Valerie Amos steps down as UN humanitarian aid chief

Valerie Amos, outgoing United Nations undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator. Photo by: Jean-Marc Ferré / U.N. / CC BY-NC-ND

Valerie Amos, the top United Nations official for humanitarian assistance, is stepping down after four years in charge of overseeing U.N.-led international relief efforts in some of the world’s most troubled nations, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced on Wednesday.

Amos, a Guyana-born British citizen, “helped find solutions for people who are facing the worst experiences of their lives," Ban said in a statement.

While she did not give an official reason for her departure, the outgoing head of the U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs wrote in a letter to her colleagues posted on the OCHA website that she will be leaving both the agency and the world body in March 2015 and highlighted how OCHA has become more effective in its operations under her leadership.

Amos’ resignation comes just one day after she briefed the U.N. Security Council on the state of efforts to assist internally displaced civilians in war-ravaged Syria, appealing for more cross-border collaboration on aid delivery. When the OCHA chief took over in August 2010, the Syrian conflict — which today still has no end in sight — had not started, like other crises she’s still dealing with such as the ongoing emergencies in South Sudan, northern Iraq and the Central African Republic, to name a few.

Soon after her departure was announced, the New York Times reported that the timing may have more to do with British Prime Minister David Cameron’s campaign to replace her with Andrew Lansley — a former leader of the House of Commons, health minister and Cameron loyalist — than with Amos’ performance.

A U.K. citizen has held the post of undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator since 2003, as part of what the Times explained is an unofficial power-sharing agreement between Great Britain and the other four permanent members of the Security Council (the United States, China, Russia and France) on the nationalities of the most senior U.N. officials.

Cameron has already nominated Lansley to take over from Amos, but Ban asked for two other names, Channel 4 reported Wednesday. The politician’s office told the British TV network that “there will be a U.N. recruitment process and he would not wish to pre-empt that or take it for granted."

Do you think Amos’ resignation is due to political motives? Please share your thoughts by sending an email to news@devex.com or leaving a comment below.

Read more international development news online, and subscribe to The Development Newswire to receive the latest from the world’s leading donors and decision-makers — emailed to you FREE every business day.

About the author

  • Carlos stamaria 400x400 v2

    Carlos Santamaria

    As associate editor for breaking news, Carlos Santamaria supervises Devex's Manila-based news team and the creation of our daily newsletter. Carlos joined Devex after a decade working for international wire services Reuters, AP, Xinhua, EFE and Philippine social news network Rappler in Madrid, Beijing, Manila, New York and Bangkok. During that time, he also covered natural disasters on the ground in Myanmar and Japan.