Head of Water and Habitat Unit

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
Geneva, Switzerland
Position Type: 
Organization Type: 
NGO/Civil Society
Experience Level: 
10+ Years
Degree Required: 
Advanced Degree (Master's or JD)
Languages Required: 


Please note: this job post has expired! To the best of our knowledge, this job is no longer available and this page remains here for archival purposes only.

Reports to (role)


Assistant Deputy Director of Protection and Assistance Program

What we do


The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) works worldwide to provide humanitarian assistance to people affected by conflict and armed violence. We take action in response to emergencies and at the same time promote respect for international humanitarian law. We are an independent and neutral organization, and our mandate stems essentially from the Geneva Conventions of 1949. We work closely with National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and with their International Federation in order to ensure a concerted, rational and rapid humanitarian response to the needs of the victims of armed conflict or any other situation of internal violence. We direct and coordinate the international activities conducted in these situations.



The ICRC defines Water and Habitat assistance as the support provided to individuals and communities affected by conflict, to be able to cover their essential needs in a sustainable and dignified manner, given physiological requirements, the environment, and prevailing cultural standard. More precisely, in conflict zones, it aims at restoring essential services such as water, environmental health, power and by restoring/building housing/shelter and public infrastructure. These systems can be damaged or disrupted as a direct, indirect or cumulative result of conflict and at varying stages of a crisis.


Water and Habitat(WatHab) are pivotal in the overall well-being of individuals and communities in rural and urban settings, affected by conflict, violence, climate change and environmental hazards. As part of a multidisciplinary approach, it serves as a key building block for their ability to absorb and adapt to sudden and chronic shocks, which surpass their coping mechanisms as well as the capacity to manage future stresses and risks. It is thus a central component of the ICRC’s efforts to save lives, alleviate suffering, maintain dignity and respond to the needs of affected people as per the ICRC’s mandate and public health principles.


Aligned with the institutional strategy, the WatHab objectives are summarised in the “Water and Habitat Strategy 2019-23” and based on three strategic objectives:

1) maintain and extend emergency preparedness and response capacities,

2) sustainable approach to meeting the long-term needs of crisis-affected people and

3) continue to develop expertise in priority areas, while influencing the debate in the humanitarian space. Staff development, WatHab’s digital landscape and partnering capacity are key enablers for this.


The Water and Habitat unit has broad expertise in many technical areas, including engineering in civil, structural, hydraulics, electromechanics, electrical and energy, as well as other relevant fields such as architecture, hydrogeology, public health engineering and environment. Moreover, the Water and Habitat staff have acquired the skills and experience required for the different phases of building a project/program, including assessment, design, financial and contractual norms and standards, site supervision, negotiation, monitoring and evaluation. These capacities allow Water and Habitat teams to address the wide range of needs of the population affected by conflict, such as resident communities (rural/urban), displaced population in temporary settings, people deprived of freedom and essential services such as infrastructure for health and physical rehabilitation facilities. Moreover, the Water and Habitat unit also provide engineering and architectural support to ICRC field set-up and operations including for residences, offices, logistics warehouses and thus contributing to the ICRC’s Duty of Care for the safety and security of staff using this infrastructure.


The work is done in a multidisciplinary manner and in close collaboration with Protection, Health, EcoSec, Weapon Contamination and other (support) departments across the ICRC, as well as with the components of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement.


ICRC Water and Habitat programmes span some 60 countries, comprise a global team of over 700 staff (mobiles and residents) and over 1’000 contracts annually with the private sector to implement the projects serving over 30 million beneficiaries worldwide.



The Head of Water and Habitat directs and develops the ICRC’s water and habitat (WatHab) strategy in consultation with relevant Units and departments. They ensure that WatHab activities are aligned with the organization’s objectives, regional strategic frameworks and delegations’ priorities.

Main duties and responsibilities


  • Provides strategic orientations, leads WatHab staff at headquarters and in the field and manages WatHab staff at headquarters.
  • Ensures an optimal flow of information between headquarters and the field.
  • Actively contributes to planning and evaluating water and habitat programmes in the field and ensures they are implemented according to professional standards and integrated into the ICRC's multidisciplinary approach.
  • Develops, monitors and implements strategies to consolidate a strong global WatHab workforce in terms of recruitment, sourcing, training and talent management.
  • Interacts closely with other Heads of Unit to maintain and promote a multidisciplinary and collaborative approach. 
  • Ensures that water and habitat policies and strategies are informed by the ICRC's programmes and practice in an evidence-based manner.
  • Contributes to maintaining and developing a network of experts, practitioners and organizations engaged in humanitarian action - including the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, the UN, NGOs, academic institutions, donors and international bodies, and ensures that the ICRC is informed about and actively contributes to related debates and policy-setting.
  • Guarantees the quality of the ICRC's water and habitat programmes and ensures that innovative solutions are developed through partnerships with other organizations and institutions, academic circles and the private and public sectors.
  • Represents the institution and promote ICRC water and habitat programmes and strategies to a large range of external stakeholders (at conferences, workshops, roundtables, etc.).

People management responsibilities


  • Organizes regular meetings within their team to ensure optimal coordination of the work and proper flow of information.
  • Ensures that job descriptions for employees under their supervision are up to date; seeks feedback and support from the HR Department if needed.
  • Plans and coordinates the annual leave of the employees under their supervision ensuring continuity of the operations throughout the year and making sure that there are no outstanding holiday balances at the end of the year.
  • Coordinates and supports the employees under their supervision in their personal development by coaching and advising them on internal and external training and development possibilities.
  • Understands and supervises the Performance Management & Development (PMD) activities for employees under their supervision and engages in ongoing and continuous feedback and support, particularly for employees under their supervision, but also other staff members.

Scope & Impact


  • Contributes to developing of the ICRC's orientations, strategy and objectives/budget for water and habitat activities at the global, regional and national levels (including during annual reporting for the field and headquarters).
  • Establishes and provides guidance on the interpretation of policies and practice.
  • Follows up on and provides support for all WatHab programmes and activities.



  • Internally, interacts with staff in the unit at headquarters and in the delegations, with (deputy) regional directors and with staff from other divisions (External Resources, Private Fundraising, Public Communication, Protection, Human Resources and Legal).
  • Externally, develops and maintains a network of water and habitat-related contacts on specific issues; also interacts with contacts in academia and the private sector.

Education and experience required


  • Combination of Masters degree (or equivalent) and/or industry certifications and qualifying experience in architecture, civil or structural engineering, hydrology, geology or a related field, with expertise in at least one domain related to environmental health engineering.
  • At least 15 years' professional experience, with at least 7 years of experience in the humanitarian field (with at least two ICRC field assignments as a WatHab Coordinator)
  • Confirmed experience in a senior managerial position in within the ICRC, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement or with another humanitarian organization.
  • In-depth knowledge of the humanitarian landscape and of water and habitat-related challenges in conflict settings.
  • Outstanding communication skills both with colleagues and representing the ICRC's water and habitat activities externally.
  • Excellent command of English and French; knowledge of other languages an asset.
  • Computer proficiency.

Desired profile and skills


  • Proven senior management and leadership skills, with a strong emphasis on people management and
    leading a multidisciplinary and multicultural team.
  • Clear planning, project management capacities with a focus on delivering results.
  • Capacity to negotiate with and influence a wide range of water and habitat and other external stakeholders.
  • Excellent interpersonal skills and capacity for collaborative teamwork.
  • Ability to lead, manage, motivate and develop people. 
  • Ability to develop and strengthen partnerships within and outside ICRC.

Additional information

  • Location:                        Geneva
  • Type of contract:            Required Rotation
  • Length of assignment:   5 years
  • Activity rate:                   100%
  • Estimated start date:      14.06.2021
  • Application Deadline:   Sunday, 27 September 2020

The ICRC values diversity and is committed to creating an inclusive working environment. We welcome applications from all qualified candidates.