Mercy Corps works in places of transition, where conflict, disaster, political upheaval, or economic collapse present opportunities to build a more secure, productive, and just communities. Providing emergency relief in times of crisis, we move quickly to help communities recover and build resilience to future shocks, and promote sustainable change by supporting community-led and market-driven initiatives. Recognizing both the great potential and the complex challenges faced by the Middle East, since 1989 Mercy Corps has been implementing a range of humanitarian assistance and development programs tailored to the specific needs of the region and of those communities where we work.
Marginalised for decades prior to 2011, Deir ez-Zor has had its social and governance structures severely damaged by conflict, leaving many key players jostling for influence, legitimacy, and control. As a governorate, its territory is controlled partially by the Government of Syria and partially by the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC). The perceived legitimacy of official authorities is dynamic, as is the security landscape. While resource-rich with large oil fields, the remote area comprises challenging terrain and lacks key infrastructure and basic service provision – two elements that have only been exacerbated by the recent conflict.
Reporting to the Area Director for North East Syria, the Area Startup Manager will supervise and support the expansion of the current Mercy Corps portfolio into the governorate of Deir ez-Zor. The program, currently mainly funded by DFID, will be multi-sectoral focusing on WASH, Livelihoods, Social Cohesion, and where possible expanding towards Early Recovery Activities.
MC is seeking a dynamic and diplomatic Area Startup Manager, capable of navigating complex conflict dynamics to access new areas of operations, this will include building a network and strong relationship with local authorities, communities and other stakeholders, as well as building a local team of humanitarian professionals to safely expand our programming into DEZ. An essential first step is to deepen the organization’s understanding of the context and the conflict dynamics in places we wish to work, and ensure our operational and programmatic decisions are founded on evidence and a deep rooted understanding of the local power dynamics to ensure all our programs are founded in the principles of Do No Harm. From there, the Manager will lead the identification of particular geographic locations in which MC could add value to communities as well as the priority sectors and modalities of intervention.
This position will be responsible for managing and overseeing the 4-month conflict sensitivity analysis MC is currently undertaking and responsible for guiding the decision making towards implementation. They will ensure the team undertaking the research, as well as the wider MC Syria team is kept abreast of research findings and will drive forward the decisions that allow for safe engagement of activities in DeZ. They will be responsible for formulating a documented engagement strategy in collaboration with the MC NES team and for designing appropriate operational plans as a result.
They will work in coordination with the North East Syria programs, operations, HR, security and finance teams to ensure smooth and safe setup of the office and associated operational facilities. They will lead recruitment of the team based upon the analysis results and ensure that recruited staff have their capacity built to undertake necessary tasks. They will coordinate and collaborate with the other Heads of Offices for the North East to ensure smooth inter-office communication and support, e.g., inter-office travel, unified HR, Security and Operations policies and procedures. For program implementation, the Area Startup Manager will work closely with the Program Managers to ensure the highest quality and responsible programming is carried out in a meaningful way. They will assist the Area Director, Area Director of Operations and Area Director of Programs, Humanitarian Director and Program Managers of the respective departments to ensure high quality program management and compliance with Mercy Corps’ internal policies and procedures as well as donor regulations. They will represent Mercy Corps to local authorities and work closely with the Area Director and Head of Office (East) to ensure smooth and productive relationships with the local authorities.
Essential Job Responsibilities
Strategy & Vision
- Lead the MC North East Syria team in utilizing analysis findings to develop a specific DeZ strategy
- Lead the development of Mercy Corps local engagement strategy in DEZ, as well as the programmatic direction.
- Foster an enabling environment for collaborative, inclusive, and accountable programs with local stakeholders.
- Contribute to the evidence base for geographic, sector and modality selection in our approach to programming in DEZ.
- Undertake strategic recruitment that will support the safe and sustainable entry of MC into DeZ
- Provide leadership to the team working in the area of operation, exemplifying the Mercy Corps ethos and collaborative working
- Work with MC Safety & Security team to collaborate on operational and programmatic plans such that they are grounded in sound analysis and backed by appropriate, feasible mitigation measures.
- Identify learning and development needs for program staff. Bring human resource/staff management issues to Area Director and HR Manager for decisions and lead the capacity building of the newly recruited DeZ team, prioritizing key skills as identified
- Ensure that all teams’ work plans, procurement plans and movement plans are coordinated for maximum efficiency in the use of resources, including financial, human and assets.
- Support all teams to ensure adherence to Mercy Corps policies and procedures in finance, procurement, logistics, HR, safety & security and program minimum standards.
- Through collaboration with the respective Program Managers, ensure effective weekly, monthly and quarterly planning.
- Conduct regular monitoring visits to field activities, debriefing with teams afterwards to discuss feedback, challenges and additional need for support
- Assist team members with information, tools and resources to improve performance & reach objectives.
- Create and sustain a work environment of mutual respect where team members strive to achieve excellence.
- Lead the set up (either directly or through remote oversight) of the DeZ office (and guesthouse if applicable)
- Ensure the smooth flow of daily administrative, program support and operations work of the DeZ team
- Support & oversee the daily office and program activities (either directly or remotely) – coordinate activities and needs with program managers; this includes but is not limited to regular updates and close coordination from the Programs teams on any field related activities, external as well as internal challenges while setting clear expectations and action points required from both parties.
- Report regularly on operational activities and security situation to Area Director/Area Director of Operations/Safety & Security team as per determined communication schedule.
- Conduct himself/herself both professionally and personally in such a manner as to bring credit to Mercy Corps and to not jeopardize its humanitarian mission.
- Other duties as assigned by the supervisor.
Finance & Compliance Management
- Ensure compliance with Mercy Corps and donor regulations.
- The Area Startup Manager will have the authority to approve the daily expenses as per Approval Authority Matrix.
- Immediately report (perceived or proven) instances of fraud, waste, abuse and diversion to the Area Director or Integrity Team
- Oversee support components of DEZ focused grants, and work with finance, Programs Sectoral Leads, Ops, Grants and Mercy Corps NES support services team to ensure the DEZ programs meets all objectives in accordance with Mercy Corps Program Management guidelines
- Contribute to reporting and proposal development for all DEZ grants and activities
- Within Mercy Corps authority matrix and matrix reporting lines the candidate will manage DEZ program budgets and contribute to decisions around the allocation of resources
- Consistently demonstrate flexibility, resilience and ability to maintain positive relationships and composure, even under difficult circumstances.
- Maintain high ethical standards and treat people with respect and dignity.
- Demonstrate an awareness of his/her own strengths and development needs.
Influence & Representation
- Liaise with donors (particularly on active DEZ grants and activities), and be able to represent the context and programs at a high-level, ensuring all key stakeholders are updated and abreast of all developments
- Identify, build and manage collaborative partnerships with key stakeholders in the areas of operation
- In collaboration with the Hasakeh Head of Office, act as the main liaison with officials, local partners and other stakeholders, develop and nurture internal and external relationships and networks to ensure optimum communication and program success;
- Establish and maintain good relationships with Local Authorities as needed.
- Communicate effectively to ensure overall project targets and donor obligations are met.
- Represent Mercy Corps, at local government, partner and other meetings.
- Maintain a strong network of NGOs, local civil society leaders and officials.
- Proactively participate in relevant informal coordination meetings.
- Liaise with international and local NGOs as required.
Safety & Security
- Proactively ensure that team members operate in a secure environment and are aware of policies.
- Ensure team members are following security and contingency plans – as outlined by Security department and Area Director.
- Ensure that any concerns related to the safety or security of the Mercy Corps team members, partners, or affiliate or assets are raised to the Safety & Security team and Area Director in a timely manner.
- As part of our commitment to organizational learning and in support of our understanding that learning organizations are more effective, efficient and relevant to the communities they serve, we expect all team members to commit 5% of their time to learning activities that benefit Mercy Corps as well as themselves.
Accountability to Beneficiaries
- Mercy Corps team members are expected to support all efforts toward accountability, specifically
to our beneficiaries and to international standards guiding international relief and development work, while actively engaging beneficiary communities as equal partners in the design, monitoring and evaluation of our field projects.
Staff members to be hired for DeZ operations.
Reports Directly to: Northeast Syria Area Director
Works Directly with: Area Director; Area Directors of Programs & Operations; Senior Safety & Security Officer; Finance Manager; Program Managers; PaQ Manager and HR Manager.
Knowledge and Experience
- BA/BS degree in a relevant field; masters preferred.
- Experience in starting up a response, i.e. securing access, securing office and accommodation, assessments, concept notes, hiring of staff, and managing programs and staff in complex post-conflict environments is required.
- Excellent analytical and strategic thinking skills and ability to develop short and long term plans and strategies are required.
- An impeccable professional standard of finance and procurement ethics as well as the willingness and ability to enforce compliance with Mercy Corps and donor policies and procedures is essential.
- Demonstrated ability to represent the organization and negotiate Mercy Corps’ interests with a diverse range of government officials, local organizations and other groups.
- Demonstrated attention to detail, ability to follow procedures, meet deadlines and work independently and cooperatively with other team members is required.
- Excellent fluent oral and written English and Arabic are required. Kurdish language skills highly desirable.
The successful candidate will prove effective leadership skills of operations in a complex environment. They will have the ability to lead by example and influence. They will have a proven ability to build internal staff capacity and competency and an outstanding ability to provide program support services. They will be flexible and creative in planning and problem solving. The successful candidate will demonstrate the ability and creativity in planning and problem solving and understanding the larger picture while remaining focused on the details. They will have the proven ability to learn quickly, take initiative and be accountable for results. They will also possess knowledge of security standards, precautionary measures, and communication protocols.
Living Conditions / Environmental Conditions
The position is based initially in Hasakah City, (with a move at a date to be determined to a location in Deir ez-Zor). Personnel in this location are expected to follow all security protocols. This unaccompanied position will be required to reside in group housing in an austere environment. This position is eligible for hardship allowance and R&R breaks.
Mercy Corps Team members represent the agency both during and outside of work hours when deployed in a field posting or on a visit to a field posting. Team members are expected to conduct themselves in a professional manner and respect local laws, customs and Mercy Corps’ policies, procedures, and values at all times and in all in-country venues.
Fostering a diverse and open workplace is an important part of Mercy Corps’ vision. Mercy Corps is an Equal Opportunity Employer regardless of background. We are committed to creating an inclusive environment.