Area Director - North East Syria

Programs Hasakeh City, Hasakeh City


About Mercy Corps

Mercy Corps is a leading global organization powered by the belief that a better world is possible.  In disaster, in hardship, in more than 40 countries around the world, we partner to put bold solutions into action — helping people triumph over adversity and build stronger communities from within. Now, and for the future.

Program / Department Summary

Mercy Corps seeks to alleviate suffering, poverty and oppression around the world. We recognize that instances of sudden change within a country or region are rare moments to enact significant, lasting change. Mercy Corps, with its global experience working in countries undergoing major transitions, brings knowledge, expertise and strong management skills to position the agency as a partner of choice for progressive change in Syria. Mercy Corps has been operational in Syria since 2012 and is looking to expand our scope and impact by promoting governance through our work with local civil society actors and community based organizations. We empower and engage citizens by informing and mobilizing communities, and promoting civic engagement. By elevating the voices of vulnerable communities and increasing their inclusion in decision-making, we ensure governance processes are more equitable and effective, empowering communities to tackle the underlying causes of the world’s toughest challenges, working collaboratively to build secure, productive and just communities.

General Position Summary

As an active and influential member of the Syria Extended Senior Management Team, this position leads a large and diverse program, which spans four governorates of North-East Syria (Aleppo, Raqqa, Hasakeh and Deir-ez-Zor), approximately 150 staff, and a USD 10+ million annual portfolio. The Area Director is directly responsible for all aspects of program representation, leadership, management, security and implementation in North East Syria, mobilizing internal and external resources to ensure the quality, timely and effective programs are implemented in support of the most vulnerable and conflict affected populations. The AD will lead Mercy Corps Syria's transition into a new strategy focused on a longer term vision of resilience, recovery and development, alongside humanitarian aid.  Mercy Corps implements its program both directly and through partners, requiring travel up to 50% and within the region for coordination meetings. NES operates within a Whole Of Syria (WoS) structure for stratgegic coherence acorss Mercy Corps Syria's work, and to leverage efficiencies from centralized structures.

The Area Director works closely with the Country Office Senior Management Team in areas of Operations, Finance, HR, Ethics and Security, as well as MCS Advocacy Advisor and Sub-Awards and Compliance departments to ensure that all the aspects of the program implementation under his/her responsibility are compliant with MC and sectoral best practices, internal approaches, donors standards, rules and regulations. S/he ensures that the team working in North East Syria and on North East Syria programs is supported to deliver at scale and managed to achieve excellence. The Director leads on external representation for MCS in NES and facilitates smooth working relationships between program implementation and operation and support units. The Director will ensure the development and implementation of sustainable, multi-sector programming in the areas of WASH, Food Security, Livelihoods, Agriculture, Social Cohesion/Peace and Conflict, Stabilization , and is accountable to the communities we serve as well as , donors and local stakeholders.

They are innovative and visionary leaders responsible for resourcefully directing, strategizing and planning all programming, resulting in lasting improvement in the lives of millions of Syrians in Mercy Corps areas of operation. The position will support the strategic positioning of Mercy Corps and ensure that all Mercy Corps work is planned and executed with quality, accountability and measurable impact.

The AD is a critical member of the extended senior management team and will need to combine aptitude in programs, operations, security, and compliance. The role manages several departments directly and works closely with other ESMT directors where functions are centralised. This requires skill in matrix management and a collegial approach to achieving results.


Essential Job Responsibilities

Strategy & Vision

        Own the NES operational plan and communicate a clear vision of present and future program goals and strategies to North East Syria program team members and stakeholders, translating into concrete work plans;

        Contribute to countrywide strategy roll-out and prioritize and organize actions and resources to achieve objectives set through those processes;

        Follow analysis of the Syrian crisis, with an emphasis on North East Syria region and the impact of policy, political and military changes on the context, ensuring that this analysis is recognized and incorporated in planning for both short-term humanitarian and longer-term recovery and resilience programming;

        Ensure that analytical and technical support teams are collaborating with program and other internal stakeholders effectively, adding value to the program and maintaining strategic focus;

        Recognize opportunities for innovative action and create an environment where alternative viewpoints are welcomed.

        Ensure that program implementation is responsive to communities and partners and aligned with Mercy Corps’ principles and values;


Program Leadership

        Work closely with the Syria Deputy Country Director and other senior members of the Syria Program to ensure that Mercy Corps strategy is understood and guides decision-making throughout the response;

        Provide leadership to increase coordination, collaboration, communication and harmonization of Mercy Corps programming and operations inside North-East Syria;

        Build consensus around a common vision of what shared success inside Syria looks like, including development and tracking of appropriate indicators;

        Build consensus around priorities to improve the delivery of assistance inside North East Syria and to make program strategies and frameworks more consistent across the response;

        Oversight to ensure programs are able to meet donor and internal obligations on scope, time and budget, including efficient coordination on common program, operational and funding issues;

        Facilitate sharing and learning across different Mercy Corps North East Syria offices and support teams to incorporate learning from the response, and other regions, in project design and management;

        Engage Syria program leadership in ongoing context analysis that enables programs and teams to adapt to significant changes in the geopolitical/conflict environment;

        Utilize program data for management decision-making and timely and informative internal and external reporting;

        In coordination with Syria Country Director, Deputy Country Director and other senior leadership, engage in strong regional-level representation with donors, international and local NGOs and networks;

        Participate in shaping policy positions and advocacy messages pertaining to the overall humanitarian situation inside North-East Syria.


Team Management

        Lead a positive culture that prompts debate, creativity, accountability, ownership and teamwork.

        Promote high performance and excellence within a healthy work/life dynamic.

        Create and sustain a work environment of mutual respect where team members strive to achieve excellence;

        Promote accountability, communicate expectations and provide constructive feedback via regular team meetings, conversations, and performance reviews;

        Supervise, hire and orient new team members as necessary;

        Provide team members with information, tools and other resources to improve performance and reach objectives;

        Contribute to country team-building efforts, help team members identify problem-solving options and ensure the integration of all team members into relevant decision-making processes.


Finance & Compliance Management

        Recognize the high level of donor scrutiny imposed on Syrian programming and ensure continuing effective, transparent and responsive compliance mechanisms are in place;

        Maintain oversight of overall program budgets ensuring appropriate allocation of resources to meet program objectives;

        Ensure adequate technical, analytical and administrative support for programs;

        Ensure compliance with donor and Mercy Corps regulations.


Influence & Representation

        Represent Mercy Corps to peer agencies, donors, government bodies, local authorities in North East Syria and a wide variety of stakeholders to influence positive change in line with Mercy Corps values

        Represent Mercy Corps programs with national and international media as appropriate;

        Represent Mercy Corps on the NES Forum while also providing oversight and ensuring hosting responsibilities are met.

        Work with formal and informal government structures and representatives, maintain and develop relevant and productive relationships with a wide range of stakeholders;

        Maintain productive relationships with internal and external constituents such as private partners, local NGOs and civil society organizations and academic institutions;

        Anticipate program needs, understand donor pool and contribute to shaping donor views on the evolving context and its impact on civilians in North East Syria;

        Explore, evaluate and present innovative funding opportunities that support program objectives;

        Ensure that Mercy Corps maintain a high degree of risk awareness and impartiality;

        Respect and understand differing cultural and ethnic differences and nuances and have the ability to navigate between them, recognizing the complexities involved;

        Identify, build and manage collaborative partnerships with consortium partners, sub-grantees, donors, governments and other stakeholders.


        Maintain oversight of access provisions to ensure Mercy Corps’ continued ability to access our most vulnerable and hard-to-reach participants;

        Regularly review the Humanitarian Access Team and other Advisors’ analysis of security and its outlook in Syria and Turkey and ensure that planning is consistent with them;

        Line manage the NES security team ensuring timely security information is disseminated to team members;

        Ensure that security equipment and capacity building for team members is adequately reflected in all budgets and proposals;

        Coordinate with the Director of Country Risk, Security and Safety Management, Country Director and Deputy Country Director on crucial events, high-risk periods, incident reporting and any security policy changes;

        Accountable for ensuring compliance with all security procedures and policies in NES and ensuring compliance to Mercy Corps Iraq security policies and procedures;

        Proactively ensure that team members operate in a secure environment and are aware of policies.


Organizational Learning 

        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 participants and communities we serve,  and to international standards guiding international relief and development work, while actively engaging communities as equal partners in the design, monitoring and evaluation of our field projects.

Supervisory Responsibility

Direct: Director of Programs - NES, HR Manager, Humanitarian Access & Security Coordinator, Head of Offices (East and West)

Indirect: Finance and Ops Manager, Grants Manager, Program Performance and Quality Manager


Reports Directly to: Deputy Country Director

Works Directly with: Syria Country Director, Senior Management Team, Technical Support Unit, Mercy Corps Europe, Global Security Advisor, Mercy Corps Syria, country administration: finance, operations, HR and Grants Directors/teams. Program Performance and Quality Director, Technical Advisors, Advocacy, Policy and Communications Advisors, Director of Country Risk, Security and Safety Management, Safety and Security Manager (WoS), Peer Area Directors, Sub-Awards and Compliance Team.

Knowledge and Experience

        BA/S or equivalent in relevant field required, MA/S preferred;

        At least 7 years of senior-level leadership and management experience in large and complex programs including humanitarian operations, previous work experience in the Middle East and insecure environments preferred;

        Substantial knowledge of the international humanitarian system, institutions and donors, and of compliance requirements, accountability frameworks and best practices; prior experience with funding from USG, DFID, ECHO and other leading donors;

        Robust experience in developing, operationalizing, and implementing program strategies;

        Demonstrated expertise in representation and negotiation resulting in securing significant new opportunities for the organization;

        Demonstrated success working effectively and respectfully with host country government, private sector, INGO, NGO partners and other stakeholders in complex environments;

        Proven experience managing security and security teams in austere environments;

        Highly-developed interpersonal and communication skills including influencing, negotiation and coaching;

        Solid project management skills related to international, cross-functional teams;

        Experience of solving complex issues collegially, defining a clear way forward, and utilizing best practices in management to ensure shared success;

        Outstanding analytical and strategic thinking skills, with a focus on results and impact;

        Excellent oral and written English skills required, proficiency in Arabic preferred.


Success Factors

The successful candidate is an opinionated, fast thinking, experienced leader. S/he has a thorough understanding of what it takes to deliver impactful programs in challenging environments. S/he is an excellent communicator who can inspire broad and diverse teams towards achieving a shared goal and drive a fast-paced and adaptive program. S/he is able to create a stimulating working environment encouraging innovation and accountability. S/he is a confident representative in public settings, able to speak up when needed to defend Mercy Corps’ positions and influence key stakeholders internally and externally to further and expand MC Syria’s goals in the response. S/he is able to work effectively with an ethnically diverse team in a sensitive environment and prioritize team-building and capacity-building of national staff. S/he has excellent information management skills, is a strategic thinker. S/he has an outstanding ability to design, implement and manage innovative programs that respond to current needs and reinforce the future program structure of Mercy Corps in Syria.

Living Conditions / Environmental Conditions

The position is based in North East Syria and it requires up to 50% travel to all program implementation sites, security permitting. 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. Position is eligible for hardship and R&Rs.

Mercy Corps team members represent the agency both during and outside work hours when deployed in a field posting or on a visit/TDY to a field posting. Team members are expected to conduct themselves in a professional manner and respect local laws, customs and MC's 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.


Ongoing Learning

In support of our belief that learning organizations are more effective, efficient and relevant to the communities we serve, we empower all team members to dedicate 5% of their time to learning activities that further their personal and/or professional growth and development

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Achieving our mission begins with how we build our team and work together. Through our commitment to enriching our organization with people of different origins, beliefs, backgrounds, and ways of thinking, we are better able to leverage the collective power of our teams and solve the world’s most complex challenges. We strive for a culture of trust and respect, where everyone contributes their perspectives and authentic selves, reaches their potential as individuals and teams, and collaborates to do the best work of their lives. We recognize that diversity and inclusion is a journey, and we are committed to learning, listening and evolving to become more diverse, equitable and inclusive than we are today.


Equal Employment Opportunity

Mercy Corps is an equal opportunity employer that does not tolerate discrimination on any basis. We actively seek out diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and skills so that we can be collectively stronger and have sustained global impact.

We are committed to providing an environment of respect and psychological safety where equal employment opportunities are available to all. We do not engage in or tolerate discrimination on the basis of race, color, gender identity, gender expression, religion, age, sexual orientation, national or ethnic origin, disability (including HIV/AIDS status), marital status, military veteran status or any other protected group in the locations where we work.

Safeguarding & Ethics

Mercy Corps is committed to ensuring that all individuals we come into contact with through our work, whether team members, community members, program participants or others, are treated with respect and dignity. We are committed to the core principles regarding prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse laid out by the UN Secretary General and IASC. We will not tolerate child abuse, sexual exploitation, abuse, or harassment by or of our team members. As part of our commitment to a safe and inclusive work environment, team members are expected to conduct themselves in a professional manner, respect local laws and customs, and to adhere to Mercy Corps Code of Conduct Policies and values at all times. Team members are required to complete mandatory Code of Conduct elearning courses upon hire and on an annual basis.