Senior Consultant on Water

United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

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Organizational Setting:

Water scarcity is one of the major challenges facing many countries of the Arab region. During the last few decades, enhancing water governance has become an objective of Arab governments to ensure sustainable water resources availability for next generations. One of the main recommendations of the global community, which has been reflected into SDG 6.5, is the adoption of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) as an inclusive approach to ensure sustainable management and use of water resources. Achieving integrated water management implies the need for efficient and equitable allocation mechanisms through appropriate policies and coordinated institutional arrangements.

Governments in the Arab region acknowledge the urgency for full adoption of IWRM, as many have not succeeded in managing the increasing demand nor in implementing policy options for effective water conservation, for efficient use of the limited water resources and for halting water withdrawals. In fact, supply-driven policies to manage water resources, dominant in many Arab countries, have undermined the efficiency of water allocation and resources sustainability.

Many Arab countries have developed and adopted legal and institutional frameworks to regulate water allocation, but in many cases without developing commensurate and effective enforcement instruments or capacities – the case of groundwater overdraft is evident. While creating a reliable and practical legal system for regulating drilling water wells and managing groundwater abstractions is considered essential, water entitlements and use permits are frequently issued without accounting for criteria based on sustainability grounds and proven best practices. Implementing a water management strategy based on securing supplies, without paying adequate attention to use and allocation efficiencies, could further aggravate unsustainable water use patterns. Additionally, it is usually difficult to reduce allocations once the resource has become overexploited, which in many cases promote competition among users and a “race to the bottom”.

Another factor hampering sustainable allocation of water resources is the difficulty to address the local power shift in favor of the politically connected and economically powered users. The limited application of participatory approaches of water management results in further empowerment of the elite and wealthy on the expense of the poor and small users. This usually result in an equity divide, which in many cases contradicts the traditional water management and allocation norms and customs. Irrational and uninformed decisions on water allocation is leading to unsustainable uses of water in agriculture and will deny eligible users of their reasonable share. Moreover, lack of transparency, inadequate participation and the weak political will have disrupted effective policy implementation.

To assist countries of the region formalize water allocation systems that takes into account productivity and sustainability of water resources as well as rural livelihoods, the High Level Joint (water-agriculture) Committee of the League of Arab states has requested the development of guidelines on sustainable allocation mechanisms of water resources for agriculture. Although these “voluntary” guidelines would be discussed and adopted at the regional level, their application is expected to be piloted and demonstrated at the national level.

The focus of the guidelines is on agriculture as it is the largest water using sector in the Arab region with an average of 85% withdrawal for irrigation. Furthermore, in many Arab countries agriculture plays a distinctive role, socially and economically. In addition to absorbing a large segment of the labor force, agriculture provides food to the local markets and income for farmers, thus contributing to food security through its availability and access dimensions. Also, agriculture is a contributing factor to social stability, where viable production systems help reduce the internal migration pressure. Coupled with variability in water availability from climate change impacts, the growing water demand is exerting pressure to reallocate water from agriculture to higher economic water productive uses like domestic supply and industry. Unplanned water reallocation between sectors will however leave agriculture at risk with undesirable social and economic implications on rural livelihoods and food security.

Reporting Lines:

Consultant reports to the Senior Land and Water Officer, Delivery Manager of the Regional Initiative on Water Scarcity (RI-WSI).

Technical Focus

Within this context, and regarding the difficult situation of water allocation in the Arab region, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), through the Regional Water Scarcity Initiative (WSI) and in coordination with the League of Arab States (LAS), is launching a call to recruit a consultant to elaborate guidelines on sustainable allocation of water resources for agriculture in the Arab region.

Tasks and responsibilities:

Under the overall guidance of the Regional Programme Leader, at FAORNE and the direct supervision of the Senior Land and Water Officer and Delivery Manager of the Regional Water Scarcity Initiative, the consultant will prepare guidelines on sustainable allocation of water resources for agriculture in the Arab region. More specifically, the consultant will undertake the following tasks:

  • Prepare a short concept note and work plan for the development of the Guidelines on Sustainable Allocation of Water Resources for Agriculture, detailing the approach/methodology to be employed, expected outputs, activities and deliverables. If needed, there is a possibility to recruit a national/regional consultant to support the development of the guidelines. (deliverable 1)

  • The short concept note will be reviewed by pertinent colleagues in FAO, LAS, ESCWA and AOAD, and approved by the consultant’s supervisor before proceeding to the execution of the work plan.

  • Literature Review of experiences on sustainable allocation of water resources and their relevance to the Arab region, including an analytical review of the formal and informal water allocation mechanisms adopted in Arab countries and the associated institutional arrangements.

  • Consult, to the extent possible, with relevant stakeholders, incl. partner organizations like LAS, AOAD, ESCWA, IWMI, ICARDA, officials from national relevant institutions, as well as leading international, regional and national experts, on the various elements and components to be incorporated in the guidelines.

  • On the basis of the above review and consultation, draft a clear set of policy guidelines that would assist the countries of the region moving towards efficient and sustainable water allocation systems. Among others, the guidelines need to address the following issues: (Deliverable 3)

    • Priority structure for water use.

    • Relation between water use entitlements and ownership

    • Applicability of enforceable limits (Capping consumption)

    • Environmental water demand
    • Climate change implications
    • Robustness in dealing with varying water availability and changing conditions

    • Legal and institutional frameworks for operationalizing the guidelines, including the monitoring and enforcement structures and capacities within a participatory management approach.

    • Direct and indirect economic and financial incentive/disincentive systems (pricing, subsidies, taxes, compensation, trade policies, tradability, lease and transfer of water use entitlements, etc.)

    • Water saving, productivity and use efficiency.

    • Inter-sectoral visioning and coordination

    • Data availability reliability and validity

    • Access to and use of innovative technologies for Water Accounting

    • Gender perspective as part of the allocation incentives structure

  • Develop a customized assessment tool, e.g. a checklist, to help government officials review the effectiveness of existing water allocation regimes and their alignment with the proposed guidelines. (To be incorporated in deliverable 3)

  • Lead the stakeholder consultation and review meeting to present, discuss, and finalize the draft guideline. The meeting will be co-organized by FAORNE, ESCWA, LAS, and AOAD

  • Present the final draft version of the guidelines at the next meeting of the High Level Joint Technical Committee and consequently finalize the guidelines in accordance with comments and feedback raised in the meeting.

  • Prepare an implementation plan for the application of the guidelines at a pilot scale (basin or water catchment level), detailing the steps and requirements, which need to be in place for developing an allocation regime that optimizes social, economic and environmental efficiencies.



Minimum requirements:
  • Advanced university degree in water management, natural resource management, environment, development studies or related field;

  • At least 12 years of relevant professional experience in water resources management or related areas, with visible experience (research and field work) on the legal, institutional and technical aspects of water rights and allocation systems, preferably in the Arab region;

  • Working knowledge of English is required and limited knowledge of one of the other FAO languages, preferably French or Arabic.

FAO Core Competencies
  • Results Focus
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Building Effective Relationships

  • Knowledge Sharing and Continuous Improvement

    Technical/Functional Skills
  • Work experience in more than one location or area of work

  • Extent and relevance of experience in strategy and action plan development, partnership and resource management

  • Extent and relevance of experience in the NENA region.

  • Familiarity with UN system





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