Valerie Amos, Baroness Amos

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The Right Honourable
The Baroness Amos
Valerie Amos DFID 2013.jpg
Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator
In office
1 September 2010 – 29 May 2015
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Preceded by John Holmes
Succeeded by Stephen O'Brien
British High Commissioner to Australia
In office
1 October 2009 – 1 September 2010
Monarch Elizabeth II
Preceded by Helen Liddell
Succeeded by Paul Madden
Leader of the House of Lords
Lord President of the Council
In office
6 October 2003 – 27 June 2007
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by The Lord Williams of Mostyn
Succeeded by The Baroness Ashton of Upholland
Secretary of State for International Development
In office
12 May 2003 – 6 October 2003
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Clare Short
Succeeded by Hilary Benn
Personal details
Born Valerie Ann Amos
(1954-03-13) 13 March 1954 (age 68)
Georgetown, British Guiana (now Guyana)
Political party Labour
Alma mater University of Birmingham
University of Warwick
University of East Anglia
Religion Christian

Valerie Ann Amos, Baroness Amos, PC (born 13 March 1954) was the eighth UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. Before her appointment to the UN, she served as British High Commissioner to Australia. She was created a Labour Life Peer in 1997, becoming Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council.

When Amos was appointed Secretary of State for International Development on 12 May 2003, following the resignation of Clare Short, she became the first black woman to sit in the Cabinet of the United Kingdom. She left the Cabinet when Gordon Brown became Prime Minister. She was then nominated to become the European Union Special Representative to the African Union by PM Brown.[1] In July 2010 Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon announced Baroness Amos's appointment to the role of Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.[2] She took up the position on 1 September 2010 and remained in post until 29 May 2015. Amos is the current Director of SOAS, University of London.

Early life

Amos was born in British Guiana (now Guyana) in South America and attended Bexley Technical High School for Girls (now Townley Grammar School), Bexleyheath, where she was the first black deputy head girl. She completed a degree in Sociology at the University of Warwick (1973–76), and also later took courses in cultural studies at the University of Birmingham and the University of East Anglia.

Chief Executive of the Equal Opportunities Commission

After working in Equal Opportunities, Training and Management Services in local government in the London boroughs of Lambeth, Camden and Hackney, Amos became Chief Executive of the Equal Opportunities Commission 1989–94.

In 1995 Amos co-founded Amos Fraser Bernard and was an adviser to the South African government on public service reform, human rights and employment equity.

Other positions

Amos has also been Deputy Chair of the Runnymede Trust (1990–98), a Trustee of the Institute for Public Policy Research, a non-executive Director of the University College London Hospitals Trust, a Trustee of Voluntary Services Overseas, Chair of the Afiya Trust, a director of Hampstead Theatre and Chair of the Board of Governors of the Royal College of Nursing Institute.

Her most recent appointment has been to be the 9th director of SOAS, the School of Oriental & African Studies, and coincidently makes her the first woman of African descent to be director of an institute of higher education in Great Britain. She began this role in September 2015.

House of Lords

Amos was elevated to the peerage in August 1997 as Baroness Amos, of Brondesbury in the London Borough of Brent.[3][4] In the House of Lords she was a co-opted member of the Select Committee on European Communities Sub-Committee F (Social Affairs, Education and Home Affairs) 1997–98. From 1998 to 2001 she was a Government Whip in the House of Lords and also a spokesperson on Social Security, International Development and Women's Issues as well as one of the Government's spokespersons in the House of Lords on Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. Baroness Amos was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs on 11 June 2001, with responsibility for Africa; Commonwealth; Caribbean; Overseas Territories; Consular Issues and FCO Personnel. She was replaced by Chris Mullin.

International Development Secretary and Leader of the House of Lords

Baroness Amos was made International Development Secretary after the incumbent, Clare Short, resigned from the post in the run-up to the US and UK 2003 invasion of Iraq. Although she ostensibly worked in development, she toured African countries that held rotating membership of the Security Council, encouraging them to support the attack. Despite her efforts, the UK was not successful in establishing a legal basis for the war.

Baroness Amos was appointed Leader of the House of Lords on 6 October 2003, following the death of Lord Williams of Mostyn, which meant that her tenure as Secretary of State for International Development lasted less than six months.

On 17 February 2005, the British Government nominated Lady Amos to head the United Nations Development Programme.[5]

Non-Governmental roles

Baroness Amos left the cabinet when Gordon Brown took over as Prime Minister from Tony Blair in June 2007. Brown proposed her as the European Union special representative to the African Union, but this job went to Belgian career diplomat Koen Vervaeke instead. She was a member of the Committee on Commonwealth Membership, which presented its report on potential changes in membership criteria for the Commonwealth of Nations at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2007 in Kampala, Uganda.

On 8 October 2008 it was reported that Amos was to join the Football Association's management board for England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup. This was described as a "surprise appointment", since she has no recorded interest in football (despite her interest in cricket) or any experience in similar work such as the 2012 Olympics bid.[6]

On 4 July 2009 it was advised that Baroness Amos had been appointed British High Commissioner to Australia in succession to H.E. Helen Liddell (now Baroness Liddell).[7] Amos took up the position in October 2009.[8]

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator

In 2010 United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced Amos's appointment as Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.[9] In March 2012 she visited Syria on behalf of the UN to press the Syrian government to allow access to all parts of Syria to help people affected by the 2011-2012 Syrian uprising.[10]


Lady Amos was awarded an Honorary Professorship at Thames Valley University in 1995 in recognition of her work on equality and social justice. On 1 July 2010, Amos received an honorary doctorate (Hon DUniv) from the University of Stirling in recognition of her "outstanding service to our society and her role as a model of leadership and success for women today."[11] She has also been awarded the honorary degrees of Doctor of Laws (Hon LLD) from the University of Warwick in 2000 and the University of Leicester in 2006.

At Birmingham University where she studied as an undergraduate, the Guild of Students have named one of the committee rooms "The Amos Room" after her, in acknowledgement of her services to society.

Personal life

Amos is an enthusiast of cricket and talked about her love of the game with Jonathan Agnew on Test Match Special during the lunch break of the first day of the England v New Zealand test at Old Trafford in May 2008.[12][13]

After resigning from the cabinet, Baroness Amos took up a directorship with Travant Capital, a Nigerian private equity fund launched in 2007.[14] In the House of Lords Register of Members Interests she lists this directorship as remunerated. At launch over one third of Travant’s first equity fund came from CDC (a government-owned plc). CDC's investment decisions are taken completely independently of external influences (including its shareholder) and the decision to invest in Travant by CDC was taken before Amos was appointed to the board of Travant.[15] In his book "The Catholic Orangemen of Togo", Craig Murray published that he was approached by a Nigerian director of Travant while on business in Benin, and told that Travant had access to DFID funding through Amos.

Baroness Amos has never married and has no children. She was listed as one of "the 50 best-dressed over-50s" by the Guardian in March 2013.[16]


  1. "Amos leaves Government role for EU", Prime Minister's Office. Archived 19 July 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  2. "New UN humanitarian chief among five senior officials appointed by Ban". UN News Centre. United Nations. 9 July 2010. Archived from the original on 10 July 2010. Retrieved 10 July 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. The London Gazette: no. 54906. p. 11015. 30 September 1997.
  4. Mosley, Charles (ed.) (2003). Burke's Peerage & Baronetage, 107th edn. London: Burke's Peerage & Gentry Ltd. p. 89 (AMOS, LP). ISBN 0-9711966-2-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Amos nominated for senior UN job", BBC News, 17 February 2005.
  6. Kelso, Paul (7 October 2008). "Surprise as Baroness Amos joins 2018 World Cup bid". Daily Telegraph. London.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. FCO Historians website
  8. Change of British High Commissioner to Australia British High Commission Canberra, 26 October 2009.
  9. "Secretary-General Appoints Valerie Amos of United Kingdom Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs". United Nations. 9 July 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Siddique, Haroon (9 March 2012). "Syria live updates". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 9 March 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Happiness is University shaped at Stirling’s summer graduations", University of Stirling, 9 June 2010.
  12. "TMS starts the series in style", BBC Sport, 20 May 2008.
  13. "From the Commons to Lord's", BBC Sport, 7 July 2008.
  14. The Board, Travant Capital.
  15. Walker, Kirsty (13 January 2009). "Ex-minister Baroness Amos lands job with firm given £15m government handout". Mail Online. London.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Cartner-Morley, Jess; Mirren, Helen; Huffington, Arianna; Amos, Valerie (28 March 2013). "The 50 best-dressed over-50s". The Guardian. London.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Clare Short
Secretary of State for International Development
Succeeded by
Hilary Benn
Preceded by
The Lord Williams of Mostyn
Leader of the House of Lords
Succeeded by
The Baroness Ashton of Upholland
Lord President of the Council
Party political offices
Preceded by
The Lord Williams of Mostyn
Leader of the Labour Party in the House of Lords
Succeeded by
The Baroness Ashton of Upholland
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Helen Liddell
British High Commissioner to Australia
Succeeded by
Paul Madden
Preceded by
John Holmes
Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator
Succeeded by
Stephen O'Brien