7 Steps to get a job in the United Nations

What is the United Nations Volunteer Program and where can you volunteer with the United Nations?

What is the United Nations Volunteer Program?

The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme contributes to peace and development through volunteerism worldwide. We work with partners to integrate qualified, highly motivated and well supported UN Volunteers into development programming and promote the value and global recognition of volunteerism. UN Volunteers programme is administered by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) but UN Volunteers work across the whole UN system. To illustrate, in 2015 UNV deployed 6,796 UN Volunteers to 122 countries. Largest number of UN Volunteers was hosted by UNDPKO (UN Peacekeeping Operations), UNDPA (UN Department of Political Affairs), second place belongs to UNDP, third to UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency). Overall UN Volunteers were deployed to 38 different UN entities.

Since you would like to become UN volunteer, it is good to know a little history about UNV. Currently headquartered in Bonn, Germany, the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) formed in 1970 and is administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Over the years, the UNV has achieved countless milestones and has become one of the best volunteer abroad organizations in the world. A few of those milestones include:

Sending their first 35 volunteers abroad in 1971 to countries such as Chad and East Pakistan (modern-day Bangladesh).

Placement of UN volunteers in 52 developing countries by the end of 1976

Establishment of International Volunteer Day in 1985

Participating in their first peace operation in 1992 as 700 UN volunteers joined the United Nations Advance Mission in Cambodia (they assisted with electoral registration amidst a difficult post-conflict situation)

Assistance with the 1994 election in South Africa, the first in which citizens of all races could participate

Reaching 4,000 volunteers per year in 1998

Deployment of volunteers to Haiti following the devastating 2010 earthquake


UNV headquarters are in Bonn, Germany. UNV has around 150 staff members at headquarters, and over 9,400 UN Volunteers deployed in the field in 2020.

Mr Toily Kurbanov (Russian Federation) is the Executive Coordinator of UNV, and took up his appointment on 4 January 2021.

Ms Kyoko Yokosuka (Japan) is the Deputy Executive Coordinator and will be taking up her appointment in April 2021.

UNV's Office in New York (ONY) promotes volunteers and volunteerism through partnership development with Permanent Missions to the UN, UN partners headquartered in New York, civil society organizations and other NY-based partners. It monitors policy and strategy developments at the UN in New York and contributes to UN Volunteer mobilization by developing and promoting volunteer solutions within UN partner operations, projects and programmes, coordinating closely with UNV headquarters, regional offices and field units.

UNV has six Regional Offices in Amman (covering the Arab States), Bangkok (covering Asia and the Pacific), Dakar (covering West and Central Africa), Istanbul (covering Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States), Nairobi (covering East and Southern Africa) and Panama City (covering Latin America and the Caribbean). The regional offices are the first entry point for partners wishing to engage with UNV. They offer UNV services and solutions to government partners, UN entities, civil society and the private sector, and takes the lead in scoping and delivering UNV advisory services on volunteer infrastructure. They also provide oversight and strategic guidance to UNV's field units in the regions.

At the country level, UNV Field Units interact with UN entities to strategically and meaningfully integrate volunteerism into the implementation and delivery of their mandates. As part of this process, UNV works with UN entities to identify opportunities where volunteers add specific and unique value to development programmes and peacekeeping missions. The UN Partner Toolkit is the first point of entry for partners seeking information about mobilizing and managing UN Volunteers.

Where can you volunteer with the United Nations?

You can serve as a UN volunteer around the world, for today there are 130 countries in the world hosted UN Volunteers. In addition to volunteering abroad with the United Nations, you also have opportunities to volunteer in your home country and even online. You may check countries here like an example https://www.unv.org/special-calls

Additionally, 12,000 volunteers serve in remote roles across more than 185 countries each year. The UN online volunteer program, which began in 2000, has been instrumental in removing barriers to international volunteering, such as time, place, and cost.

In total, there are three types of UN volunteer locations. You can:

  1. Volunteer abroad
  2. Volunteer in your home country
  3. Volunteer online (you may see all opportunities here https://www.onlinevolunteering.org/en/opportunities )