UN Offices

Principal Legal Officer

UN Offices

Job Description

The position is located in the Division of Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea. The Principal Legal Officer reports to the Director of the Division.


Within delegated authority, the Principal Legal Officer will be responsible for the following: - Under the overall supervision of the Director, performs, supervises and is accountable for activities of the unit, within the overall framework of the programme of work of the Division, relating to: the organization and servicing of meetings of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf; the monitoring and Analysis of the practice of States regarding maritime space under their sovereignty and jurisdiction, in accordance with th United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea; the implementation of the special responsibilities of the Secretary-General relating to the deposit of charts and coordinates and due publicity; the resolution of conflicts and cooperation and liaison with the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea; the Coordination and cooperation with intergovernmental organizations, the monitoring, review and analysis of the developments on ocean affairs and the law of the sea and the reporting thereon; assistance in substantive sevicing of UN inter-governmental organs and bodies; and assistance in the programme planning, budgeting, monitoring and evaluation activities of the Division.

- Lead, supervise and carry out the activities of the unit and ensure that they are carried out in a timely fashion.

- Assist the Director in coordinating and overseeing the preparation of reports for presentation to intergovernmental bodies such as the General Assembly and its subsidiary bodies, and the Meeting of States Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

- Ensure that the outputs produced by the unit under his/her supervision maintain high-quality standards; that reports are clear, objective, based on comprehensive data. - Undertake or oversee the administrative tasks necessary for the functioning of the unit, including evalutaion of staff performance (PAS), interviews of candidates for job opening, evaluation of candidates and preparation of inputs for results-based budgeting.

- Manage, guide, develop and train staff under his/her supervision.

- Foster teamwork and communication among staff in the the unit.

- Under the Director’s overall supervision supervises the preparation and the organization of meetings, seminars, etc. on substantive-related issues.

- Participate in international, regional or national meetings related to the work of the unit and provide substantive expertise on an issue, or hold substantive and organizational discussions with representatives of other institutions.


-Professionalism: In depth knowledge of public international law with emphasis on the Law of the Sea and in particular on establishment of maritime zones and the extended continental shelf under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS); proven ability to advise senior management and other senior officials on approaches and techniques and ability to produce reports and background papers on the aforementioned subjects; ability to review and edit the work of others. Excellent drafting ability and ability to prepare and present concise written reports; ability to communicate complex concepts orally, to defend and explain complex issues with respect to key decisions and positions to staff, senior officials and members of intergovernmental bodies. Knowledge of UN policies, procedures and operations.

- 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.

- Client Orientation: Considers all those to whom services are provided to be “clients” and seeks to see things from clients’ point of view; establishes and maintains productive partnerships with clients by gaining their trust and respect; identifies clients’ needs and matches them to appropriate solutions; monitors ongoing developments inside and outside the clients’ environment to keep informed and anticipate problems; keeps clients informed of progress or setbacks in projects; meets timeline for delivery of products or services to client. .

- Leadership: Serves as a role model that other people want to follow: empowers others to translate vision into results; is proactive in developing strategies to accomplish objectives; establishes and maintains relationships with a broad range of people to understand needs and gain support; anticipates and resolves conflicts by pursuing mutually agreeable solutions; drives for change and improvements; does not accept the status quo; shows the courage to take unpopular stands. Provides leadership and takes responsibility for incorporating gender perspectives and ensuring the equal participation of women and men in all areas of work; demonstrates knowledge of strategies and commitment to the goal of gender balance in staffing.Serve as a role model that other people want to follow.

– Judgement/Decision- making: Identifies the key issues in a complex situation, and comes to the heart of the problem quickly; gathers relevant information before making a decision; considers positive and negative impacts of decisions prior to making them; takes decisions with an eye to the impact on others and on the Organization; proposes a course of action or makes a recommendation based on all available information; checks assumptions against facts; determines that the actions proposed will satisfy the expressed and underlying needs for the decision; makes tough decisions when necessary.


Advanced University Degree (Master’s or equivalent) in Law or International Relations. A combination of relevant academic qualifications and extensive experience may be accepted in lieu of the advanced degree.

Work Experience

At least 15 years of professional experience in public international law or international relations, with significant experience in law of the sea and ocean affairs related matters at the international level.

Experience in management and supervision of staff is required Experience of international meetings dealing with ocean affairs and law of the sea is desirable.

Publication and active participation in international seminars on ocean affairs and the law of the sea is desirable.


English and French are the working languages of the Secretariat. For this post, fluency in oral and written English is required. Working knowledge of French is desirable and knowledge of other official United Nations languages is an advantage.


Evaluation of qualified candidates may include an assessment exercise which may be followed by competency-based interview.

Special Notice

The United Nations Secretariat is committed to achieving 50/50 gender balance and geographical diversity in its staff. Female candidates are strongly encouraged to apply for this position.

For this position, applicants from the following Member States, which are unrepresented or underrepresented in the UN Secretariat as of 28 February 2021, are strongly encouraged to apply: Afghanistan, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahrain, Belize, Brunei Darussalam, Cabo Verde, Cambodia, China, Comoros, Cuba, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Djibouti, Dominica, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Grenada, Guinea-Bissau, Japan, Kiribati, Kuwait, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Monaco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, Norway, Oman, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Solomon Islands, South Sudan, Suriname, Timor-Leste, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, Vanuatu, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

At the United Nations, the paramount consideration in the recruitment and employment of staff is the necessity of securing the highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity, with due regard to geographic diversity. All employment decisions are made on the basis of qualifications and organizational needs. The United Nations is committed to creating a diverse and inclusive environment of mutual respect. The United Nations recruits and employs staff regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, race, religious, cultural and ethnic backgrounds or disabilities. Reasonable accommodation for applicants with disabilities may be provided to support participation in the recruitment process when requested and indicated in the application.

United Nations Considerations

According to article 101, paragraph 3, of the Charter of the United Nations, the paramount consideration in the employment of the staff is the necessity of securing the highest standards of efficiency, competence, and integrity. Candidates will not be considered for employment with the United Nations if they have committed violations of International Human Rights law, violations of international Humanitarian Law, sexual exploitation, sexual abuse, or sexual harassment, or if there are reasonable grounds to believe that they have been involved in the commission of any of these acts. The term “sexual exploitation” means any actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, differential power, or trust, for sexual purposes, including, but not limited to, profiting monetarily, socially or politically from the sexual exploitation of another. The term “sexual abuse” means the actual or threatened physical intrusion of a sexual nature, whether by force or under unequal or coercive conditions. The term “sexual harassment” means any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that might reasonably be expected or be perceived to cause offence or humiliation, when such conduct interferes with work, is made a condition of employment or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment, and when the gravity of the conduct warrants the termination of the perpetrator’s working relationship. Candidates who have committed crimes other than minor traffic offences may not be considered for employment.

Due regard will be paid to the importance of recruiting the staff on as wide a geographical basis as possible. The United Nations places no restrictions on the eligibility of men and women to participate in any capacity and under conditions of equality in its principal and subsidiary organs. The United Nations Secretariat is a non-smoking environment.

The paramount consideration in the appointment, transfer, or promotion of staff shall be the necessity of securing the highest standards of efficiency, competence, and integrity. By accepting an offer of appointment, United Nations staff members are subject to the authority of the Secretary-General and assignment by him or her to any activities or offices of the United Nations in accordance with staff regulation 1.2 (c). In this context, all internationally recruited staff members shall be required to move periodically to discharge new functions within or across Duty Stations under conditions established by the Secretary-General.

Applicants are urged to follow carefully all instructions available in the online recruitment platform, inspira. For more detailed guidance, applicants may refer to the Manual for the Applicant, which can be accessed by clicking on “Manuals” hyper-link on the upper right side of the inspira account-holder homepage.

The evaluation of applicants will be conducted on the basis of the information submitted in the application according to the evaluation criteria of the job opening and the applicable internal legislations of the United Nations including the Charter of the United Nations, resolutions of the General Assembly, the Staff Regulations and Rules, administrative issuances and guidelines. Applicants must provide complete and accurate information pertaining to their personal profile and qualifications according to the instructions provided in inspira to be considered for the current job opening. No amendment, addition, deletion, revision or modification shall be made to applications that have been submitted. Candidates under serious consideration for selection will be subject to reference checks to verify the information provided in the application.

Job openings advertised on the Careers Portal will be removed at 11:59 p.m. (New York time) on the deadline date.

No Fee


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