Valerie Ann Amos, Baroness Amos, 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.(born 13 March 1954) is a British
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. 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, becoming the first black woman to lead a university in the United Kingdom.
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.
Amos was born in 1954 in British Guiana (now Guyana) in South America and, after moving with her family to Great Britain in 1963, 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), and studied education at the University of East Anglia.
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 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
Amos was elevated to the peerage in August 1997 as Baroness Amos, of Brondesbury in the London Borough of Brent. 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
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. 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.
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.
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. 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.
British High Commissioner to Australia
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). Amos took up the position in October 2009.
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. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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.
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." 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 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.
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."
In July 2018, Amos received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Bristol. In December 2018, she was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Literature by the University of the Witwatersrand.
On 1 January 2022, the Queen appointed Amos a Lady Companion of the Order of the Garter. 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).
Coat of Arms
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.
After resigning from the cabinet, Baroness Amos took up a directorship with Travant Capital, a Nigerian private equity fund launched in 2007. In the House of Lords Register of Members Interests, she lists this directorship as remunerated.
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In addition, The Queen has been graciously pleased to appoint The Right Honourable Valerie Ann, Baroness Amos C.H. to be a Lady Companion
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- UN Forum Speaker: Baroness Valerie Amos UNA UK (Archived)
- About us - Head of OCHA United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- Contributions in Parliament at Hansard 1803–2005
- Voting record at PublicWhip.org
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- Appearances on C-SPAN
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- Graham Brown-Martin Baroness Valerie Amos Interview Trace, 2010 (Archived)