Valerie Amos, Baroness Amos

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The Baroness Amos
Official portrait, 2013
United Nations Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator
In office
1 September 2010 – 29 May 2015
Secretary-GeneralBan Ki-moon
Preceded byJohn Holmes
Succeeded byStephen O'Brien
British High Commissioner to Australia
In office
1 October 2009 – 1 September 2010
MonarchElizabeth II
Prime MinisterGordon Brown
David Cameron
Preceded byHelen Liddell
Succeeded byPaul Madden
Leader of the House of Lords
Lord President of the Council
In office
6 October 2003 – 27 June 2007
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byThe Lord Williams of Mostyn
Succeeded byThe Baroness Ashton of Upholland
Secretary of State for International Development
In office
12 May 2003 – 6 October 2003
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byClare Short
Succeeded byHilary Benn
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
In office
12 June 2001 – 12 May 2003
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byThe Baroness Scotland of Asthal
Succeeded byChris Mullin
Government Whip
In office
28 July 1998 – 11 June 2001
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byThe Baroness Gould of Potternewton
Succeeded byThe Lord Bassam of Brighton
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
Assumed office
24 September 1997
Life peerage
Personal details
Valerie Ann Amos

(1954-03-13) 13 March 1954 (age 69)[1]
Georgetown, British Guiana (now Guyana)
Political partyLabour
Alma materUniversity of Birmingham
University of Warwick
University of East Anglia

Valerie Ann Amos, Baroness Amos, LG, CH, PC (born 13 March 1954) is a British Labour Party politician and diplomat who served as 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 life peer in 1997, serving as Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council from 2003 to 2007.

When she was appointed Secretary of State for International Development on 12 May 2003, following the resignation of Clare Short, Amos became the first Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) woman to serve as a Cabinet minister. She left the Cabinet when Gordon Brown became Prime Minister. 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. In September 2015, Amos was appointed Director of SOAS, University of London,[3] becoming the first black woman to lead a university in the United Kingdom.[4]

Since September 2020, Amos has been Master of University College, Oxford, succeeding Sir Ivor Crewe and becoming the first-ever black head of an Oxford college, as well as the first woman to head that college.[5][6]

Early life[edit]

Amos was born in 1954 in British Guiana (now Guyana) in South America and, after moving with her family to Great Britain in 1963,[7] she 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), an MA in cultural studies at the University of Birmingham (where the department was led by Stuart Hall),[8] and studied education at the University of East Anglia.

Charity career[edit]

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 in 1989, leaving the position in 1994.

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

Amos during the WEF 2013

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 Service Overseas, Chair of the Afiya Trust, Member of the board of the Sierra Leone Titanium Resources Group, a director of Hampstead Theatre and chair of the Board of Governors of the Royal College of Nursing Institute.

House of Lords[edit]

Amos was elevated to the peerage in August 1997 as Baroness Amos, of Brondesbury in the London Borough of Brent.[9][10] 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) from 1997 to 1998. 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[edit]

After previously threatening to resign as International Development Secretary in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Clare Short eventually stood down in May 2003 over a draft UN resolution that she felt failed to give "the UN its promised central role in rebuilding Iraq". Baroness Amos, who had been serving as Foreign Office minister and as a spokesperson in the Lords for International Development was swiftly announced as Short's replacement.[11] Her appointment made her "the UK's first black woman cabinet minister" and was an unusual example of a government department being headed by a member of the House of Lords.[11]

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.[12]

Non-governmental roles[edit]

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.[13] However, Belgian career diplomat Koen Vervaeke was appointed to this role 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.[14]

British High Commissioner to Australia[edit]

On 4 July 2009, it was advised that Baroness Amos had been appointed British High Commissioner to Australia in succession to Helen Liddell (now Baroness Liddell).[15] Amos took up the position in October 2009.[16]

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator[edit]

In 2010, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced Amos's appointment as Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.[17] 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.[18]

In 2015, World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Margaret Chan appointed Amos as member of the Advisory Group on Reform of WHO's Work in Outbreaks and Emergencies with Health and Humanitarian Consequences.[19] Since 2019, Amos has been serving on the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ (CSIS) Task Force on Humanitarian Access, co-chaired by Cory Booker and Todd Young.[20]

University career[edit]

In September 2015, she became the ninth director of SOAS University of London, the first woman of African descent to be director of an institute of higher education in Great Britain.[3][4] In 2019, she co-led a report by Universities (UUK) and the National Union of Students (NUS) addressing the disparity between the proportion of "top degrees" (first or 2:1 degrees) achieved by white and black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) students.[21]

In January 2021, Amos left her position at SOAS to become Master of University College, Oxford, as both the first woman appointed to that post and the first black head of any Oxford college.[22]


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, she 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."[23] She has also been awarded the honorary degrees of Doctor of Laws (Hon LLD) from the University of Warwick in 2000[24] and the University of Leicester in 2006.[25]

At the University of Birmingham, 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.[26]

In 2013, Amos was made an honorary Doctor of Civil Law at Durham University.[27]

Amos was appointed a Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour (CH) in the 2016 Birthday Honours for services to the United Nations and emergency relief.[28][29]

In 2017, Amos was awarded an honorary degree at Middlesex University, thereby "recognising achievement at the highest level as well as dedication to public duty and making a difference to others' lives."[30]

In July 2018, Amos received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Bristol.[31] In December 2018, she was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Literature by the University of the Witwatersrand.[1]

She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as an International Honorary Member in 2019.[32]

On 1 January 2022, the Queen appointed Amos a Lady Companion of the Order of the Garter.[33][34] Amos's banner of arms was erected at St George's Chapel, Windsor on 13 June. The design has not yet been made public. Amos has said that she wants a reference to education and learning, a personal passion, as well as something about Guyana, the place of her birth, and her longer term lineage in West Africa. She also would like something about global affairs. Amos is the first black "knight or lady companion" member of the order since its foundation (excluding the Emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie, who as a foreign monarch was a stranger knight of the order).[35][36]

In November 2022, Amos was awarded an honorary fellowship of the University of London.[37][38]

In May 2023, Amos took part in the Coronation of Charles III, representing the Order of the Garter.[39]

In November 2023, Amos was conferred with an Honorary Doctor of Law degree from the University of Guyana.[40][41][42]

Coat of Arms[edit]

Coat of arms of Valerie Ann Amos, Baroness Amos, LG, CH, PC
Blazons here are taken from the banner and badge on display in St George's Chapel.
Coronet of a Baroness
On a lozenge, Per saltire Gules and Or four armillary spheres axes bendwise sinister counterchanged.
The Order of the Garter circlet
A panther sejant Sable holding in its dexter paw an armillary sphere Gules.

Personal life[edit]

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 match at Old Trafford in May 2008.[43][44]

After resigning from the cabinet, Baroness Amos took up a directorship with Travant Capital, a Nigerian private equity fund launched in 2007.[45] In the House of Lords Register of Members Interests, she lists this directorship as remunerated.[46]

Amos was listed as one of "the 50 best-dressed over-50s" by The Guardian in March 2013.[47]


  1. ^ a b "2018 - Wits honours Baroness Valerie Amos with an honorary Doctorate in Literature". University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. 5 December 2018. Retrieved 15 February 2020.
  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 14 May 2011. Retrieved 10 July 2010.
  3. ^ a b "Valerie Amos to be ninth Director of SOAS, University of London". SOAS University of London. 29 June 2015. Archived from the original on 26 January 2017. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  4. ^ a b Wynne-Jones, Jonathan (19 July 2015). "Baroness Amos: I was taken aback when I found out I was the first black female head of a university". The Observer – via The Guardian.
  5. ^ "Baroness Valerie Amos appointed as Master of University College – First-ever black College Head appointed at Oxford". University of Oxford. 2 August 2019. Retrieved 5 August 2019.
  6. ^ "Valerie Amos appointed new Master". University College Oxford. August 2019. Retrieved 5 August 2019.
  7. ^ Hennessey, Ted (31 December 2021). "Baroness Amos becomes first black person appointed by Queen to prestigious order". The Independent.
  8. ^ Wilby, Peter (9 February 2016). "Interview | Valerie Amos: the coolest of cool to handle Soas's hot potato". The Guardian.
  9. ^ The London Gazette. 30 September 1997. p. 11015.
  10. ^ Mosley, Charles, ed. (2003). Burke's Peerage & Baronetage (107 ed.). Burke's Peerage & Gentry. p. 89. ISBN 0-9711966-2-1. OL 8563686M.
  11. ^ a b "Short launches broadside on Blair". BBC News. 12 May 2003. Retrieved 4 June 2021.
  12. ^ "Amos nominated for senior UN job". BBC News. 17 February 2005.
  13. ^ "Amos leaves Government role for EU". Prime Minister's Office. 27 June 2007. Archived from the original on 19 July 2007.
  14. ^ Kelso, Paul (7 October 2008). "Surprise as Baroness Amos joins 2018 World Cup bid". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 11 October 2008.
  15. ^ Colin Mackie (18 March 2014). British Diplomats Directory: Part 3 of 4. FCO Historians – via Issuu.
  16. ^ "Change of British High Commissioner to Australia". British High Commission Canberra. 4 July 2009. Archived from the original on 3 July 2009.
  17. ^ "Secretary-General Appoints Valerie Amos of United Kingdom Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs". United Nations. 9 July 2010.
  18. ^ Siddique, Haroon (9 March 2012). "Syria: opposition rejects call for dialogue - Friday 9 March". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 March 2012.
  19. ^ "Members of the Advisory Group on Reform of WHO's Work in Outbreaks and Emergencies with Health and Humanitarian Consequences". World Health Organization. Archived from the original on 18 September 2016.
  20. ^ "CSIS Task Force on Humanitarian Access". Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS). Archived from the original on 27 September 2019. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  21. ^ "Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic student attainment at UK universities: #closingthegap". Universities UK. 2 May 2019.
  22. ^ "Baroness Valerie Amos appointed the first-ever black College Head at Oxford University". Black History Month. 5 August 2019. Retrieved 1 January 2022.
  23. ^ "Happiness is University shaped at Stirling's summer graduations". University of Stirling. 9 June 2010. Archived from the original on 27 April 2018. Retrieved 12 February 2020.
  24. ^ "List of all Honorary Graduates and Chancellor's Medallists". Retrieved 17 March 2020.
  25. ^ "University of Leicester - Leader of Lords Honoured by University". Retrieved 17 March 2020.
  26. ^ "The First Lady" (PDF). The Birminngham magazine. No. 20. 2008–2009. p. 23.
  27. ^ "Durham Uni to honour four former students". Evening Chronicle. 22 December 2012. Retrieved 7 November 2023.
  28. ^ The London Gazette. 11 June 2016. p. B27.
  29. ^ "Birthday Honours 2016: the Foreign Secretary's overseas list for the Order of the Companions of Honour, Knight Bachelor and British Empire" (PDF). Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Retrieved 10 June 2016 – via GOV.UK.
  30. ^ "Baroness Amos awarded honorary degree at Middlesex University". Middlesex University. 14 December 2017.
  31. ^ "Honorary degrees awarded at the University of Bristol". 19 July 2018. Retrieved 17 March 2020.
  32. ^ "2019 Fellows and International Honorary Members with their affiliations at the time of election". Archived from the original on 2 March 2020.
  33. ^ "Blair becomes 'Sir Tony' and joins top royal order". BBC News. 31 December 2021. Retrieved 1 January 2022.
  34. ^ "New Appointments to the Order of the Garter announced". The British Monarchy. 31 December 2021. Retrieved 1 January 2022. In addition, The Queen has been graciously pleased to appoint The Right Honourable Valerie Ann, Baroness Amos C.H. to be a Lady Companion
  35. ^ "Valerie Amos". Oxford University. Retrieved 4 June 2022.
  36. ^ "Prince Andrew out of view as Tony Blair receives royal honour". BBC News. 13 June 2022. Retrieved 13 June 2022.
  37. ^ "University of London confers highest honours on exceptional individuals". University of London. Retrieved 25 March 2023.
  38. ^ "Honorary Awardds at the University of London | Foundation Day 2022", University of London.
  39. ^ "The Coronation Service - Order of Service". The Royal Family. 6 May 2023. Retrieved 6 May 2023.
  40. ^ "UG Press Release_Baroness Valerie Amos, Award-Winning Actress CCH Pounder Head Stellar List of Special Awardees for UG's Diamond (60th) Anniversary Convocation Ceremonies" (Press release). University of Guyana. 7 November 2023. Retrieved 12 November 2023.
  41. ^ "Ten outstanding Guyanese to receive honorary degrees from UG". Guyana Chronicle. 8 November 2023. Retrieved 12 November 2023.
  42. ^ "Baroness Amos tells UG graduands to 'solve big problems around the world'". News Room Guyana. 10 November 2023. Retrieved 12 November 2023.
  43. ^ Mountford, Adam (20 May 2008). "TMS starts the series in style". BBC Sport.
  44. ^ Mountford, Adam (7 July 2008). "From the Commons to Lord's". BBC Sport.
  45. ^ "The Board". Travant Capital. Archived from the original on 6 February 2011.
  46. ^ "House of Lords - Register of Lords' Interests". Retrieved 17 March 2020.
  47. ^ Cartner-Morley, Jess (28 March 2013). "The 50 best-dressed over-50s – in pictures". The Guardian.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Secretary of State for International Development
Succeeded by
Preceded by Leader of the House of Lords
Succeeded by
Lord President of the Council
Party political offices
Preceded by Leader of the Labour Party in the House of Lords
Succeeded by
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by British High Commissioner to Australia
Succeeded by
Positions in intergovernmental organisations
Preceded by Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator
Succeeded by
Academic offices
Preceded by Master of University College, Oxford