Urban Specialist

UNOPS , Brazil

Skill Required:, Project/ Programme Management
Preferred Experience: 
2 years of relevant work experience
Closing Date for Applications: 
6th July, 2020

Job Description

The Cities Alliance (CA) is the global partnership promoting the role of cities in poverty reduction and sustainable development. Headquartered in Brussels, it is a unique partnership with diverse members – local authorities, national governments, international non-governmental organisations, foundations and multi-lateral organisations – which have come together to strengthen both impacts and coherence in urban development. Cities Alliance is hosted by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS).

COVID-19 is being called a once-in-a-century pandemic. Even as high-income and middle-income countries with more effective healthcare systems struggle to detect and contain Covid-19, the challenge of tackling an emerging disease in low-income countries and informal settlements is only now being understood. Whether due to scarce resources, and/or as a result of conscious policy choices, low-income and informal settlements lack basic infrastructure and services that make the advice that health authorities suggest for preventing the spread of the disease hard, if not impossible, to follow. Even in a best-case scenario where governments in developing countries are quick to contain the spread of the virus and global conditions stabilise, long-term economic ramifications and disruption to livelihoods are inevitable.

Immediate efforts must focus on limiting the spread of disease and mitigating the negative effects of the lockdown. This implies a coordination of prevention, diagnostic and curative efforts in informal settlements, the rapid identification of effective prevention practices, and the transfer of such simple and cost-effective solutions to other urban contexts. Response actions need to focus on social protection systems and the strengthening of basic services allowing informal communities to cope with emergencies in the immediate term and to mitigate the impact of possible future crises. It is equally essential to sustain the civil society fabric within informal settlement - slum dwellers federations and community groups, street vendor associations, waste picker cooperatives - as critical element of social cohesion and necessary frontline actors contributing to long-term solution of the crisis.

To support global efforts in responding to Covid-19 outbreak, Cities Alliance has launched a Response Programme funded by Sida to be implemented in selected developing countries. The programme’s main objective is to enhance the overall resilience of slum organisation and communities during the Covid-19 crisis. The programme is centred around the provision of grants through a call of proposal to selected organisations working in informal settlements and affiliated to the international network of Slum Dweller International, which also benefits from long-term Sida support. The grants will ensure adequate resources to the selected organisation to fulfil their mandate and support their Covid-19 response activities, while also working on longer-term, developmental responses that promote the needs of the urban poor. The countries of focus for the call are: Benin, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, Brazil, India and the Philippines.

Cities Alliance is seeking an Urban Specialist to help maximizing the impact of Cities Alliance Covid-19 Response Programme by ensuring technical expertise, grantee management, accountability and monitoring of the grant portfolio. Specifically, the Urban Specialist will ensure that grant projects funded by the Cities Alliance and implemented by the affiliates of Slum Dwellers International are being executed as per schedule and scope, addressing the day to day challenges that affiliates may face, updating Cities Alliance on project’s progress and seeking advice when needed, making sure learnings are captured and reporting is done on time and as per Cities Alliance guidelines. The Urban Specialist will also help strengthening the broader partnership between Cities Alliance, Slum Dwellers International and its affiliates acting the liaison amongst the parties involved.

The Urban Specialist is a member of the Cities Alliance Secretariat, and will work under the overall supervision of the Head of Strategy and, day-to-day, in close collaboration with the Project Manager for the Response Programme. As it is expected that the bulk of this assignment will occur under Covid19 restrictions, s/he will need to demonstrate a high degree of independence and responsibility.

Functional Responsibilities

  • Work in collaboration with the Project Manager in the selection of projects and award of grants for the Slum Dwellers affiliates which respond to Cities Alliance Call for Proposals;
  • Act as the focal point between Cities Alliance, Slum Dwellers International and the grantees establishing and maintaining effective relationships between the stakeholders and undertaking the necessary coordination to ensure smooth implementation of the programme;
  • Ensure that all protocols related to reporting, communications, branding, intellectual property and cooperation agreed by Cities Alliance and Slum Dwellers International are accurately conveyed, operational and complied with;
  • Maintain regular contact with each grantee providing on-going technical support and advice and, in close collaboration with Cities Alliance team, ensures that all requirements and deadlines are met, and additional individual support is provided, if required;
  • Identify potential implementation problems and bottlenecks and liaise with grantees to assist in timely and effective troubleshooting, proposing remedial actions or additional support, as appropriate;
  • Provide technical review and quality assurance on progress and completion narrative and financial reports as well as knowledge and visibility materials produced by the grantees under the Covid-19 Response Programme;
  • Meet regularly with Cities Alliance Project Manager to receive information, provide feedback and align activities;
  • Provide overall analytic assessment of the Cities Alliance grants awarded to the affiliates, and identify main trends and issues;
  • Facilitate stakeholder meetings and other virtual sessions, as required;
  • Synthesize learnings and achievements to inform Cities Alliance and other targeted audiences on the main outcomes and potential strategic dimensions of the projects implemented by grantees;
  • Plan and implement other communication and knowledge management activities, as required;
  • Perform other duties under the framework of the Covid-19 Response Programme as requested by the Cities Alliance.**

Education/Experience/Language requirements


  • Advanced university degree (Master’s or PhD level) in Social Sciences, Political Science, Development Studies, International Affairs, Urban Studies or related topic is required.
  • A first-level university degree (Bachelor’s or equivalent) with additional 2 years of relevant working experience may be considered in lieu of an advanced university degree.


  • Minimum 5 years of relevant professional experience in working with urban community-based organizations or civil society in developing countries is required.
  • Experience in grant-making to civil society organisations is required
  • In-depth knowledge of community-driven and inclusive urban development interventions, especially community-gathered data and MEL (Monitor, Evaluation and Learning) is required;
  • Experience of working in African countries is required;
  • Knowledge of the work and functioning of Slum Dwellers International and its affiliates is an asset


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