Case study

category: search
UNICEF – Search for Assistant Secretary General
For 70 years, across 190 countries and territories, UNICEF defends the rights of every child.


Key skills: Deep sector expertise, stakeholder engagement, understanding the importance of cultural fit.

For over 70 years, UNICEF has fought tirelessly to defend the rights of children across 190 different countries and territories. When they needed assistance in their search for an Assistant Secretary-General for Field Support, they turned to SRI Executive to help them identify the perfect candidate.

The multi-faceted role would see the successful candidate work directly and on behalf of the Executive Director to ensure that regional and country offices were consistent on policies and programme/operational guidance and to oversee effective results-based management between HQ and regional offices.

Strategy: Identify the requirements

Due to the seniority and significance of this appointment on the wider Multilateral sector, SRI Executive met with key internal and external stakeholders before the search began, to get a clear sense of the core competencies and behavioural fit needed, for a candidate to be successful in this role. This informed our comprehensive search strategy.

  • Strategise the search

SRI Executive searched through an expansive pool of talent from the international development, child health, nutrition and WASH sector that would see candidates sourced from the likes of Save the Children, World Bank and Johnson and Johnson. All potential candidates were matched against a tailored criteria to assess relevance.

  • Consolidate the pool

Of the 110 candidates matched to the role, 34 were approached, 10 candidates were long-listed and 3 made it to shortlisting stage. From those three candidates, a successful appointment was made with Omar Abdi.

“He brings a deep understanding of UNICEF’s programmes and operations. Additionally, he has helped pioneer streamlining systems to strengthen results on the ground.”

Impact / results

UNICEF collaborates with partners to provide assistance in 310 humanitarian situations across 102 countries, reaching millions of vulnerable children and their caregivers.

  1. Supplying 25.5 million people with safe drinking water
  2. Giving 23 million measles vaccinations to children between 6 months and 15 years of age
  3. Providing 7.5 million children aged 3 to 18 with access to formal or non-formal basic education
  4. Treating 2 million children aged 6 months to 59 months for severe acute malnutrition
  5. Providing psychosocial support to 3.1 million children.

From the annual report: “At the global level, UNICEF continued to support the humanitarian system in 2015, promoting inter-agency cooperation through our leadership role in a range of programmatic ‘clusters’ in key sectors.”