Working in Baghdad

In Capacity Building, Career Development, International Development, Iraq, Sustainable Development on December 19, 2009 at 1:49 pm

I’ve been working in Baghdad for a week, and I’ve learned quite a bit about my project and the personalities. But I’ve been trying to digest and take a step back, looking at the project management styles. One thing I’ve noticed is that there is a lot of give and take with our expatriate leadership and the local management. In a program management meeting this morning, I watched as our Chief of Party, who has extensive program implementation/management experience in Sudan, Haiti, and Pakistan, push her staff to be proactive, in particular. Seeing the staff react to her and learn to work with her has reminded me of the importance of cross-cultural patience, on both sides.

Staying here in Baghdad on the compounds all week has been an interesting experience. We have almost no interaction with daily Baghdad city life. The entire two blocks surrounding the 7-10 villas we rent here are blocked off, and heavily armed Iraqi guards are everywhere. The Security company expat guards are on vigil all the time. The reality though is that it’s really not as dangerous as it used to be. The violence here, compared to other places expatriates work in the world is much less than in places like Sudan or Brazil. Yes there are IED’s, but they’re all score settling between ethnic groups or insurgents specifically trying to undermine the Iraqi Security forces. They’re not attacking NGO people.
That said, there’s still the element of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, which can be combatted with good intelligence and basic street smarts. I’m counting on my Personal Security Detail (PSD) to use both tomorrow to get me to the airport. I’ll fly out of Baghdad tomorrow early afternoon, and when I get to Amman a Jordan driver is going to take me and my colleague Bill to the Citadel and the markets for some shopping! Looking forward to that. Jordan has tons of tourists so I’m not worried. It will probably have a lot of Christians there because of Christmas, it is the holy land…
I’ll be home by Monday afternoon – pray to the snow-clearing equipment gods that their machines do their work and clear all the snow from the runways of Western Europe and the US East Coast. I can’t wait to be home.

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