Associate Legal Officer (Policy), UNOPS IICA 1, Pretoria At UN High Commissioner for Refugees

Operational Context

The UNHCR Multi-Country Office (MCO) in South Africa delivers protection and assistance to refugees and other persons of concern in South Africa and countries where there is no UNHCR presence, namely Namibia, Botswana, Madagascar, Kingdoms of Lesotho and Eswatini, Seychelles, Mauritius, and the Comoros. The cumulative population of persons of concern in countries covered by MCO stands at 281,633 refugees and asylum seekers (and possibly hundreds of thousands of stateless persons).

South Africa has been known for its generous refugee legislation but is steering towards restrictive measures together with Botswana. Populations in several Southern African countries are small and focus has been on phasing down and out in Namibia and Botswana. However, with the influx of Congolese asylum seekers in the region and unresolved protection issues in Botswana, UNHCR was compelled to increase its presence and staffing in countries where emergencies or protection constraints called for UNHCR’s presence and the trend will most likely continue until the time when governments in the region are able to independently manage refugee populations, which is unlikely to happen in the near future.

In terms of refugee protection and solutions, South Africa has had progressive refugee legislation, but legislative restrictions are underway, prompted by the scale of mixed migratory flows into the country. Countries in the region are changing refugee legislation to narrow the formal asylum-space in various ways and tightening enforcement of encampment policies even with miniscule refugee populations like Botswana and Namibia. In all camps or settlement settings the setup is parallel or semi-parallel service delivery for refugees, largely financed by UNHCR, and the organisation is far from its global policy and vision of locally integrated lives and services for self-reliant refugees.

Whereas middle-income countries like South Africa, Namibia and Botswana in principle have resources to spend on protection and service delivery for PoCs, the question at hand remains their willingness to spend on refugees and asylum-seekers vis-à-vis local populations. In addition, the region comprises cash-strapped countries like the Kingdom Eswatini and Madagascar, with very limited resources to assist national populations, including refugees and asylum-seekers.

In regard to statelessness, resources and institutional capacity of governmental stakeholders will remain limited. Comprehensive birth registration and access to nationality documentation will remain major challenges in view of the overall development situation and economic constraints faced by most countries in the region. The lack of financial resources will adversely affect the availability of quantitative and qualitative data. Irregular migration is expected to remain high and thus continue to be a risk factor for statelessness among migrant children, as well as disrupted family ties of unaccompanied children (without documentation) and protracted displacement situations. Regional commitments on the SADC level (MIDSA Conclusions 2015 to 2017, SADC PF Resolution 2016, the AU Protocol on Nationality in 2018 or 2019) and globally applicable advocacy tools (SDG, ID4D, UNICEF-UNHCR Coalition, recommendations by UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies) will facilitate the work on statelessness in the region.

  • Title: Associate Legal Officer (Policy)
  • Duty Station: Pretoria, South Africa
  • Duration: One Year
  • Contract Type: (UNOPS) International-Specialist IICA 1
  • Closing date: 20 August 2021
  • Job Opening: JO 28722

The position

S/he provides functional support to the Representative and Executive Office team on legal and policy analysis, input and guidance on protection and solutions issues relevant to UNHCR MCO Operations and with regard to specific groups of persons of concern, including as concerns protection advocacy, high-level dialogues, funding appeal documents, agreements, draft legislation and protection interventions. S/he is instrumental in drafting protection guidance to staff on all protection/legal matters and accountabilities. These include: statelessness (in line with the campaign to End Statelessness by 2024), Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) commitments, age, gender, diversity (AGD) and accountability to affected populations (AAP) through community-based protection, Child protection, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) prevention and response, gender equality, disability inclusion, youth empowerment, psycho-social support and PSEA, registration, asylum/refugee status determination, resettlement, local integration, voluntary repatriation, human rights standards integration, national legislation, judicial engagement, predictable and decisive engagement in situations of internal displacement and engagement in wider mixed movement and climate change/disaster-related displacement responses. S/he supports senior management to supervise the implementation of protection standards, operational procedures and practices in protection delivery in line with international standards.

The Associate Legal Officer (Policy) is expected to coordinate quality, timely and effective legal, policy and protection guidance and responses to the needs of populations of concern in all sectors mainstream protection methodologies and integrate protection safeguards. The incumbent contributes to the design of a comprehensive protection strategy. S/he assists in the drafting of key legal and policy documents, protection guidance emanating from the Executive Office of the South Africa Multi-Country Office. To achieve this, the incumbent will need to build and maintain effective interfaces with all Units in the MCO and communities of concern, authorities, protection and assistance partners as well as a broader network of stakeholders who can contribute to enhancing legal, policy and protection.

Duties and responsibilities

All UNHCR staff members are accountable to perform their duties as reflected in their job description. They do so within their delegated authorities, in line with the regulatory framework of UNHCR which includes the UN Charter, UN Staff Regulations and Rules, UNHCR Policies and Administrative Instructions as well as relevant accountability frameworks. In addition, staff members are required to discharge their responsibilities in a manner consistent with the core, functional, cross-functional and managerial competencies and UNHCR’s core values of professionalism, integrity and respect for diversity.

  • Stay abreast of legal, policy, political, social, economic and cultural developments that have an impact on the protection environment.
  • Legal and Policy implementation guidance support, including the drafting of policy implementation guidance;
  • Support the promotion of International and National Law and applicable UN/UNHCR and IASC policy, standards and codes of conduct.
  • Support the consistent and coherent interpretation and application of legal and policy guidance through mainstreaming in all sectors in applicable operations.
  • Assist in providing comments on existing and draft legislation related to persons of concern.
  • Provide legal advice and guidance on protection issues affecting persons of concern;
  • Contribute to a the MCO protection strategy and planning process.
  • Support the coordination and leadership role of the Representative on Legal and Policy Issues, including with regard to durable solutions through voluntary repatriation, local integration and where appropriate, resettlement.
  • Participate in the organization and implementation of participatory assessments and methodologies throughout the operations management cycle.
  • Contribute to a programme of results-based advocacy through a consultative process with sectorial partners.
  • Support activities in the area of risk management related to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, fraud, case-processing, data protection, and human rights due diligence.
  • Participate in initiatives to capacitate national authorities, relevant institutions and NGOs to strengthen national protection related legislation and procedures.
  • Support protection interventions with authorities on protection issues;
  • Support evidence based submissions before Parliaments and Parliamentary Porfolio Committees

Essential minimum qualifications and professional experience required

The ideal candidate will be required to have:


Minimum undergraduate degree in the field of Law or other relevant field.

Work Experience

· Essential:

3 years relevant experience with Undergraduate degree; or 2 years relevant experience with Graduate degree; or 1 year relevant experience with Doctorate degree. Professional experience in the area of Legal advice, legal drafting, refugee protection, internal displacement, human rights or international humanitarian law. Good knowledge of International Refugee and Human Rights Law and ability to apply the relevant legal principles.

· Desirable:

Field experience, including in working directly with communities. Good IT skills including database management skills. Documentation and Legal Research skills.


· Fluency in English.

Key Competencies:

· Core Competencies:



Organizational Awareness

Teamwork & Collaboration

Commitment to Continuous Learning

Client & Result Orientation

· Managerial Competencies:

Judgement and Decision Making

· Cross-Functional Competencies:

Analytical Thinking

Innovation and Creativity

Policy Development and Research


The successful candidate will be based in Pretoria, South Africa.

How to apply

Interested candidates are requested to apply on the UNHCR career page at – by clicking on the Vacancies tab and entering job ID 28722.

The UNHCR workforce consists of many diverse nationalities, cultures, languages and opinions. UNHCR seeks to sustain and strengthen this diversity to ensure equal opportunities as well as an inclusive working environment for its entire workforce. Applications are encouraged from all qualified candidates without distinction on grounds of race, colour, sex, national origin, age, religion, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Please note that UNHCR does not charge a fee at any stage of its recruitment process (application, interview, meeting, travelling, processing, training or any other fees).

Closing Date

Please note that the closing date for this advertisement is Friday 20 August 2021.

Share this job

Contact Us

Maiduguri Borno State Nigeria

Available Jobs