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Chief Technical Advisor

Mekong River Commission
Location: Vientiane, Lao PDR
Last Date: March 2, 2011


 Mekong River Commission 

The role of MRC is to co-ordinate and promote co-operation in all fields of sustainable development, utilisation, management and conservation of the water and related resources of the Mekong Basin. 

MRC Secretariat is seeking a qualified candidate for the position of 

for Initiative on Sustainable Hydropower Project
International: Post level L-5, based in Vientiane,

Lao PDR 

The job description can be downloaded from Women are encouraged to apply. Only short-listed candidates will be notified. 

Application procedures:  

The application should include (i) a cover letter outlining clearly how the candidate meets the requirements of the position, (ii) a detailed CV, and (iii) MRC Personal History Form. The position tittle and division must be indicated in the cover letter. The application should be sent to:  

Mekong River Commission Secretariat
P.O. Box 6101, Vientiane, 01000, Lao PDR

Subject: Chief Technical Advisor, ISH

Closing date for applications: 2 March 2011



Updated: January 2011 


Functional Title:


Level of post

Duty Station

Contract type:

Chief Technical Advisor

Chief Technical Advisor for Initiative on Sustainable Hydropower Project

Planning Division

L-05[i]  (International Staff)

MRC Secretariat, Vientiane, Lao PDR, with missions to MRC member countries

Fixed-term appointment


One- year contract with possibility of extension based on satisfactory performance.

Reporting to:

Initiative on Sustainable Hydropower (ISH) Task Leader.

 1          Background

MRC Mandate in Hydropower Development

The MRC, established on 5 April 1995 by the Governments of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam, provides the institutional framework to implement the Agreement on Cooperation for Sustainable Development of the Mekong River Basin.  The Agreement concerns water resources such as fisheries, agriculture, and hydropower, and related issues including flood management, navigation, and environmental protection.

The MRC consists of three permanent bodies: The Council, the Joint Committee (JC) and the Secretariat (MRCS).  National Mekong Committees (NMCs) act as focal points for MRC in each of the member countries and are served by respective National Mekong Committee Secretariats.  MRC maintains regular dialogue with the two upstream countries of the Mekong River Basin, China and Myanmar, as well as with its development partners.

The 1995 Agreement commits the four riparian countries to “sustainable development, utilisation, conservation and management of the Mekong River Basin … for social and economic development…” (preamble to the Agreement).

Article 1 of the Agreement expresses the intention of the four states to cooperate in all fields of sustainable development, utilisation, management and conservation of water and related resources of the Mekong river basin, including: irrigation, hydropower, navigation, flood control, fisheries, timber floating, recreation and tourism. The article also states that activities should be carried out in a manner that optimises multiple-use and mutual benefits, and minimises harmful effects. The latter is reinforced in Article 3 which speaks of protection of the environment and ecological balance.

Article 2 emphasises joint and/or basin-wide development projects and basin programmes through the formulation of a Basin Development Plan which would be used to identify, categorise and prioritise the projects and programmes to seek assistance for and to implement at the Basin level.

Article 5 provides for the reasonable and equitable use of the waters of the river system with reference to rules for water utilisation to be prepared, while Article 6 deals with the maintenance of flows on the mainstream in relation to average monthly minimum flows and with limits on maximum daily peak flows.

Article 26 on Rules for Water Utilization and Inter-Basin Diversions provides for implementation of Articles 5 and 6, and is the basis for the procedural tasks to be performed by MRC in relation to the Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA)[1]  on intra-basin uses and inter-basin diversions for mainstream and tributary hydropower development and other purposes. These include:

·         Receipt and checking for completeness of Notifications and Prior Consultations;

·         Entering the relevant data and information into the data and information systems of the MRCS;

·         Review and analysis of the submitted information;

·         Provision of technical additional information, data, evaluations, support and advice for use in meetings requested by Member Countries; and

·         Moderation of the consultation process.

It may be noted, however, that the receipt and review of Notifications and Prior Consultations on a case-by-case basis involves serious limitations in regard to understanding and assessing the cumulative impacts of water resource developments over time. An integrated / strategic assessment framework is required, within which the Notifications and Prior Consultations can be considered in a multi-project context.

Hydropower Context in the Mekong Region

The Mekong Region is enjoying consistent economic growth.  As a result, the region’s trade and investment flows and the demand for energy are rapidly increasing.  This, together with significant fluctuations in oil and gas prices over the last year, and the growing evidence of climate change have stimulated a new era of hydropower development in the basin. 

Each new year witness new hydropower projects entering into operation in the Lower Mekong Basin, while more projects are currently under construction.  All of these projects are located on tributaries.  Nearly half of them involve some degree of seasonal regulation of stream flow.  The potential for over 20,000 MW of additional capacity has been identified, predominantly in projects in Lao PDR and Cambodia. A broad range of developers are now investigating these potential projects. Many concession agreements for tributary projects are already at advanced stages of negotiation. 

Twelve hydropower schemes are being studied by private sector developers for the mainstream of the Mekong River. The 1995 Mekong Agreement requires that such projects are discussed extensively among all four countries prior to any decision being taken. That discussion, facilitated by MRC, will consider the full range of social, environmental and cross-sector development impacts within the Lower Mekong Basin. So far, one proposed mainstream project has reached the stage of notification and prior consultation required under the Mekong Agreement. MRC has already carried out extensive studies on the consequences for fisheries and peoples’ livelihoods and this information is widely available, see for example report of an expert group meeting on dams and fisheries. MRC has undertaken the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of the proposed mainstream dams to provide a broader understanding of the opportunities and risks of such development. Dialogue on these planned projects with governments, civil society and the private sector is being facilitated by MRC and all comments received are being considered.

 In addition, the Government of the Lao PDR has commissioned a power optimisation study of the five proposed mainstream schemes in the northern Lao reach of the river. Hydropower generation potential and energy demand in the Mekong region are geographically imbalanced, thus highlighting the importance of and opportunities for an emerging regional power market.  This regional dimension is the driver behind most of the current projects with bilateral agreements being established for the export of electricity.

The role of the private sector in hydropower development, including on the Mekong mainstream, and in mining, industrial development, urbanisation, commodity crop production and tourism has rapidly gained importance.  Investment from the private sector now outweighs public sector investments in these areas and may lead to changes in the basin over the next few years on a scale that has so far not been seen.  In comparison with conventional strategy-driven public sector planning approaches, the private sector driven development emerging in the Lower Mekong Basin (LMB) is more opportunity-driven and compresses planning cycles.  This brings opportunities as well as challenges to the regulatory framework.

Up to 2.5 million tonnes of fish are caught in the Lower Mekong Basin every year, worth an estimated US$2 to 3 billion at point of first sale.  Supported by the Mekong’s large flood pulse, many fish migrate up- and downstream to breed and spawn. A recent Expert Group meeting convened by the MRC examined the potential harm to the Mekong fisheries caused by dams on the mainstream and reviewed potential measures to mitigate this damage by using technologies such as fish passages.  The most severely impacted would be the long-distance migrants, the ‘white fish’ species, which account for some 70% of the total fish catch. The experts concluded that while fish passes have been designed in various river systems in the world, there is currently little evidence that existing fish passage technologies would be effective for the high biodiversity and large biomass of fish populations in the Mekong.

2          Initiative on Sustainable Hydropower (ISH)

Implementation Arrangements

The evolution of MRC’s support to Member States in the hydropower sector is characterized by a gradual shift in emphasis away from the sole promotion of hydropower as a means to underpin economic growth towards the advancement of sustainable forms of hydropower management and development. This reflects the central idea of cooperation between Member States to move on a pathway to sustainable, mutually beneficial development of the Mekong basin’s water and related resources

Since 2006, interest in the potential for hydropower development in the lower basin has significantly accelerated.  In response to the sustainability challenge and in keeping with its role, the MRC began formulating the ISH in 2008.  In part, this was to enable the MRC to effectively respond to the dynamic situation with the 12 hydropower proposals on the Mekong mainstream, the consideration of which is central to the MRC mandate.  The mainstream proposals are also highly visible in the public eye and have sparked debate and controversy locally, nationally and internationally. 

But it also responds to growing recognition of the need to sustainably manage the increasing number of existing hydropower assets as cumulative and transboundary impacts are increasingly felt, in particular with respect to changes in river flows, sediment-nutrient flows and fish abundance in river systems.  Many opportunities to optimize the overall development performance of the proposed and the existing hydropower projects are presented.   Moreover, wider international experience clearly shows that measures to advance sustainable forms of hydropower must be factored into national policy and regulatory frameworks and in decision processes at all stages of planning and the project cycle, from strategic planning and options assessment, through project design, implementation, operation and refurbishment stages.

Equally important, it recognizes that hydropower considerations influence and often drive decisions that Member States take on the development and management of water infrastructure.  Also that cooperation among all the key stakeholder interests from government, private and civil society sectors is essential to deliver sustainable forms of hydropower development and management.

Objectives and Scope

The ISH responds directly to the goal hierarchy of the MRC Strategic Plan 2011-2015 by combining the use of awareness raising and multi-stakeholder dialogue (ISH outcome 1) knowledge management and capacity building (outcome 2) imbedding sustainable hydropower considerations in regional planning and regulatory systems (outcome 3) and, sustainability assessment and adoption of good practice (outcome 4). At the same time, the ISH must provide the MRC with enhanced capacity to measure and respond to all stakeholder views about hydropower.

A  central objective of the ISH in 2011-2015, in this respect, is to enable MRC to help Member Countries better integrate decisions about hydropower management and development with basin-wide integrated water resource management (IWRM) perspectives, through the established MRC mechanisms and national planning systems, consistent with the 1995 Mekong Agreement.   

It is clear that many new opportunities to do this rest with the ongoing institutional and regulatory changes in the power and water resource management sectors of MRC Member Countries.  For instance, the river basin committees (RBCs) and organizations (RBOs) now provided in the national legislation of most countries can play a central role in these tasks, when they become functional overtime, with the MRC offering overarching support as the regional-level RBO entity.   

A second wider objective is to help Member Country efforts to bring two major decision “spheres” (or “worlds”) concerned with hydropower decision-making closer together; namely (i) the energy and power sector / regulatory bodies, and (ii) the IWRM water resource and other natural resource management sectors / regulatory bodies.  Why is this important?  Because energy and power considerations often drive major decisions on Mekong water infrastructure. Moreover, sector fragmentation has always been a major challenge in IWRM implementation world-wide and in practice


ISH Implementation strategy

The strategy for 2011-2015 builds on MRC’s achievements in ISH implementation from its formulation in 2008 to its first full year (mid-2009 to mid-2010).  The strategy has several aspects.  

Overall, emphasis is placed on value added outputs that enable the MRC to help Member Countries (i) close gaps between current policy and practice relevant to sustainable hydropower outcomes (ii) develop capacity to pro-actively draw lessons from the growing pool of regional and international good practice, and (iii) more effectively respond to MRC stakeholder expectations, including contemporary issues that stakeholders feel are most important to their interests

Elements of the strategy seek to catalyze, encourage and support efforts of MRC countries to:  

·         Adopt partnership approaches for dialogue to raise awareness, promote and genuinely advance sustainable considerations in hydropower decision-making;

·         Draw effectively on regional and international experience, build confidence and share good practices relevant to all stages of planning and the infrastructure project cycle;

·         Introduce /reinforce enabling provisions for sustainable hydropower in national policy and regulatory frameworks, planning systems and related procedures;

·         Monitor progress over time introducing sustainable considerations from policy to practice through hydropower sustainability assessments at the project and basin/sub-basin levels;

·         Improve 2-way strategic communication between MRC and its stakeholders on hydropower sustainability issues in a way that adds value for all stakeholders; and

·         Build appropriate capacity in NMCs / and national line agencies for all these aspects, including the capacity of private sector and civil society stakeholder interests concerned.

·         It is recognized that hydropower is a controversial and often polarized topic in the Mekong and among MRC stakeholders.  No single organization on its own can bring about sustainable outcomes. To do this requires thinking about water infrastructure as a wider development intervention, with greater attention to the overall development effectiveness of projects; and not just seeing infrastructure narrowly as a way to meet growing needs for water and energy services.  .

Structure and Expected Outputs

As with other MRC programmes the activities of ISH have been structured around a set of thematic five Outcomes.  These include the following: 

Outcome 1:  A demonstrated increase in awareness of sustainable hydropower and its rationale, increased dialogue among the key stakeholder interests and partnerships being formed to introduce sustainable considerations into LMB hydropower practices.

Outcome 2:  Demonstrated improvement in technical capacities of MRC and prioritized national agency staff in hydropower data systems and use of information needed to advance sustainable hydropower considerations.


Outcome 3:  Sustainable hydropower considerations are more systematically and demonstrably incorporated into sector, sub-basin and Mekong regional planning systems and regulatory frameworks.

Outcome 4:  Hydropower sustainability assessment tools are in place at project and sub-basin levels to measure and assess progress with sustainable hydropower IO-4b.) Innovative financing mechanisms, especially benefit sharing on LMB hydropower increasingly evaluated and introduced for LMB hydropower projects


Outcome 5:  ISH is effectively managed and staffed and functions as a cross-cutting initiative with other MRC Programmes.


3          Scope of the Work

The scope of work of the Chief Technical Advisor is determined by the range of activities defined in the ISH Work plan Document summarised in the above figure of the current draft and shall include, but not necessarily be limited to, the following:

·         Policy, strategy and technical support to implementation of ISH Work plan Document activities of the ISH ;

·         Review of, and support to, procedures for introducing best practice in the areas covered by the ISH ;

·         Support to implementing and coordinating the ISH within MRCS, with line agencies and NMCs;

·         Engage with private sector developers, NGOs, civil society and researchers and maintain an active network among these groups. Assist with applying MRC’s principles of stakeholder engagement and consultation as a fundamental part of ISH ; 

·         Maintain active contacts with related initiatives, for example those of the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, IHA, WWF, IUCN, etc.;

·         In conjunction with ICBP and other programmes, devise capacity building programmes to  line agency,  NMC and MRCS staff and assist in its delivery;

·         Prepare TOR for specific activities to be commissioned by ISH and assistance with the supervision of such contracts, particularly from a technical perspective;

·         Provide overall guidance and assistance to the Multi-year follow-up to Recommendations of SEA to be carried out for the Mekong mainstream dams and for the 3S basin;

·         Provide overall guidance and assistance to the establishment of hydropower sustainability assessment tools and its implementations at project and sub-basin levels to measure and assess progress with sustainable hydropower ( IO-4b.) Innovative financing mechanisms, especially benefit sharing on LMB hydropower increasingly evaluated and introduced for LMB hydropower projects;

·         Provide analytical reviews on specific hydropower project proposals as requested, in particular in connection with the implementation of PNPCA incorporating as required inputs from relevant specialist areas; 

·         Reporting to the requirements of the funding agreements;

·         Assist in the introduction of a results-based monitoring system for ISH ; and

·         Prepare reports, presentations, publicity material and briefings for the media and guiding the delivery of key messages on ISH and its outputs to the wide range of interested stakeholders. In this regard, assist the development and management of the ISH webpages and information to be featured on the MRC home page.

4          Qualifications of Consultant

·         Master’s degree or higher relevant to sustainable hydropower development. At least fifteen years experience at a policy, strategy or strategic planning role in water resources development.  Experience from regional or international organisations and from the Lower Mekong Basin countries would be an asset. Demonstrated application of the interconnectivity between technical, economic, environmental and social aspects of hydropower development.

·         Experience with multi-stakeholder consultation processes, a demonstrated effectiveness in networking amongst a diverse stakeholder group, team building and experience with capacity building programmes. Evidence of involvement in development of good practice in relation to policy and strategy development.

·         Familiarity with private sector planning cycle involving concession agreements and power purchase agreements and their relationship with national policy frameworks and safeguard processes.

·      Knowledge and experience in programme management, budgetary and financial planning of projects;

·      Experience in working in an international environment

·      Knowledge about MRC and its activities, and working experience in the MRC member countries is an advantage;

·      Excellent command of verbal and written English is required.     

5          Reporting Line

The Chief Technical Advisor will report to the ISH Task Leader and to the Director of the MRC Planning Division, who currently guides the MRC’s ISH. Given the cross cutting nature of the tasks in the ISH , the Chief Technical Advisor will cooperate closely with the ISH Task Leader, and will need to liaise frequently with staff from other MRC programmes as well as the NMCs and line agencies.   

6          Duty Station, Duration and Schedule

Duty station from the assignment will be the MRC Secretariat in Vientiane, Lao PDR, with missions to MRC Member Countries.  The assignment will be one- year contract with possibility of extension based on satisfactory performance delivered.  The assignment is expected to start by end of March 2011.  

[1] Mekong River Commission, “Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement”, Approved by MRC Council on 30 November 2003.


[i] Brief information on remuneration 

The remuneration package, subject to change, includes (i) annual net base salary exempt from tax by Lao authorities, starting at US$ 86,791 (L-05, step 1, dependency rate);  (ii) a variable Post Adjustment which currently amounts to US$ 31,418;  (iii) 6 weeks’ annual vacation; (iv) Contribution of MRC to Health and Accident insurances (on shared basis with employee); (V) other entitlements and benefits such as Hardship Allowance, Dependency benefits, Rental Subsidy, Education Grant, Relocation Grant, Travel cost and Shipment expenses on assignment and upon separation, Repatriation Grant, Home Leave Travel, etc.  



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