Country Director - Afghanistan

Programs Kabul, Afghanistan


About Mercy Corps   

Mercy Corps is powered by the belief that a better world is possible. To do this, we know our teams do their best work when they are diverse and every team member feels that they belong. We welcome diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and skills so that we can be stronger and have long term impact.

Program / Department Summary   

Mercy Corps has been working in Afghanistan since 1986, seeking to assist Afghans in building equitable and sustainable livelihoods in strong communities. Historically, our work has focused on creating and strengthening economic opportunities, water security and humanitarian response in 10 provinces. More than a year after the re-establishment of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) in August 2021, Mercy Corps is growing its portfolio with cash-based humanitarian programming in 2 provinces while continuing to navigate operational adaptations to its existing WaSH and livelihoods programming. 

Current Response strategy as of February 2023 

Mercy Corps is committed to continuing to serve the people of Afghanistan, working to assure peaceful and resilient communities. At time of writing, Mercy Corps Afghanistan (MCA) has suspended all program operations in country and is working to adapt its programs given recent decrees by the IEA. It is anticipated that this process of suspension could conclude in mid-2023 with humanitarian access negotiations.  

Even though program operations in country are fully suspended, Mercy Corps will maintain the intent to restart humanitarian programs inside Afghanistan through 2023, and will continue active advocacy efforts to resolve the situation in a manner that enables all MCA team members to operate with a degree of safety. These efforts will be complemented by a crisis analysis facility, enabling Mercy Corps to maintain insight into dynamics, actors and events related to the world’s gravest complex humanitarian crisis.  
General Position Summary   

The Country Director (CD) is the top management position for Mercy Corps in Afghanistan with supervisory and managerial responsibility over all personnel, programs and policies. The CD is responsible for developing the overall strategic direction for programming in cooperation with Mercy Corps’ senior management team and local and international partners. S/he will ensure we learn from experience, thorough research and contextual analysis to develop high impact strategies that address both the current crises as well as longer-term solutions. S/He is also responsible for developing and implementing systems, policies and procedures for Mercy Corps’ operations in Afghanistan. The CD is responsible for financial oversight, staff security, human resource management and representation. S/he is a skilled communicator, able to develop and utilize strong relationships with team members, partners and donors. S/he will coordinate with his/her supervisor and be skilled at building highly effective working relationships with HQ. S/he will harness the expertise, experience and ideas of Mercy Corps’ diverse program support teams to channel them into impactful partnerships with country programs. S/he will work with the senior management team prioritizing their professional development and growth.  
The Country Director (CD) acts for Mercy Corps on all matters related to the situation in Afghanistan. S/he will lead on advocacy and humanitarian access efforts (with bi- and multi-lateral partners as well as directly with the IEA where appropriate and necessary), act as a spokesperson, participate in policy briefings and meetings, and, alongside the Humanitarian Leadership and Response team and Regional Security Adviser, prepare briefings, reports and insights for internal and external thought leadership on the humanitarian emergency.  

Although it is anticipated that this position will be based in Kabul, it will include some travel to, and presence in, other provinces and/or the wider region, dependent on security and context.  

Essential Job Responsibilities   


  • Working with the Humanitarian Leadership and Response team and other stakeholders, develop and maintain a granular knowledge of the evolving context, its key dynamics and actors.  
  • Develop, with key stakeholders, an action plan for strengthening an active MCA program, including work streams focused on recruitment of key staff, re-establishment of program infrastructure, donor relations and new business development.  
  • Formulate, plan and communicate a clear vision of present and future program goals and strategies to team members and stakeholders that translates into concrete programs and work plans. 
  • Lead the annual country planning process and provide strategic updates.  
  • Set direction by prioritizing and organizing actions and resources to achieve program and agency objectives. 
  • Recognize opportunities for innovative action and create an environment where alternative viewpoints are welcomed. 
  • Use technical support teams collaboratively. 
  • Explore, evaluate and present new country and project funding opportunities that leverage impact and integrate initiatives and activities; support and direct related fund-raising activities with both institutional and private donors. 
  • Recognize opportunities for innovative action and create an environment where alternative viewpoints are welcomed. 
  • Recruit, manage, motivate, and onboard an informed, skilled and efficient team with an emphasis on excellence and achievement; encourage a team culture of learning, creativity and innovation, incorporating staff development strategies and performance management systems into the team building process. 
  • Manage all key staff associated with re-establishing in-country operations, inclusive of both international and Afghan staff, and covering finance, programs, operations, and liaison functions, and line manage the Senior Management Team. 
  • Develop the capacity of the team, deepen understanding of their roles and assist with career development. 
  • Assist team members with information, tools and resources to improve performance & reach objectives. 
  • Promote accountability, communicate expectations and provide constructive feedback informally and formally via regular one on ones and performance reviews. 
  • Create and sustain a work environment of mutual respect where team members strive to achieve excellence. 
  • Coordinate with key support functions, including regional leadership, regional and global security, regional program teams in the UK and USA, international finance, compliance, policy and advocacy, and communications. 
  • Represent Mercy Corps on all Afghanistan matters to key international policymakers and influencers, including UN system agencies and other multilaterals, the U.S. government, the U.K. government, the European Union, and networks, think tanks and academia.  
  • Represent Mercy Corps to national and/or sub-national authorities in Afghanistan, including IEA officials and figures, operating at all times within international humanitarian law and in accordance with both humanitarian principles and anti-terrorism laws and regulations.  
  • Where appropriate and impactful, produce thought leadership pieces, reports, and briefings for internal and external use, working with the Humanitarian Leadership and Response team and others.  
  • Demonstrate flexibility, resilience and ability to maintain positive relationships and composure.   
  • Maintain high ethical standards and treat people with respect and dignity. 
  • Exhibit awareness of his/her own strengths and development needs. 
  • Anticipate needs, understand donor pool and contribute to shaping donor’s views on development and humanitarian programs. 
  • Fulfill Mercy Corps’ Program Management Minimum Standards based on the organization-wide guide.   
  • Ensure all new interventions adhere to Mercy Corps’ Gender Policy, Do No Harm principles, and participant accountability standards.   
  • Oversee program quality and impact by ensuring programs are based on sound design principles and utilize Mercy Corps and donor required M&E systems. 
  • Ensure effective, transparent use of resources in compliance with Mercy Corps and donor policies/procedures. 
  • Lead country team to strive for impact at country level leading to sustained change based on strong systems and incorporation of learnings into programs. 
  • Oversee budget management of sub-grantees/sub-contractors, if applicable. 
  • Build and maintain operational systems that ensure proper administrative support for programs, as well as segregation of duties between finance and operations. 
  • Ensure compliance with donor and Mercy Corps regulations related to this complex situation, including working alongside global and regional leadership, regional program teams, finance, legal and compliance on ongoing donor and contractual issues.  
  • Draft and/or review scope of work to hire and manage any technical consultants, including review for technical efficacy and contract budget. 
  • Build and maintain operational structures that ensure proper segregation of duties between finance, administration and logistics and fully support field programs. 
  • Manage security and safety of the entire country team and Mercy Corps assets according to best practices, Mercy Corps operating standards and field realities.  
  • Liaise with the Regional Security and Safety advisor and Regional Director on crucial events, high-risk periods, incident reporting and security policy changes.   
Supervisory Responsibility
Afghanistan SMT, including Director of Programs, Director of Operations, Security Safety and Access Lead, HR Lead, and Finance Lead


Reports Directly To: Regional Director   
Works Directly With: Asia Regional Program Team, the Regional Performance and Quality team, Regional Security  and other teams in the region and at Headquarters as needed.   
Accountability to Participants and Stakeholders  

Mercy Corps team members are expected to support all efforts toward accountability, specifically to our program participants, community partners, other stakeholders, and to international standards guiding international relief and development work. We are committed to actively engaging communities as equal partners in the design, monitoring and evaluation of our field projects.  
Minimum Qualification & Transferable Skills   
  • MA/S or equivalent in relevant field required.  
  • 7-10 years of field experience in international relief and development programs, including demonstrable success in managing and leading in complex, insecure contexts.  
  • 5 years of senior-level leadership and representational experience.   
  • Demonstrated success working effectively and respectfully with national and sub-national authorities, private sector, INGO, NGO partners and other stakeholders in complex environments.   
  • Working knowledge of international humanitarian law, humanitarian principles, and the counterterror compliance regimes relevant to Afghanistan and the IEA.  
  • Prior experience with USAID, USDS, FCDO, EC, UN, and private donors for humanitarian action.  
  • Successful and proven negotiation, communication and organization skills.   
  • Proven capacity to analyze the political and social context in which our organization operates to make informed decisions.   
  • Proven capacity to exercise influence and thought leadership in relation to key policy shapers and makers in the U.S.A., U.K. and Europe, as well as in the multilateral system.  
  • Excellent oral and written English skills required; proficiency in Dari or Pashto is a plus.   
  • Ability to work effectively with a diverse range of stakeholders in a sensitive environment.   
  • Previous work experience in Afghanistan or in the region, and in insecure environments is preferred.    
Success Factors   

The successful CD will be a gracious, personable leader who has an energizing effect on our team and key external partners. A politically savvy, balanced, and astute individual who has the persona to successfully convene and partner with relevant stakeholders in the ever shifting and complex crisis ecosystem of Afghanistan. Calm and emotionally intelligent, personifying grace under fire, especially in leading through the management of urgent security situations. They will have the vision to see possibilities for positive change where others see deprivation; be able to articulate compelling insights into the Afghanistan crisis; and be able to lead the design and implementation of bold solutions as and when opportunities to re-establish program operations allow. They will have high emotional intelligence, constructive mentoring skills and proven experience with capacity building. Successful Mercy Corps team members have a strong commitment to teamwork and accountability, thrive in evolving and challenging environments, and make effective written and verbal communication a priority.   

Living Conditions / Environmental Conditions  

The CD is based in Kabul but will likely be expected to travel 40% within Afghanistan and the wider region should the situation dictate and conditions allow. In Afghanistan, conditions may be testing and include lack of dependable access to utilities for a period, as well as requiring constant monitoring of the security situation at organizational and personal levels.   

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.