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Turning the Page: Sarah Cook to Step Down as UNRISD Director

29 Jan 2015


Turning the Page: Sarah Cook to Step Down as UNRISD Director
After five years in Geneva, Sarah Cook has announced to staff, Board, donors and other key stakeholders that she will step down as Director of UNRISD with effect from 1 June 2015.

Sarah’s stewardship of UNRISD leaves a rich research legacy. She spearheaded the multi-country launch of the Institute’s flagship report, Combating Poverty and Inequality, which helped position UNRISD in emerging debates on the necessity of tackling inequality, and the role of social policy, in the post-2015 development agenda. She maintained a clear focus on the field of gender and development, linking academic inquiry with policy and practice. Sarah re-introduced a strong sustainable development component to the Institute’s research agenda, with UNRISD engaging actively in Rio+20, and the subsequent process of designing sustainable development goals, on the basis of our highly successful Social Dimensions of Green Economy project. There was a turn towards Asia during Sarah’s time here, including several projects with partners in China, as well as close engagement with the human rights agenda and its relationship with social protection. An indefatigable networker committed to raising UNRISD’s profile, Sarah strongly advocated greater emphasis on communications and outreach, with visible and recognized results.

These successes were achieved in the face of serious challenges to UNRISD’s status, coming from the external financial environment, as well as organizational changes proposed by the UN secretariat. UNRISD has emerged from this period of change with a strong vision of our future research agenda, and the renewed commitment of our staff, Board, key donors and other stakeholders to consolidate the institutional foundations required to deliver on that agenda.

Sarah will be moving on to take up the director’s chair at the UNICEF Office of Research, Innocenti.

The formal recruitment process to fill the director position at UNRISD will be initiated as soon as possible. A brief overview of UNRISD, and of the director profile sought, follow.

UNRISD Director Profile

One of the world’s leading think tanks on social issues, UNRISD is an autonomous, multidisciplinary research organization which is funded by voluntary contributions. Located in Geneva, the Institute has a core staff of around 25 people. Working through its global network of partners, it generates evidence, frames debates and helps to shape social development policies and practices at global, national and local levels, grounded in the United Nations values of equity, justice and rights for all.

The director reports to the Board of UNRISD, which meets annually and provides oversight and guidance on the agenda of the Institute and its finances. On behalf of the Board, the director makes a biennial report to the Commission for Social Development in New York. UNRISD is supported in its regular administrative functions by the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG).

The director’s position offers an exciting opportunity to initiate global research programmes, influence international policy dialogue, and work with government and civil society organizations to realize shared development goals. The ideal candidate will have leadership experience at a national or international level in research or policy organizations, and be a successful fundraiser with proven capacity to secure an institution’s financial stability. S/he will have a proven record of research excellence, be sympathetic to interdisciplinary research, capable of motivating an international team of researchers, and committed to ensuring the quality and policy relevance of the Institute’s research outputs. S/he will have strong international networks in the development research community and among donors, a strong record of fundraising at institutional and research programme levels, and demonstrated capacity to build and strengthen partnerships among UN and international agencies, and development research and civil society organizations. S/he will be able to foster collaboration and teamwork within the Institute, and will be committed to the values of UNRISD. Familiarity with the UN system is a major advantage.