United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

Borderlands Specialist Researcher

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

Job Description

  Challenges related to sustainable development involving socioeconomic development, peace and security and Climate Change are severe in West Africa, but this is particularly true in the borderlands, where scarcity of resources, extreme poverty and environmental stress trigger conflict and violence. Consequently, Africa’s borderland regions have attracted international attention in recent years due to fresh waves of conflict linked to violent extremist organizations including Boko Haram and Al Shabab as well as ongoing crises in the Great Lakes, the Horn of Africa and the Sahel. These regions have been exposed to multiple challenges, including violent conflict, climate change, persistent poverty, marginalization, and poor governance. The challenges of borderlands can be better understood through a regional and cross-border perspective, and the case for approaches to development programming and planning in Africa that are more explicitly cognizant of dynamics at a regional level is becoming critical. These ‘complex conflict clusters’ and the large movements of people across borders highlight not only the security risk of instability, but also the impacts of the developmental deficit in these regions.

Additionally, development partners face constraints in responding to sub-regional and cross-border issues and dynamics, often being closely tied to developing country government partnerships. UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Frameworks also take national development planning frameworks as their point of departure, and, as a result, are geographically bound to state borders. It is however increasingly agreed that many challenges facing Governments require a sub-regional and cross-border approach.

In response to this, UNDP has developed the Africa Borderlands Centre. The Centre is related to the UNDP Regional Programme for Africa (RPA) 2018-2021, a flagship programme that responds to challenges and opportunities facing the African continent and to priorities and aspirations of Africa as articulated by the African Union (AU) and sub-regional bodies. The team is based out of UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa’s (RBA) Thematic Hub in Nairobi, Kenya. The Centre has been established as a thought leader, delivering cutting edge data and Analysis on borderland policy and programming.

The Centre aims to produce high-quality, original research on African Borderlands, relating to key topics and regions identified in its programme document. A multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral approach will be applied in research, which will aim to directly inform programming and policy interventions. The research work streams will be multi-faceted and will be conducted at different scales and on different timelines. One component is to produce a series of ‘Borderland Spotlight Briefings’, targeting specific borderland issues and making use of specialist qualitative researchers to produce up-to-date analysis of events and political processes in selected border regions.

Duties and Responsibilities

UNDP is seeking the services of a specialist researcher to produce two high quality products on the following subject area: “Guinea-Bissau cross-border illicit economy with Guinea-Conakry and Senegal.” These products consist of: firstly,  an analytical report for internal UN consumption; secondly, a high-quality, data rich, 10-page research and policy spotlight brief for public dissemination on the same subject area.

These two products will combine the priority African Borderlands Centre issues of peace and stability, in the context of the West Africa Region and Guinea-Bissau in particular.  The social situation of Guinea-Bissau population, 33% extremely poor and 69% poor, is a determining factor for the outbreak of conflicts, justifying its classification as a fragile state, recognized in 2006 by the national authorities, makes the country vulnerable to organized crime.

In terms of corruption, the country's performance remains very weak, returning to the rate of 16% in 2016 against 17% in 2017. The main crimes underlying money laundering reported by the country in 2018 comprise drug trafficking, corruption, tax fraud, fraud and human trafficking. As reported in recent years, the country has been used as a transit route for cocaine to Europe, coming from Latin America. In addition, the country is indicated as being of origin for children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. The government's fiscal operations are characterized by a lack of transparency, of predictability, of budgeting control, collusion among government and key personnel, and of weak external controls over public spending. High-ranking officials in the country have accumulated “unprecedented wealth and influence” and enjoy a high degree of impunity.

Borders used to be points of opportunity for trade, social connections and building better bilateral relations now these frontiers are often perceived by regional governments as places of vulnerability and threat.

The majority of the countries in the region have border projects most of them included as components of national-level reform programmes in the areas of security sector stabilisation (SSS) aimed at ensuring the basic operational capacity of security forces and safety of citizens, and security sector reform (SSR), which involves improving the effectiveness and popular accountability of law enforcement but that is not the case of Guinea-Bissau where national guard, public order police, judicial police, customs officers and military all have a presence in border areas, yet they are still considered the most porous borders in the region.

The challenge for governments and donors is to conceptualize and Design frontier programmes that go beyond buttressing security capacity alone, and instead contribute to broader, conflict-sensitive stabilization incorporating borderland community needs for cross-border mobility and commerce, pluralist security provision and the need for cross-border cooperation.

In this context, the internal analytical report, complemented by the research and policy brief, will aim to understand and outline the dynamics of the illicit economy between the borders of Guinea-Bissau with Guinea-Conakry and Senegal, and specifically the border areas of the region of Gabu at the border with Guinea-Conakry and the region of Cacheu at the border with Senegal. The focus will fall in particular on the current flows and impacts of illegal logging, corruption and drug trafficking on the communities, and will look for entry points for developmental programmes. Pending further consultations, the following sub-headings will form the basis of the analysis.

1. Review existing materials, notably relevant documents (strategy, plans, reports, studies/assessments, academic papers) on the impact of illicit economy in borderlands communities and present lessons learned and best practices from it, and conduct consultations with borderlands communities, complemented by up-to-date desk-based research, on the following key issues:
  • Active border crossing points
  • Flows of illegal logging and drug trafficking
  • Nature and prevalence of corruption among public officials
  • Link between taxes, fees and corruption
  • The degree of Coordination and/or dialogue between national governments, local authorities, law enforcement agencies and traditional power structures
2. Map and provide an initial assessment of the national dynamics of coordination between authorities and their respective mandates.

3. Report on the impact of Guinea-Conakry and Senegal´s security approaches.

4. Provide policy recommendations for government and other stakeholders.This should include implications and entry points for UNDP programming. It will also include an integrated and holistic policy and programming strategy to address the impact of illicit economy in borderlands communities by focusing on issues such as cross-border illegal logging, corruption and drug trafficking.

Target audience(s): UNDP Guinea-Bissau and other country offices (COs), Guinea-Conakry and Senegal in particular, UN agencies, PBF, regional organizations like ECOWAS, AUBP, donors and specialist policy makers.

The UNDP in Guinea-Bissau in a key government’s partner in the promotion of good governance and the rule of law, including in the fight against transnational organized crime. The organization is currently implementing two projects related to the fight against drug trafficking and the impact of the illicit economy through the creation of a civil society observatory. This research aims to feed these ongoing efforts and help laying out elements that could feed programming activities.

This consultancy is carried out in collaboration with the UNDP Africa Borderlands Centre, an initiative that aims at adding value to country offices (COs) and partner governments in their engagement with borderland regions. High-quality research is an essential component of the Centre’s agenda, and UNDP is looking for a technical specialist to produce one research and policy briefing, part of a ‘Spotlight Briefing Series’ that analyze the above mentioned priority issue in the selected border region. The scope of the work is as follows: Phase 1. Research and Mapping (3-4 weeks)
  1. Initial briefing with UNDP Guinea-Bissau and African Borderlands Centre: consultant is briefed on the specific research needs of the CO and the Centre and on details from the Centre’s key founding documents. This ensures that research is conducted in line with stated aims of the project.
  2. The CO team introduce the specialist to other experts and stakeholders currently working on the DCTOC and illicit economy in Guinea-Bissau. This will include UNDP representatives, who will accompany the research and writing process, support the dialogue and consultations with stakeholders, and will review and comment the draft, as well as other experts of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime and UNODC, which are currently partnering with the UNDP on the subject area.
  3. Initial research: The specialist begins research and drafts a 7-10 page deliverable. This should be an information dense package on the specific topic that draws on their personal expertise, desk-based research, and on their own private knowledge networks in borderlands.
  4. The CO Governance Unit and Centre’s research team gather additional materials on the research topics and provide these to specialists over the course of their work.
Phase 2. Consultations (2 weeks)
  1. Consultations with local communities are organized in the border regions with Guinea-Conakry and with Senegal, and specifically the border areas of the region of Gabu at the border with Guinea-Conakry and the region of Cacheu at the border with Senegal. The CO will support the consultant in the identification and contact of relevant stakeholders.
  2. A mid-term progress update is organized with the CO and the ABC research team.
Phase 3. Review and Publication (3-4 weeks)
  1. Draft internal analysis is reviewed internally by the CO, the Borderlands Centre and other relevant UNDP experts, and externally via academic/policy networks and other stakeholders like the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime. Each document is reviewed by numerous experts, with the purpose of adding detail.
  2. Revisions are undertaken by researcher, as required.
  3. Draft spotlight briefing is reviewed internally by the CO and the Centre and other relevant experts, like experts at the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime and UNODC.
  4. Revisions are undertaken by researcher, as required.
  5. Final drafts submitted by researcher. Reviewed by the CO governance unit, the ABC research team and submitted to CTA Borderlands.
  6. Completed drafts are proofread. Communications Officer formats spotlight brief for dissemination.
Spotlight brief is disseminated internally at UNDP and externally via twitter, mailing lists and other means. The document is posted on UNDP CO site, accompanied by a short article written by UNDP CO in collaboration with ABC.

Deliverables: Deliverable (1): a high-quality, in-depth, data rich analysis for internal UN consumption on the following subject area “Guinea-Bissau cross-border illicit economy with Guinea-Conakry and Senegal”.

Deliverable (2): a high-quality, policy orientated, data rich, 10-page spotlight brief for public dissemination on the following subject area: “Guinea-Bissau cross-border illicit economy with Guinea-Conakry and Senegal”.

The research and writing process will be iterative, in partnership with the Guinea-Bissau Country Office and Africa Borderlands Centre’s research team, with whom the specialist will be expected to maintain in close contact. The consultant will be expected to participate in consultations with stakeholders, including dialogues with communities and other experts like at the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime and UNODC.

Approx. breakdown 10 days – Consultations 11 days – Research 12 days – Writing 7 days – Finalization  and Review 40 days total


PROFESSIONALISM: Sound knowledge of and exposure to a range of Development Assistance issues, including on development programmes design and management for borderland areas; is conscientious and efficient in meeting commitments, observing deadlines and achieving results; shows pride in work and in achievements; demonstrates professional competence and mastery of subject matter; is motivated by professional rather than personal concerns; shows persistence when faced with difficult problems or challenges; remains calm in stressful situations; takes responsibility for incorporating gender perspectives and ensuring the equal participation of women and men in all areas of work.

COMMUNICATION: Speaks and writes clearly and effectively; listens to others, correctly interprets messages from others and responds appropriately; asks questions to clarify and exhibits interest in having two-way communication; tailors language, tone, style and format to match audience; demonstrates openness in sharing information and keeping people informed.

PLANNING & ORGANIZING: Develops clear goals that are consistent with agreed strategies; identifies priority activities and assignments; adjusts priorities as required; allocates appropriate amount of time and resources for completing work; foresees risks and allows for contingencies when planning; monitors and adjusts plans and actions as necessary; uses time efficiently.

TEAMWORK: Works collaboratively with colleagues to achieve organizational goals; solicits input by genuinely valuing others' ideas and expertise; is willing to learn from others; places team agenda before personal agenda; supports and acts in accordance with final group decision, even when such decisions may not entirely reflect own position; shares credit for team accomplishments and accepts joint responsibility for team shortcomings.

Required Skills and Experience

  • Advanced University degree in Development Studies, Geography, Political Science, Sociology or other related fields;
  • At least 5 years of professional/academic research experience in development programmes design and management. Specialization on Guinea-Bissau/Guinea-Conakry/ Senegal borders preferred.
  • Prior professional experience with International Organizations in multi-cultural settings and multi-stakeholder processes, preferably in the region;
  • Experience in programme design for international development and Results-based Management;
  • Proficiency in English and Portuguese, and computer literacy.
Knowledge of Creole and/or Fula languages is an advantage
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