1963-2018 - 55 years of Research for Social Change

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Consultant: Food systems and nutrition patterns

  • Closing date: 13 Dec 2020
  • Vacancy number: CR-001

The United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) is an autonomous research institute within the UN system that undertakes interdisciplinary research and policy analysis on the social dimensions of contemporary development issues. Through our work, we aim to ensure that social equity, inclusion and justice are central to development thinking, policy and practice.

UNRISD seeks a senior expert on the topic of food systems and nutrition patterns to collaborate on a new project entitled “From Science to Practice: Research and Knowledge to Achieve the SDGs”. The objective of the consultancy is to prepare a synthesis paper of evidence received on this topic in an open call that UNRISD has launched in collaboration with a consortium of Geneva-based institutions. Work is expected to commence in early January and the first version of the paper is to be completed by mid-February. Feedback received on the paper at a Geneva meeting in March 2021 should be reflected in a final version of the paper.

The Issue
Scientific research has a great deal to offer efforts to address pressing global challenges and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, translating that knowledge into action remains a complicated task. Research often fails to find its way into policy-making circles due to a number of technical, normative, cultural, political, institutional and financial barriers. With this in mind, a consortium of Geneva-based institutions is creating a new channel through which research and knowledge from International Geneva can amplify its impact on global policy making. We are collecting evidence from a wide variety of Geneva-based institutions on three different thematic areas which link together the various SDGs that will be reviewed at next year’s High-Level Political Forum. The theme “food systems and nutrition patterns” emphasizes the need to transition to a sustainable global food system that minimizes environmental impacts, is resilient to shocks, and ensures all people equal access to a healthy diet, now and in the future. The work under this topic will explore the linkages between SDGs 1 (no poverty), 2 (zero hunger), 5 (gender equality), 13 (climate action) and 17 (partnerships for the Goals).

Project Objectives
  • Achieving a better understanding of the state of the art of research on food systems and nutrition patterns.
  • Compiling, synthesizing and comparing policy-relevant research and knowledge from International Geneva and producing a comprehensive report accessible to policy makers.
  • Channeling findings from this process directly into policy-making processes at the HLPF and beyond.
  • Supporting efforts to achieve the SDGs with policy-relevant research.

Researcher competencies, experience and skill requirements
The ideal candidate will have proven research experience in the topic of food systems and nutrition patterns (food security, sustainable agriculture, health and nutrition, resilience) and knowledge of UN policy-making processes—in particular relating to the SDGs—with a track record of high-quality research and policy outputs related to the topic (as described below).

Under the general supervision of the UNRISD Project Manager, the Consultant will be responsible for the following:
  • Reviewing all research submitted to the project on the theme of food systems and nutrition patterns, assessing its policy relevance and potential for impact, originality, and how well it articulates and responds to the interlinkages between different dimensions of sustainable development.
  • Draft a 15-page report synthesizing the research submitted, and filter this new evidence against the state of the art, aided by further desk research where necessary, highlighting any gaps or imbalances in the evidence submitted.
  • Participate in the review process of the report, which will take place at a meeting in Geneva (most likely in March 2021), and incorporate feedback into a final draft.

The consultancy would suit someone who wishes to make a strategic contribution to the uptake of research geared towards achieving the SDGs. The selected consultant should have a broad overview of the relevant literature, policy approaches and country experiences in the area of food systems and nutrition patterns. The selected candidate would not necessarily need to be based in Geneva, but travel to Geneva for the meeting in early 2021 may be required.

  • Professionalism: Demonstrates professional competence as a researcher in the field of food systems and nutrition patterns.
  • Communication: Excellent English oral communication and writing skills. Ability to communicate effectively with different target audiences, in particular policy makers, regarding substantive issues.
  • Teamwork: Works collaboratively with colleagues to achieve organizational and project goals. Builds consensus for project objectives with colleagues.
  • Leadership: Takes intellectual leadership in substantive areas of work and demonstrates good management skills.
  • Judgement/Decision-Making: Identifies critical issues for the work of the UN on issues related to food systems and nutrition patterns; develops appropriate methods and analyses data, drawing up policy recommendations and guidelines in accordance with the norms and objectives of the United Nations.
  • Integrity: Strives to judge evidence with maximal scrutiny, avoids misleading associations, and seeks to produce outputs that are fully supported by evidence and sound methodologies.


Postgraduate degree in social sciences with a focus on food systems and nutrition patterns.

  • More than 10 years academic and professional experience in a field related to the topic of food systems and nutrition patterns.
  • A proven publication record on the topic.
  • Research/work experience in developing countries.
  • Experience in communicating with policy-making audiences.
  • Experience in the management and supervision of projects.

Fluent English with proven writing and editing skills; ability to work in other UN languages desirable.

Terms and conditions
  • Level of remuneration to be discussed with the candidate based on a proposed schedule of working days, location, travel and outputs.
  • Start date: January 2021.
  • The consultant is responsible for ensuring compliance with all relevant tax obligations, social insurance contributions, and appropriate medical and accident insurance coverage for the full duration of employment.

Application process
  • The "Cover Letter" section should include your motivation and skills. The "Statement" section should include a discussion of how you would approach the assignment.
  • The deadline for applications is 13 December 2020 (23:59 Central European Time).
  • Kindly note that, due to limited staff resources, only those candidates who are short-listed will be contacted.


Note that this is one of three parallel consultancies for this project, each on a different thematic area. View, and share, the other vacancies on:

UNRISD vacancies are posted at www.unrisd.org/vacancies. We encourage you to sign up for MyUNRISD to be informed promptly of any openings.