resources. 

The Equator Initiative brings together the United Nations, governments, civil society, businesses and grassroots organizations to recognize and advance indigenous and local sustainable development solutions for people, nature, and resilient communities. The Equator Initiative seeks to recognize the success of local and indigenous initiatives; create opportunities and platforms to share knowledge and good practice; inform policy to foster an enabling environment for local and indigenous community action; and develop the capacity of indigenous peoples and local communities to scale-up their impact.

The Equator Initiative is built upon three equally important pillars:

-         The Equator Prize is awarded biennially to recognize and advance local sustainable development solutions for people, nature, and resilient communities. As local and indigenous groups across the world chart a path towards sustainable development, the Equator Prize shines a spotlight on their efforts by honoring them on an international stage.

-          Equator Dialogues are an ongoing series of community-driven meetings and exchanges, held in conjunction with related international forums. Equator Dialogues provide opportunities for people to share experiences, develop capacities, and influence policy.

-          Equator Knowledge is a research, documentation, and learning program focused on local best practice in sustainable development. The Equator Initiative works with partners to identify, document, and analyze the success factors of local best practice, and to catalyze ongoing peer-to-peer learning, knowledge exchange and replication of best practice.

The National Biodiversity Initiative supports countries to manage their ecosystems and biodiversity in order to improve national planning and governance of biodiversity, ecosystems, and development, and to promote resilience for sustainable development. The National Biodiversity Initiative works in three project areas: National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs) Support, National Reporting, and Capacity Building. The use of spatial data for spatial planning is a cross-cutting theme across these project areas, including work through our flagship platform UN Biodiversity Lab, created in partnership with UN Environment and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Knowledge Sharing is a main goal of the Equator Initiative, Learning for Nature and the National Biodiversity Initiative. The Equator Initiative has a large series of research papers, books, and other publications focusing on local approaches to poverty reduction and conservation, informed by community-based initiatives.180 case studies in over 30 languages have documented the Equator Prize winners’ innovative practices that deliver the win-win-win solutions that ensure social, economic, and environmental sustainability. The National Biodiversity Initiative share knowledge on the role of spatial data in biodiversity planning, policymaking, and reporting through blogs, case studies, and story maps.

Learning for Nature is a capacity-building offer provided by the Global Programme on Nature for Development, cutting across the three areas of work. This program connects biodiversity policymakers, change-makers, and on-the-ground subject matter experts to facilitate the delivery of the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Aichi Biodiversity Targets and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Access to the global multi-stakeholder networks mobilized by the Equator Initiative, Learning for Nature, and the National Biodiversity Initiative allows Learning for Nature to circulate knowledge while promoting best practices. Building on our learnings on the ground, Learning for Nature seeks synergies, build linkages, and engage thousands of course participants through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), webinars, self-paced e-learning modules, and private training courses.

For further information please go to:,

This is a position to support a project which UNOPS is implementing for the United Nations Development Programme. The incumbent of this position will be personnel of UNOPS under its full responsibility.

Functional Responsibilities

UNOPS is seeking the support of a Technical Advisor – Environmental [Senior Spatial Planning Expert, Marine and Terrestrial]. The incumbent will support the Global Programme on Nature for Development’s work to enable governments to use spatial data in their terrestrial and marine conservation plans and monitoring. They will support the project science team, including the Lead Scientist, Spatial Planner, and Spatial Data Analyst, by working with the world’s best scientists and governments to develop approaches to use spatial data to identify where nature-based actions to protect, manage, or restore ‘essential life support areas’ (ELSAs) can deliver efficiently across national priorities for biodiversity, climate, and sustainable development. The ELSA concept will be used to support governments in their commitments to the Convention on Biological Diversity, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Under the supervision of the Senior Technical Manager, duties and responsibilities include:

Lead Marine ELSA Project

Proof of Concept

  • With guidance from the Lead Scientist for ELSA, conceptualize the methods for a marine ELSA proof of concept by adapting the terrestrial ELSA methodology to help policymakers to identify marine ELSAs that conserve critical biodiversity and provide humans with essential ecosystem services, in collaboration with UNDP and select scientific advisors.
  • Develop an automated approach to map marine ELSAs for any country globally, including recommending a global data stack, criteria for zoning, and weighting based on international targets for marine nature and ecosystem services. 
  • Design, test, and iterate the marine proof of concept on a per-country basis based on national policy priorities
  • Together with stakeholders including UNDP experts and government teams across several departments, identify and utilize key global and national spatial datasets that account for the explicit multidimensionality of marine systems to: (1) address marine policy priorities on biodiversity and ecosystem services; (2)  identify zoning for nature-based actions in the marine realm such as protect, manage, and restore.
  • Based on work with stakeholders in pilot countries, develop a policy document / manual to establish rules and process for more countries during an expected additional uptake and scaling of the marine ELSA process.
  • Provide strategic guidance on how to efficiently scale up to more countries during an expected additional uptake of the marine ELSA process.
  • Provide guidance to the spatial planner and spatial data analyst on the processing of marine data for the ELSA analysis.
  • Co-create national marine ELSA map with national teams through repeat iterations.
  • Support the Nature for Development team to document successful use cases, including the production of maps and analysis.

Capacity Building

  • Present fundamentals of the marine ELSA approach to pilot countries in virtual and/or in person workshops.
  • Lead capacity building and/or training with pilot countries for questions on mapping marine ELSAs.
Support to Terrestrial ELSA Project
  • Determine and curate relevant national and global level spatial data, as available, on biodiversity, climate change, and sustainable development, such as: biodiversity (e.g., species, Key Biodiversity Areas, Protected Areas, ecoregions), ecosystem services (e.g., aboveground biomass and below ground carbon), agricultural potential (preferably for key crops in pilot), water (supply or demand), erosion control, desertification, and land zoning.
  • Support the Spatial Planner and Spatial Data Analyst with unpacking of data from countries, including additional useful layers to geopackage, ensuring the initial processing of layers, and cleaning up the data sheet.
  • Advise the Lead Scientist for Essential Life Support Areas in developing integrated datasets from raw spatial data and provide data summaries from existing datasets
  • Advise on the creation of ELSA collections in countries’ private workspaces on the new UN Biodiversity Lab and upload data for old and new countries.
  • Support the Spatial Planner in maintaining an inventory of current data that is available in the UN Biodiversity Lab platform, determine how frequently each dataset needs to be updated, and develop (with the guidance of the Spatial Planner) and implement a timeline for data updates.
  • Support the Spatial Planner in gathering, processing and uploading datasets, or correct data access parameters and settings into the UN Biodiversity Lab platform, including correct available metadata.


  • Attend regular meetings with the project core team and pilot countries to discuss project progress.

Education/Experience/Language requirements

  • PhD degree preferably in geography, conservation sciences, environmental management/sciences, geo-information science, remote sensing / earth observations, and/or other closely related field is required.
  • A Master’s degree in the above-mentioned field can be accepted in lieu of the PhD degree.

Work Experience

  • At least seven (7) years experience using spatial data/Geographic Information Systems (GIS)/remote sensing for biodiversity conservation is required. 
  • Experience with GIS and spatial database software, including, ArcGIS, QGIS, PostgresSQL/PostGIS, R and R- shiny, GDAL/OGR, and/or Google Earth Engine is required. 
  • Experience working on projects using Systematic Conservation Planning, and familiarity using softwares such as Marxan or prioritizr is required.
Desired Experience (The following experience is optional. Candidates who do not have it are welcome to apply):
  • Experience working with international institutions, civil society organizations or national, regional or local governmental authorities on biodiversity, conservation, and/or sustainable development is an advantage.


  • Excellent oral and written communication skills in English are required.
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills in Spanish is an advantage.


Develops and implements sustainable business strategies, thinks long term and externally in order to positively shape the organization. Anticipates and perceives the impact and implications of future decisions and activities on other parts of the organization.(for levels IICA-2, IICA-3, LICA Specialist- 10, LICA Specialist-11, NOC, NOD, P3, P4 and above)
Treats all individuals with respect; responds sensitively to differences and encourages others to do the same. Upholds organizational and ethical norms. Maintains high standards of trustworthiness. Role model for diversity and inclusion.
Acts as a positive role model contributing to the team spirit. Collaborates and supports the development of others. For people managers only: Acts as positive leadership role model, motivates, directs and inspires others to succeed, utilizing appropriate leadership styles.
Demonstrates understanding of the impact of own role on all partners and always puts the end beneficiary first. Builds and maintains strong external relationships and is a competent partner for others (if relevant to the role).
Efficiently establishes an appropriate course of action for self and/or others to accomplish a goal. Actions lead to total task accomplishment through concern for quality in all areas. Sees opportunities and takes the initiative to act on them. Understands that responsible use of resources maximizes our impact on our beneficiaries.
Open to change and flexible in a fast paced environment. Effectively adapts own approach to suit changing circumstances or requirements. Reflects on experiences and modifies own behavior. Performance is consistent, even under pressure. Always pursues continuous improvements.
Evaluates data and courses of action to reach logical, pragmatic decisions. Takes an unbiased, rational approach with calculated risks. Applies innovation and creativity to problem-solving.
Expresses ideas or facts in a clear, concise and open manner. Communication indicates a consideration for the feelings and needs of others. Actively listens and proactively shares knowledge. Handles conflict effectively, by overcoming differences of opinion and finding common ground.

Contract type, level and duration

Contract type: Individual Contractor Agreement  - ICA retainer modality. A retainer contract is issued for a period of time during which the services of the individual contractor are required intermittently. The individual contractor agreement on retainer basis will specify a “unit price” per day worked. For budgetary purposes, a monetary cap will be determined when the contract is awarded and issued. Please note that the retainer contract will not provide for a minimum, and payment will be made only after completion of work Contract level: IICA-3/ICSC-11
Contract duration: 80 days (September 2021-March 2022), with possibility of extension, subject to satisfactory performance, availability of funds and necessity of services

For more details about the ICA contractual modality, please follow this link: 

Additional Considerations

  • Please note that the closing date is midnight Copenhagen time
  • Applications received after the closing date will not be considered.
  • Only those candidates that are short-listed for interviews will be notified.
  • Qualified female candidates are strongly encouraged to apply.
  • UNOPS seeks to reasonably accommodate candidates with special needs, upon request.
  • Work life harmonization - UNOPS values its people and recognizes the importance of balancing professional and personal demands. We have a progressive policy on work-life harmonization and offer several flexible working options. This policy applies to UNOPS personnel on all contract types
  • For staff positions only, UNOPS reserves the right to appoint a candidate at a lower level than the advertised level of the post
  • For retainer contracts, you must complete a few Mandatory Courses (around 4 hours) in your own time, before providing services to UNOPS.
  • The incumbent is responsible to abide by security policies, administrative instructions, plans and procedures of the UN Security Management System and that of UNOPS.  

It is the policy of UNOPS to conduct background checks on all potential recruits/interns. Recruitment/internship in UNOPS is contingent on the results of such checks.

We do our best to provide you the most accurate info, but closing dates may be wrong on our site. Please check on the recruiting organization's page for the exact info. Candidates are responsible for complying with deadlines and are encouraged to submit applications well ahead.
Before applying, please make sure that you have read the requirements for the position and that you qualify.
Applications from non-qualifying applicants will most likely be discarded by the recruiting manager.

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