Yemen at the Crossroads: Between humanitarian and development priorities in the face of insecurity
Series: Middle East Initiative Speaker Series
Open to the Public - Cason Room (Taubman 102)
August 30, 2012
Related Project: Middle East Initiative
A seminar with Mohammed Qazilbash, Yemen Country Director for Mercy Corps.
Ask Mohammed Qazilbash about his typical day and you’ll get a hearty laugh before he disabuses you of the notion. “There is no typical day,” he says. “Every day of the week is really quite different. There’s never a dull moment, and always something happening that I need to get cracking on.”
He starts early, downloading emails at 6:30 a.m. to catch up on doings at headquarters offices on the other side of the globe. “While I’m sleeping,” Mohammed says, “other people are working. So by the time I get up, there’s a large number of questions and answers waiting for me. What my day will be like… well, that depends on what happened overnight.”
The happenings may be routine, like a request for information from a donor or partner. Or they may be urgent, like a security incident. It’s Mohammed’s responsibility to make sure his people are OK. “I contact my colleagues in our sub-offices to find out if all is well and how they’re planning to respond,” he explains. “If it’s serious, they may have to cancel their field visits for the day and just hibernate in the office.” He provides the guidance and support to keep team members safe — and to keep Mercy Corps programs running with as few interruptions as possible.
Having worked for other NGOs in China, Pakistan and Kenya, Mohammed knew about Mercy Corps. “I was quite impressed by the type of work being done by Mercy Corps, and by the people I met who worked for the agency,” he says. “So I was interested in the opportunity.” He also was eager to return to the Middle East, where he had worked before — so the Yemen country director job was a good fit.
From the get-go, Mohammed felt at home. “Everyone wants to help,” he says gratefully. “The level of support I’m getting is phenomenal. I’ve met highly competent individuals and I’m having lots of fun. I feel very privileged — I’m not sure what I’ve done to deserve this!”
Mohammed appreciates the flexibility he has in his new post. “It’s based on respect,” he says thoughtfully. “They respect that what I plan to do is in the best interest of the communities here in Yemen and the organization worldwide. Having that respect — there’s nothing better.”
Middle East Initiative
Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
John F Kennedy School of Government
79 John F. Kennedy St.
Cambridge, MA 02138
Phone: (617) 495-5963
Fax: (617) 496-9688