Joyce Mends-Cole was most recently the UNHCR Senior Project Coordinator for the AU commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the OAU 1969 Refugee Convention and the 10th of the Kampala Convention on Internally Displaced Persons. Prior to that she was a senior UN staff member for 22 years. She retired from the UN as the UNHCR Representative accredited to Tanzania. She began her UN career in UNIFEM, moving to UNDP to take up the post of Senior Regional Gender Advisor for Eastern and Southern Africa, based in Addis Ababa. She was then recruited by UNHCR as the Senior Coordinator for Refugee Women and Gender Equality, before serving as Representative in several African countries.
During her tenure as Senior Coordinator, she worked to change attitudes and practice in UNHCR to ensure that refugee women participated more in the decisions about their lives, as well to ensure better assistance and protection for them. She continued these efforts as Representative.
Ms. Mends-Cole is a lawyer and has worked on development, humanitarian issues, justice and women’s rights for over thirty years. She is a Liberian and was involved in peace and reform efforts in the country in the past.