Lead Researcher and Advisor

United Nations Development Programme, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Skill Required:, Policy/ Advocacy and Campaign
Preferred Experience: 
Above 15 Years
Closing Date for Applications: 
20th July, 2020

Job Description


Following the end of the 26 year old armed ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka in 2009, the country continues to face challenges on the path to achieving economic and political stability and social cohesion as a nation state. In April 2019 the country witnessed a series of terror attacks targeting a number of Churches and hotels. Although the investigations into the incident is still ongoing for the first time, Sri Lanka was identified globally as a potential hotspot for the spread of violent extremism. Moreover, the subsequent outcome of the 2019 Presidential election indicated that the people were seemingly opting for more securitized than secularized state reforms amidst the fear psychosis created by the incident.

In the meantime, online media has increasingly become very popular among both the civil and political societies as well as the general public as the space for freely expressing their political views, ideologies and their stand on numerous social, economic as well as cultural issues in the country. Between January 2018 and January 2019, over 400,000 Sri Lankans became first-time internet users. During the same period, half that number also became social media users. With this increase there has also been an increase in the spread of online hate speech, misinformation, fake news and myths sparking new concerns regarding underlying tensions between the country’s multiple religious and ethnic groups. Overtime, these may become detrimental for promoting peace and social cohesion in the country while being also used for mobilizing different ethnic or religious groups to advocate or engage violence. Increased accessibility to a wide array of virtually available information and the emergence of online media influencers will have an impact on shaping the way people think, express views and act at the same time

Given this country context, there is a need to collect more relevant data targeted at contextualising and understanding the growing influence of online sphere in Sri Lankan politics and the society at large.

UNDP Sri Lanka at this juncture seeks to conduct 3 political economy analyses (once in three months) on the use of the online sphere in Sri Lanka. The reports are intended at informing advocacy and policy efforts to strengthen more ethical and productive use of this growing space to promote peace and stability and influence development processes in the country. The first of these reports will include analyses of online space at the time of the pre-post Easter Sunday attacks, the presidential election, the upcoming general election. The second and third will assess the ensuing online media trends affecting development and peace in the country. Based on the periodic findings the researcher shall also provide technical expertise in support of CSO and government engagements in promoting productive and more ethical use of the online space in Sri Lanka for political, economic as well as social development.

The Social Media Political Economy Lead Researcher and her/his team (not exceeding two) will work under the direct supervision of the Technical Specialist- Reconciliation and Peacebuilding with the support of the Peace and Development Advisor at the RCO office.


The purpose of the consultancy is to provide in-depth periodic political economy analysis of the online media space that will inform policy and advocacy as well as project efforts to promote more safe, ethical and productive use of online networks and tools in the country. The researcher and her/his team will also provide advisory support to UNDP and capacitate selected civil society partners as well as government partners to engage in these efforts.

Duties and Responsibilities

  • The researcher will conduct the following activities under the supervision of the Technical Specialist- Reconciliation and Peace building and work in close collaboration with the Resident Coordinator’s Office
  • Provide a political economy analyses (PEA) of the online media spaces with first one taking into account but not limited to pre and post Easter Sunday attacks, the presidential election and the general election and the second and third covering the political and economic trends in online spaces affecting peace and development processes in the country;
  • Provide technical guidance and advisory support and feedback to UNDP, civil society and government partners on policy advocacy efforts to strengthen ethical and productive use of online media space for development and peace;
  • Support the design and execution of a study on the IM space in Sri Lanka through;
  • Technical guidance for research design.
  • Technical guidance and review support to researchers conducting a study of IM space.

Key Deliverables

The consultant will be responsible for delivering:

  • Political Economy Analyses (3 periodic analytical reports) of the online media space. First report should cover the pre- and post-Easter Sunday attacks, the elections. The second and third reports will be based on political and economic trends in the online sphere affecting development and peace. These reports will inform UNDP, Government and CSO programming to address ethical and productive use of online media for promoting development, peace and social cohesion;
  • Provide technical guidance and conduct two capacity-building workshops for UNDP civil society and government working group on the dynamics of the online media space based on the analyses;
  • Provide Technical guidance (including webinar training sessions) to CSO partners of UNDP PVE project on understanding Sri Lanka’s social media landscape;
  • Provide knowledge dissemination guidance for both UNDP and the civil society partners;
  • Support designing of a study on the IM space in Sri Lanka.

Required Skills and Experience


  • A PhD or a Master’s degree in political science, international relations, sociology or related discipline and a minimum of 15 years of work experience in relevant fields;


  • Strong familiarity with using social media analytics tools to monitor, analyze and interpret social media and other online communication platforms;
  • Past research experience using a mix of quantitative and qualitative reasoning and methods;
  • Deep contextual understanding of Sri Lankan society, media, politics, culture and other relevant contextual knowledge;
  • Proven analytical ability and knowledge on relevant research methods and technical skills for required research;
  • Excellent writing skills in English;
  • Data visualization ability to create visual presentations of data and trends;
  • Deep understanding of Sri Lanka’s social media landscape, key actors and trends and a proven track record of past published research on the subject using both qualitative and quantitative approaches;
  • Ability to meet tight deadlines.


  • Native fluency in English and Sinhala, including the ability to read complex materials in these languages; fluency in Tamil would be an added advantage.


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