Senior Legal Officer
World Health Organization (WHO)
HQ/LEG Office of the Legal Counsel DGO
Close on 6 Oct 2020
Location: Geneva (Switzerland)
Grade: P5, Chief and Senior Professional
Occupations: Legal Affairs
H Hardship
Apply Now
Added 1 week ago
Job Description


To provide independent, authoritative and practical legal advice and legal services to enable the Organization to implement its mission of global public health consistently with its mandate and to protect the Organization's resources, reputation, integrity and its responsibility to its Member States. To provide legal input, during the planning and implementation of WHO's activities , so as to facilitate effective cooperation among those taking part - Member States, international bodies, international officials, collaborating institutions, individuals and commercial entities; to ensure that the activities are carried out on a firm legal basis; and to defend the Organization from legal action or threat thereof.


Assigned duties of the Senior Legal Officer will include:
(1) Legal advice and services related to: International Public Law; general protection of the Organization's legal interests; including sensitive legal/political issues: To provide high quality legal advice (i.e., accurate, comprehensively researched, clearly presented, and including - when possible - options informed by clear legal/political risk assessments) to WHO at global, regional and country level. The advice gives decision/policy makers well-researched information and options for the purpose of: (a) avoiding negative legal implications of a course of action/decision under consideration; or (b) resolving an existing problem in line with policy and practical considerations. Further, to provide advice on legal questions concerning the negotiation, adoption and management by WHO of international legal instruments.
(2) Focal point for legal matters relating to the WHO Health Emergencies Programme (WHE) and the International Health Regulations (2005): To provide legal expertise in programme support, special projects, and sensitive legal/policy matters to WHE. To provide legal support and advice to IHR mechanisms, including the IHR Emergency Committee and the IHR Review Committee; to support IHR implementation work, including addressing IHR interpretive questions, including those that may bear on further development of the Regulations. Further, it is expected that the IHRs will be amended in light of experience gained during the Covid-19 response. Accordingly, the incumbent would be expected to provide legal support for possibly extensive work in this area. Consistent with the proper role of the Secretariat in such multilateral negotiations, the incumbent would provide, consulting with first level supervisor as appropriate, high-quality, time-sensitive and well-balanced advice and counsel both within the Secretariat and to Member State representatives throughout the course of the negotiations.
(3) Legal support for global health law matters, including liaising with the FCTC Secretariat, the PIP Framework Secretariat, and Technical Units handling WHO normative frameworks, strategies and codes: To provide legal advice to the relevant internal WHO Secretariat units/technical units, including on governance, programmatic, procedural and politically/legally sensitive issues, including providing legal support to PIP Advisory Group, and other independent expert advisory bodies relevant to global health law instruments.
(4) Legal support to intergovernmental meetings at global and regional level: To give legal advice during Governing Body Meetings, including regional committee meetings. To conduct high level negotiations, review drafts and provide sound legal advice with respect to the establishment and implementation of normative frameworks, including aspects related to privileges and immunities with Member States. This work will help safeguard the Organization's interests and ensure the due process negotiation and implementation of agreements.
(5) Collaborative relationships with International Organizations as well as other stakeholder institutions: Negotiate and provide sound legal advice with respect to the establishment and implementation of legal arrangements and/or frameworks with partner Organizations and entities.
(6) Management: Effectively lead agile working groups within the Legal Office. Ensure effective teamwork, both within LEG and in projects with colleagues, and promote the efficient management of staff. Perform all other related duties as assigned and for which may be required by the exigencies of the work of the Office.



Essential: An advanced university degree in law, including a legal professional qualification having been acquired, such as Bar membership.
Desirable: Study of international organization law.



  • A minimum of 10 years of experience as a lawyer, of which at least 7 years in professional experience related to the implementation and application of law and procedures in connection with the governance of a UN common system entity and/or an international organization.
  • Proven experience in the presentation and communication of legal considerations to non-lawyers in a time-sensitive and comprehensible manner, and on matters of political/legal sensitivity.
  • Practical experience in international organization law/policy, as well as global public health related matters.
  • Demonstrated experience working in multilateral/international institutions.


  • Experience in international administrative law or international commercial or contract law.
  • Experience as a lawyer in international organization governance.
  • Experience working with issues involving privileges and immunities.


Thorough knowledge of the legal structure, legal instruments and principles applicable in WHO, UN Common system or other international Organization. Sound knowledge of international law. Demonstrated skill in analyzing and organizing facts and in presenting verbally and in writing, clear, politically sensitive and legally sound opinions and proposed solutions. Excellent ability to organize, conceptualize, analyze and deliver on legal support services and projects across the Organization. Excellent ability to draft legal/policy/advisory documents and memoranda; excellent presentational abilities.

WHO Competencies

Respecting and promoting individual and cultural differences
Moving forward in a changing environment
Producing results
Creating an empowering and motivating environment

Use of Language Skills

Essential: Expert knowledge of English.
Desirable: Beginners knowledge of one of the other official languages (Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian or Spanish).


WHO salaries for staff in the Professional category are calculated in US dollars. The remuneration for the above position comprises an annual base salary starting at USD 88,162 (subject to mandatory deductions for pension contributions and health insurance, as applicable), a variable post adjustment, which reflects the cost of living in a particular duty station, and currently amounts to USD 6436 per month for the duty station indicated above. Other benefits include 30 days of annual leave, allowances for dependent family members, home leave, and an education grant for dependent children.


  • This vacancy notice may be used to fill other similar positions at the same grade level.
  • Only candidates under serious consideration will be contacted.
  • A written test may be used as a form of screening.
  • In the event that your candidature is retained for an interview, you will be required to provide, in advance, a scanned copy of the degree(s)/diploma(s)/certificate(s) required for this position. WHO only considers higher educational qualifications obtained from an institution accredited/recognized in the World Higher Education Database (WHED), a list updated by the International Association of Universities (IAU)/United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The list can be accessed through the link: Some professional certificates may not appear in the WHED and will require individual review.
  • Any appointment/extension of appointment is subject to WHO Staff Regulations, Staff Rules and Manual.
  • Staff members in other duty stations are encouraged to apply.
  • WHO is committed to workforce diversity.
  • WHO has a smoke-free environment and does not recruit smokers or users of any form of tobacco.
  • WHO has a mobility policy which can be found at the following link: Candidates appointed to an international post with WHO are subject to mobility and may be assigned to any activity or duty station of the Organization throughout the world.

    Applications from qualified WHO staff from other duty stations are encouraged, as long as they have completed half of their standard duration of assignment (SDA) and have been in their current position for at least two years.

  • Applications from women and from nationals of non and underrepresented Member States are particularly encouraged.
  • Please visit the following websites for detailed information on working with WHO:  (To learn more about WHO’s operations)   Click on: Quick Links > Salary Scales > by date
  • WHO’s salaries are calculated in US dollars. They consist of a base salary and a post adjustment, which reflects the cost of living in a particular duty station and exchange rates. Other benefits include: 30 days annual leave, family allowance, home travel, education grant for dependent children, pension plan and medical insurance.
  • This vacancy is published in English only.

About WHO

We are building a better, healthier future for people all over the world.

Working with 194 Member States, across six regions, and from more than 150 offices, WHO staff are united in a shared commitment to achieve better health for everyone, everywhere.

Together we strive to combat diseases – communicable diseases like influenza and HIV, and noncommunicable diseases like cancer and heart disease.

We help mothers and children survive and thrive so they can look forward to a healthy old age. We ensure the safety of the air people breathe, the food they eat, the water they drink – and the medicines and vaccines they need.

Our primary role is to direct and coordinate international health within the United Nations system.

Our main areas of work are health systems; health through the life-course; noncommunicable and communicable diseases; preparedness, surveillance and response; and corporate services.