Consultancy – Best interests of the child in the digital environment consultant – Global Office of Research and Foresight – remote/work from home

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UNICEF Global


UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. To save their lives. To defend their rights. To help them fulfill their potential. 

Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, every day, to build a better world for everyone. 

And we never give up. 

For every child, answers.

UNICEF Innocenti – Global Office of Research and Foresight is the dedicated research office of UNICEF. It undertakes and commissions research and foresight on emerging or current issues of relevance for children to inform the strategic directions, policies and programs of UNICEF and its partners.

A fundamental principle of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is that the “best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration” (“the Principle”). Increasingly, children’s best interests is being referenced in regulations and policies pertaining to the digital environment. However, how to implement this in practice remains open to interpretation, and children’s voices are largely absent from much-needed discussions on this. Policymakers, regulators and corporations need informed guidance on how to make the best interests of the child a primary consideration in their work, whilst also balancing important considerations such as respecting other international human rights laws and complying with relevant regional and national legislation. UNICEF Innocenti is undertaking an 18-month project, in partnership with a major technology company, to help governments, the tech industry and other stakeholders better understand the Principle in the digital environment. By better understanding the issue, guidance can be more targeted and relevant.

The project has three phases: 1) Set up and conceptualization, which involves establishing an expert advisory group, research conceptualization, and producing a literature review and a draft “Best Interests” High-Level Considerations document. 2) Participatory consultation workshops with children around the world to generate qualitative data on what children think the Principle means, how it should be applied, and the digital future they want. This will be complemented by workshops with UNICEF’s Youth Foresight Fellows to turn the desired digital futures into feasible recommendations. 3) Broad multi-sectoral consultation (online and in-person) with policymakers and regulators, the private sector, civil society and academia designed to understand the challenges faced in balancing children’s rights and what kind of guidance would be most useful. The final version of the Principle High-Level Considerations document will incorporate outcomes of the consultation phases.

UNICEF Innocenti is recruiting a consultant to produce the literature review and the Principle High-Level Considerations document, support the development of the child consultation methodology, support the workshops and analysis (as detailed below), and participate in some of the multi-sectoral consultations. In order to effectively do this, the consultant will engage throughout the project, as needed and described below, from conceptualization to consultations and write-ups, ensuring that the outputs of the consultations are reflected in the final documentation.

How can you make a difference? 

Major areas of work and responsibility:

1. Develop a project plan, outline for the literature review and High-Level Considerations document, and key considerations for the participatory child consultation methodology. The development of the methodology will be led by UNICEF, but with the input of the consultant to align it with the evolving findings of the Best Interests review. Participate in-person in a two-day methodology development workshop to be held at UNICEF Innocenti, Florence, Italy. Support project conceptualization by helping to identify key stakeholders to involve in the project, events to target for maximum advocacy impact and visibility for the project, and policy/regulatory processes to influence in the future.

2. Draft a literature review (not longer than 5,000 words) to lay the foundation for the content and direction of the project. It could: summarize General Comments published by the UN Committee on the rights of the child applicable to the Principle (e.g. no. 14, 16 and 25); provide a brief overview of how the Principle has been applied in other contexts before focusing on the digital environment; conduct analysis of the digital policy/regulatory environment to summarize where the Principle is called for, resources that have been developed to guide adherence, and approaches taken by industry and regulators to apply the Principle, e.g. risk assessments, parental controls, age assurance and child-friendly privacy notices, etc.; reflect any research findings about what is working and what is not; summarize findings and perspectives from previous child consultations on this and adjacent topics, such as privacy or safety; highlight critiques of how the Principle is being applied (or not); and identify gaps in the literature, research and existing normative frameworks/regulations and opportunities for how the Principle can be better understood and applied – in policies, regulations and in practice – in the digital environment. In a spirit of complementarity to existing and developing resources, the structure and content of the report will be agreed with the consultant, taking into account resources on the topic expected in 2024, including UNICEF’s development of a tool for conducting Child Rights Impact Assessments.

3. Drawing on the literature review, write a first draft of the High-Level Considerations for how to apply the Principle by policymakers, regulators and tech companies. These might include key factors to consider; who needs to be consulted when applying the Principle and what questions to ask; and outline a process for determining the best interests, e.g. through risk assessments. The draft will feed into and be further developed in the following phases of the project.

4. Also drawing on the literature review, and aligning with the High-Level Considerations, support the development of the child consultation methodology and materials by UNICEF. Consultations are expected in a number of countries around the world to gather qualitative data on children’s views and ideas on the Principle, including: what they think it means, how they think different rights and interests should be balanced in practice, and how they would like it applied in their digital future. While the exact details of the methodology are still to be determined, UNICEF is considering: using a participatory research and co-design approach that can involve children drawing, brainstorming, developing scenarios, peer interviewing, or story-writing; two workshops (half-day or full-day) in each country for diversity, e.g. urban and rural; and consulting children aged between 13 and 17, with around 15 in each workshop. UNICEF will manage the process of the child consultations, using feedback from the training and workshops to update the materials, as needed.

5. UNICEF will analyze the consultation data and write the child consultations report that will include key findings, illustrative quotes and insights. The consultant will support this process by reviewing outputs from the consultations (data, fieldwork notes, etc.), discussing insights, and reviewing the analysis and report. The consultant will use these as inputs into the High-level Considerations report.

6. Participate virtually in a workshop with a small group from the UNICEF Youth Foresight Network – and adult tech experts – who understand the tech industry and the broader trends and arcs to give a wider context and interpretation to the child consultations. This will help bring together the desired future and relevant tech trends. UNICEF will write up a short report from workshop including the desired digital futures of children, interpreted using foresight methods to illustrate possible future scenarios. This will be an input to the final High-level Considerations.

7. Participate in at least two online broad multi-sectoral consultations with experts. UNICEF will conduct at least five informant interviews, writing up notes of the key outcomes, and commission four opinion pieces from external experts on how the best interests of the child can be applied in different jurisdictions/contexts. Based on emerging findings throughout the project, provide ongoing input into the consultation process, such as helping to adapt key questions to ask or areas to explore.

8. Throughout the project participate in meetings with the Expert Advisory Group assembled to guide the project, and present updates and findings (at least four meetings). All draft outputs will be reviewed by the Expert Advisory Group and the consultant should include their inputs in subsequent versions. As a principle, the consultant will work closely with the UNICEF team in ensuring alignment across the different aspects of the project.

9. Finalize the High-level Considerations document, based on the literature review, updated with key findings from the consultations (expert and child), and colored with the opinion pieces. The document should have brief recommendations for policymakers, regulators and tech companies. Other sections it could include are processes to follow to determine the Principle; stakeholders to engage; examples of good and recommended practices; and links to resources.

10. Author two articles/blog posts to give visibility to the project and its key messages/findings.

Conditions of Consultancy

1. The Consultant will not be entitled to any separate travel entitlements under the Contract. All expenditure related to the travel plans set out in the Contract are deemed to be covered by the lump sum fee. There could be at least one travel mission, but the location and time are to be determined. In the case of travel, it shall be further added through an amendment setting out the additional fee in consideration of the additional travel requirements on the following basis: (a) UNICEF will pay for travel in economy class via the most direct and economical route; provided however that in exceptional circumstances, such as for medical reasons, travel in business class may be approved by UNICEF on a case-by-case basis. (b) UNICEF will reimburse the Consultant for out-of-pocket expenses associated with such travel by paying an amount not exceeding the daily subsistence allowance that would be paid to staff members undertaking similar travel for official purposes.
2. UNICEF Innocenti will assist consultants with arrangements for visas, work permits, vaccinations, etc.
3. UNICEF does not regard Individuals engaged under a consultancy contract as “staff members” under the Staff Regulations and Rules of the United Nations and UNICEF’s policies and procedures. Consultants are therefore not entitled to benefits such as leave, pension and medical insurance coverage. Their conditions of service will be governed by their contract and the General Conditions of Contracts for the Services of Consultants.
4. Payment of professional fees will be based on submission of agreed deliverables. UNICEF reserves the right to withhold payment in case the deliverables submitted are not up to the required standard or in case of delays in submitting the deliverables on the part of the consultant.
5. Consultants are encouraged to ensure that they fully understand (a) the requirements of each deliverable and (b) the workload associated with reaching a deliverable.
6. UNICEF Innocenti recognizes that, due to the locations of some of its research, events may occur that either delay deliverables or prevent them from being completed. These events need to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis to determine the impact on the payment schedule of the contract. It is UNICEF Innocenti’s objective to be fair to consultants in situations where deliverables are delayed or no longer attainable through no wrongdoing of the consultant.
7. Consultants are responsible for determining their tax liabilities and for the payment of any taxes and/or duties, in accordance with local or other applicable laws.

The consultancy will span 17 months with the consultant engaging at key points throughout the duration of the project.

Payment schedule On
Deliverable/Output:  
Deliverables package 1:
• Project plan; outline for the literature review and High-Level Considerations document; advocacy and dissemination plan, including experts, organizations/governments, events and processes to influence
• First draft of literature review
• First draft of the High-Level Considerations
• Review and provide written inputs into consultation plans and participate in-person in participatory child consultation methodology at UNICEF Innocenti
• Presentation at Expert Advisory Group meeting
30 September 2024
Deliverables package 2:
• Final literature review, reviewed by the Expert Advisory Group and UNICEF and updated with their inputs
• Presentation at two online broad multi-sectoral consultations with experts
• Review and provide written inputs into UNICEF analysis of the child consultations and participate in an analysis meeting
• Presentation at Expert Advisory Group meetings (x2)
• Updated draft of the High-Level Considerations, informed by the child consultations report, multi-sectoral consultations reports, key informant interviews and four opinion pieces
• One article/blog post to give visibility to the project
30 June  2025
Deliverables package 3:
• Final High-Level Considerations report, reviewed by the expert advisory group and UNICEF and updated with their inputs
• One article/blog post to give visibility to the project
• Presentation at Expert Advisory Group meeting
30 September  2025

To qualify as an advocate for every child you will have:

  • An advanced university degree (Master’s or higher) in neurotechnology, information and communication technology, computer studies, child development, or other related areas.  
  • A minimum of ten years of professional work experience at national or international levels conducting technology related research, including conceptualizing, supporting child consultations, writing reports, and providing policy analysis related to child rights in the digital environment.
  • Demonstrated experience or knowledge of policy or practice related to balancing children’s rights in the digital environment is required, with a strong publication record including providing policy recommendations related to children’s rights.
  • Knowledge of how children’s rights in the digital environment are upheld through policy or practice in developing country contexts is desirable.
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills and excellent attention to detail. Proven experience of writing policy recommendations is an asset. Experience presenting outputs at conferences and to policymakers is an asset.
  • Motivated self-starter, with demonstrated ability to work effectively and sensitively in geographically dispersed teams and across cultures.
  • Demonstrated ability to work in a multicultural environment; experience working in the UN or other international development organization an asset.
  • Ability to organize own work and to carry out a project with limited supervision according to deadlines.
  • Commitment to UNICEF’s core values of care, respect, integrity, transparency, accountability, and sustainability.
  • Fluency in English is required. Fluency in another UN official language (such as Spanish, French or Arabic) is considered an asset.

For every Child, you demonstrate:

UNICEF’s values of Care, Respect, Integrity, Trust, Accountability, and Sustainability (CRITAS). 

To view our competency framework, please visit  here

UNICEF is here to serve the world’s most disadvantaged children and our global workforce must reflect the diversity of those children. The UNICEF family is committed to include everyone, irrespective of their race/ethnicity, age, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, socio-economic background, or any other personal characteristic.

UNICEF offers reasonable accommodation for consultants/individual contractors with disabilities. This may include, for example, accessible software, travel assistance for missions or personal attendants. We encourage you to disclose your disability during your application in case you need reasonable accommodation during the selection process and afterwards in your assignment. 

UNICEF has a zero-tolerance policy on conduct that is incompatible with the aims and objectives of the United Nations and UNICEF, including sexual exploitation and abuse, sexual harassment, abuse of authority and discrimination. UNICEF also adheres to strict child safeguarding principles. All selected candidates will be expected to adhere to these standards and principles and will therefore undergo rigorous reference and background checks. Background checks will include the verification of academic credential(s) and employment history. Selected candidates may be required to provide additional information to conduct a background check. 

Remarks:  

Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted and advance to the next stage of the selection process. 

Individuals engaged under a consultancy or individual contract will not be considered “staff members” under the Staff Regulations and Rules of the United Nations and UNICEF’s policies and procedures, and will not be entitled to benefits provided therein (such as leave entitlements and medical insurance coverage). Their conditions of service will be governed by their contract and the General Conditions of Contracts for the Services of Consultants and Individual Contractors. Consultants and individual contractors are responsible for determining their tax liabilities and for the payment of any taxes and/or duties, in accordance with local or other applicable laws. 

The selected candidate is solely responsible to ensure that the visa (applicable) and health insurance required to perform the duties of the contract are valid for the entire period of the contract. Selected candidates are subject to confirmation of fully-vaccinated status against SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) with a World Health Organization (WHO)-endorsed vaccine, which must be met prior to taking up the assignment. It does not apply to consultants who will work remotely and are not expected to work on or visit UNICEF premises, programme delivery locations or directly interact with communities UNICEF works with, nor to travel to perform functions for UNICEF for the duration of their consultancy contracts. 

Advertised: 12 Apr 2024 GMT Daylight Time
Deadline: 05 May 2024 GMT Daylight Time

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