Baroness Valerie Amos of Brondesbury was made a life peer in 1997 and was the first black woman to serve as a Minister in the British cabinet and in the House of Lords. She has consistently sustained an interest in, and a commitment to, development issues, and to equality and human rights. Prior to her entry into the Labour government, Valerie Amos was Chief Executive of the Equal Opportunities Commission between 1989 and 1994 and an advisor to the South African government. On entering the Lords in 1997 she served as government whip in the Lords and was also government spokesperson on social security and women’s issues between 1998 and 2001 and also spokesperson on international development between 1998 and 2007. During that time she also held high office as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office between 2001 and 2003 and also held the office of Secretary of State for International Development in 2003. After a further period in the Lords as spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Office she became Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council between 2003 and 2007.
Baroness Amos served as UK High Commissioner to Australia before joining the UN in 2010 serving as Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.
Her interest in development issues and in issues of gender equality and human rights is not only reflected in the range of government positions that she has held with great distinction. Her work in the voluntary and charity sector and in other non-governmental organisations has gone hand in hand with her policy and political work. She has served as a Trustee for Voluntary Service Overseas, the Windsor Leadership Trust, Project Hope, and the Institute for Public Policy Research. She has also served as Deputy Chair of the Runnymede Trust.
On 29 June 2015 SOAS announced that Baroness Amos has been appointed 9th Director of SOAS, University of London and she will take up the role in September 2015, following the retirement of Professor Paul Webley.