Job Opening

Posting Title: Prevention and management of land fires
Department/Office: United Nations Environment Programme
Duty Station: PANAMA CITY
Posting Period: 06 April 2022 - 25 April 2022
Job Opening Number: 22-United Nations Environment Programme-178539-Consultant
Staffing Exercise N/A
United Nations Core Values: Integrity, Professionalism, Respect for Diversity
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Result of Service

Under the supervision of the regional associate humanitarian affairs officer in the UNEP Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, this consultancy will perform a gap analysis of the existing regulatory frameworks and practices related to the prevention and management of land fires (focusing on wildfires but including other landscapes as appropriate) in LAC, identify the needs of the region and how the current situation can be improved.


Responsibilities of the consultant include, but are not limited to:

• analyze the current state of wildfire management across the network membership.
• identify challenges and opportunities to develop and enhance wildfire risk management across the network; and
• identify risk-based solutions /approaches/recommendations on how to prevent or manage the hazard.
• Find possible mechanisms to allow for real and effective execution of actions.

The consultant must provide with examples of best practices, success cases, evidence on preparing for wildfires, the environmental dimension of fires , and lessons from past experiences in the context of emergencies and include exchange of experiences of the member countries of the EEP Network. All of this to support the countries of the region to be better prepared and gain knowledge regarding landfill fires, forest fires and wildfires and support in finding funding mechanisms to allow for real and effective execution of actions. Additionally, the consultancy should help respond to the following concerns:

• The main causes of wildfire and landfill fires and their impacts with a special focus on environmental impacts in areas such as biodiversity, ecosystems, air, water, and soil quality, wildfire climate, and including landscape transformation, and human alterations of the fire regime.
• the feasibility of an early warning system for LAC using earth observation, machine learning and other data that is freely available to identify areas at high risk of wildfires.
• the benefits of prevention in comparison to suppression and remediation.
• the resources or guidance available to countries in LAC through agencies such the Global Fire Monitoring Service.
• the effectiveness of preventive measures such as public education, updates to legislation, vegetation management, policy-based restrictions (e.g. burn permits) given that a high percentage of fires are caused by human actions and landscaping since manicured areas are less likely to contribute to fire spread.

Output 1: written document with gap analysis of the existing regulatory frameworks and practices regarding fires in the region, including, but not limited to, examples of best practices, success cases, evidence on preparing for forest fires, environmental dimension of fires, and lessons from past experiences in the context of emergencies. Also, include, funding mechanisms to allow for real and effective execution of actions.

Output 2: webinar/workshop/training for the diffusion of the gap analysis and the topics covered in the consultancy and final report of the consultancy.

Product No. 1: written document (in both Spanish and English) with gap analysis of the existing regulatory frameworks and practices regarding fires in the region with the requested information noted on the Output 1.

Product No. 2: written document, recording and evaluation (in both Spanish and English) of the conducted webinar / workshop / training, including the final report of the consultancy.

Work Location

Home-based

Expected duration

2 months

Duties and Responsibilities

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is the leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda, promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United Nations system and serves as an authoritative advocate for the global environment. The UNEP Latin America and the Caribbean Office (ROLAC), located in Panama City, works closely with the 33 countries of the region and its activities are integrated into the Medium-Term Strategy and the Programme of Work approved by the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA).

Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) continues to be impacted by wildfires with an average of 33 million hectares of land estimated to have been affected each year for the period 2009-2019 . A combination of winds, low humidity, high temperatures and low rainfall can exacerbate the conditions that result in wildfires. The LAC region currently suffers one of the highest incidences of wildfires globally, even though it is one of the most culturally, biologically, and geologically diverse continents in the world.

Among the factors that explain different patterns of wildfires in the Americas are the expansion of the agricultural and livestock frontier, deforestation, and climate change-related effects. Monitoring and follow-up are still insufficient at the regional level and fire management is restricted, in most cases, to wildfire suppression and firefighting, which has a limited reach, in addition to exposing firefighters and the population to highly dangerous situations . Similarly, some countries in the region conduct preparedness activities, however, the funding assigned to this type of activities is small compared with the real needs. Fire prevention is vital in any fire management strategy. It is generally much less expensive than fire suppression and reduces the costs of fire damage , but attention from governments and from national and international organizations is needed.

Similar to the case of wildfires, landfill fires also affect many places around the LAC region. For instance, in Latin America and the Caribbean, around 145,000 tons of garbage ends up in dumpsites every day , where the decomposition and burning of waste generate powerful gases that pollute the atmosphere, make people sick and contribute to climate change, while increasing the risk of ignition and the spread of uncontrollable fires.

Recent cases in the region include Argentina, where since mid-January 2022, authorities in the north-eastern province of Corrientes have been dealing with wildfires that have so far claimed 934,238 hectares . Corrientes officials, who declared a state of emergency, indicated that the province lost about 11 per cent of its land, with fires consuming land at a rate of about 30,000 hectares per day, causing losses of more than US$240 million. The fires owe to a historic drought linked to the La Niña climate phenomenon that has created scarce rains and two years of abnormally high temperatures and low humidity in a rural farming province that normally sees high rainfall. As a consequence of these events, a massive, fast-moving cloud of ash hundreds of meters tall and several kilometers wide has swept over southern Paraguay, as storms blew debris from wildfires raging in neighboring Argentina following two years of severe drought. The towering wall of dust and soot raced over the Paraná River from the province of Corrientes in northern Argentina, 250km south of Asunción .

Reports related to forest fires exist, for example, Spreading like Wildfire: The Rising Threat of Extraordinary Landscape Fires , and the Frontiers 2022: Noise, Blazes and Mismatches (chapter 2) , but these are at a global level. In term of wildfire prevention, an analysis is needed to identify at the regional level "what is being done well", what is being done no that well", the areas that are facing urgent challenges from an environmental policy perspective, the current needs and the good practices that need to be implemented considering specifically the LAC environmental, social and political context. Moreover, faced with limited human and financial resources, a method to easily identify high-risk areas is urgently needed so that preventative measures can be implemented, although some areas have been identified by some countries, funding and capacity building is needed in order to correctly address these issues.

UNEP, acting as Secretariat of the Regional Environment and Emergencies Preparedness Network for Latin America and the Caribbean (EEP Network) is looking to hire a consultant to perform a gap analysis of the existing regulatory frameworks and practices related to the prevention and management of land fires (focusing on wildfires but including other landscapes as appropriate) in LAC, identify the needs of the region and how the current situation can be improved. The incumbent will be supervised by the regional associate humanitarian affairs officer in the UNEP Office for Latin America and the Caribbean and will work from home.

Qualifications/special skills

ACADEMIC:
University Degree (Bachelor’s Degree) in Civil Engineering, Architecture, Agronomy, Environmental Engineering, Biology, Environmental Affairs, Environmental Law or similar.

PROFESSIONAL:
At least Five (5) years in topics related to environmental health issues, environmental impact assessment, environmental management, environmental risks, risk management, preparation of emergency plans, contingency plans, development of action protocols, technical studies on vulnerability etc.

LANGUAGE: Fluency in written and spoken Spanish and English is required.

DESIRABLE:
• Previous experience in fire management processes.
• Delivery and facilitation of trainings/workshops related with environmental management.
• Knowledge and experience of the environmental context in LAC.

No Fee

THE UNITED NATIONS DOES NOT CHARGE A FEE AT ANY STAGE OF THE RECRUITMENT PROCESS (APPLICATION, INTERVIEW MEETING, PROCESSING, OR TRAINING). THE UNITED NATIONS DOES NOT CONCERN ITSELF WITH INFORMATION ON APPLICANTS’ BANK ACCOUNTS.

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