UNAMA's senior leadership team consists of Deborah Lyons, Mette Knudsen and Ramiz Alakbarov.
Special Representative of the Secretary-General
Deborah Lyons was appointed as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Head of UNAMA in March 2020 and took up responsibilities in April 2020.
Ms. Lyons succeeded Tadamichi Yamamoto of Japan, who served in that role since 2016.
Ms. Lyons is a diplomat with 21 years of professional experience in political affairs, international cooperation and economic development. Most recently she served as Ambassador of Canada to Israel and from 2013 until 2016 as Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
She has held several senior positions with Canada’s Department of Global Affairs, including as Deputy Ambassador at the Embassy of Canada in Washington, Assistant Deputy Minister for Strategic Policy and Planning and Chief Strategist, and directorships covering commercial relations, international finance and technology. She has also worked with Canada’s Department of Natural Resources and Privy Council Office. Prior to joining the Government of Canada, Ms. Lyons owned and managed an environmental consulting firm.
Ms. Lyons holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of New Brunswick and completed studies at the Canadian National Defence College.
Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General (Political)
Ms. Knudsen succeeds Ingrid Hayden of Australia, who served in that role since 2018.
Ms. Knudsen, of Denmark, brings to the position more than 28 years of professional experience in diplomacy, international cooperation and economic development. Most recently, she served as Ambassador of Denmark to Afghanistan.
She has held several senior positions with Denmark’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including as Ambassador of Denmark to Kenya, Seychelles, Eritrea and Somalia (2015 – 2020), Greece (2012-2015) and Cyprus (2014-2015), Ethiopia (2004-2007), and as the Deputy Head of Mission in Zambia (2002-2004). She also served as the Ministry’s Head of Africa Department (2007-2012) and as the Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Nairobi (2015-2020) and to the African Union and ECOWAS (2004-2007). Ms. Knudsen is a member of the Nordic Women Mediators – Denmark.
Ms. Knudsen holds a Master’s degree in Political Science from Aarhus University in Denmark and has a supplementary degree in Modern Greek language. She is fluent in Danish, English, and Greek.
Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General (Development)
Ramiz Alakbarov was appointed in December 2020 as the Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan with UNAMA, serving also as the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator.
Mr. Alakbarov brings 25 years of experience in executive leadership, strategic planning and policy making, development programming and management, and humanitarian response, including as the Director of the Policy and Strategy Division in New York and the Country Representative in Haiti for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). From February to July 2020, he was Deputy Executive Director for Management and Assistant Secretary-General, ad interim, for UNFPA. Since August 2020 he was the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Afghanistan, ad interim.
Mr. Alakbarov has also served as UNFPA Deputy Regional Director of the Regional Office for Arab States (2014–2015) and Head of the Office in South Sudan (2010). Prior to these positions, he served in various roles within UNFPA supporting country programmes in Arab States, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia, including as Programme Officer covering Sudan, Somalia, and Iraq and as Humanitarian Response Officer for Operations, in Afghanistan, Palestine and the Great Lakes Region. From 1992 to 1995 he was an Assistant Professor at Azerbaijan Medical University and a practicing physician.
Mr. Alakbarov holds a Master’s Degree in International Relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, United States, and a Medical Degree and Doctorate from Azerbaijan Medical University, Azerbaijan. He is fluent in English, French, and Russian.