Doss was brought up in Cardiff, Wales. He graduated from the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is married to Soheir Doss. They have three daughters and two granddaughters.
Doss's early appointments included posts as UN Resident Coordinator and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative in Benin and the Democratic Republic of the Congo responsible for UN operational activities in those countries. In 1977, he had developed the first UNDP co-operation program for Vietnam. In 1979, he was appointed as Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP in China opening of the first international development co-operation program and office in that country.
Doss then served as United Nations Resident Coordinator and Regional Representative of the UNDP in Bangkok, Thailand. At the same time, he was Director of the United Nations Border Relief Operation (UNBRO), in charge of United Nations assistance to hundreds of thousands of displaced Cambodians on the Thai-Cambodia border. During this period he was also the UN representative to the Mekong River Committee that manages South East Asia's greatest river network and was part of the negotiating team that restructured the institution into an inter-governmental commission with the re-admission of Cambodia to the group.
He was then appointed Director of the UNDP European Office in Geneva, Switzerland, where he was charged with strengthening UNDP's outreach and fund raising work in Western Europe, focusing on advocacy for human development. He concurrently represented the UNDP at the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris where he was member of the group that drew up the DAC's landmark study on conflict, peace and development co-operation in 1997.
Doss held the position of Director of the United Nations Development Group (UNDG), which was set up by Secretary General Kofi Annan to strengthen co-ordination among the UN organisations dealing with development under the leadership of the Administrator of UNDP. He managed the design and implementation of reforms aimed to improve the performance of UN operational activities around the world. During that period he coordinated the UNDG's work on the follow-up to the UN global conferences of the nineties, which led to the pioneer publication "A Better World for All" published jointly by the UN, World Bank, IMF and OECD and subsequently, at the end of the decade, to the UN's Millennium Development Goals.
When the UN organised a peacekeeping mission in Sierra Leone, (UNAMSIL), Doss became Deputy Special Representative if the mission and served concurrently as United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative where he provided oversight for the reintegration of war affected populations, UN support for the disarmament program, restoration of state authority, governance reform and the national recovery program. His appointment, following on the recommendations of the Brahimi Panel on UN peace operations in late 2000, was aimed at strengthening the effectiveness of such operations through better co-ordination of UN peace keeping, humanitarian and development activities in country.
He then became Principal Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Ivory Coast, where he coordinated the work of the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission ONUCI in the areas of human rights, rule of law, civilian police and management.
Immediately prior to his current assignment to the DRC, he was the Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations in Liberia and head of the UN peace keeping mission there, UNMIL, also with the rank of Under Secretary General. The UN mission provided extensive security and political support for the 2005 national elections in Liberia, which resulted in the election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as Africa's first female elected head of state. Following the elections Doss worked very closely with the new Administration on national recovery and reconstruction including the groundbreaking governance and economic programme, GEMAP. He worked closely with the Sierra Leone Tribunal to ensure that Charles Taylor was detained and successfully transferred by UNMIL to the Court's jurisdiction.
Other country assignments through the years included Niger and Kenya and at UNDP Headquarters in New York where he served in the Africa and Asia regional offices and in the Management Bureau.
On 24 October 2007, he was appointed as Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) of the United Nations in Democratic Republic of the Congo and Head of the UN peace keeping mission there, MONUC, until June 2010 with the rank of Under Secretary General. MONUC, now MONUSCO, is the UN's largest peace operation. The Mission is deeply engaged in the peace process in the Congo and providing security support to the country as it seeks to end armed conflict in the war torn eastern part of the Congo. Throughout the country the Mission is promoting human rights, the protection of women and children, reform of state institutions and the holding of democratic elections.
Following his retirement from the United Nations in 2010, Doss joined the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP) as a Visiting and then Associate Fellow where he lectured and published on peacekeeping, peace building and leadership.
Doss was appointed Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in the 2011 New Year Honours for services to the United Nations.
In October 2011, Alan Doss was recruited as Senior Political Advisor by Kofi Annan to set up a peace and security unit at the Kofi Annan Foundation in Geneva. The Foundation is an independent, not-for profit organisation that works to promote better global governance and strengthen the capacities of people and countries to achieve a fairer, more peaceful world. The Foundation believes that fair and peaceful societies rest on three pillars: Peace and Security, Sustainable Development and Human Rights and the Rule of Law, and they have made it their mission to mobilise the leadership and the political resolve needed to tackle threats to these three pillars ranging from violent conflict to flawed elections and climate change, with the aim of achieving a fairer, more peaceful world.
The Foundation provides the communication and co-ordination capacities needed to ensure that these objectives are achieved, and more specifically the peace and security unit backstops Kofi Annan's personal work in conflict prevention and resolution as well his interest in policy areas such as transitional justice, electoral integrity and the reform of global drug policies.
In September 2014, Alan Doss was appointed Executive Director of the Kofi Annan Foundation, where his "outstanding experience in peace operations, development cooperation and humanitarian action gives him a unique perspective that will serve the Foundation well".IPI SRSG Series: Alan Doss −23 March 2007–
Keynote address by Alan Doss to the States at Regional Risk (SAAR) Conference: “The Great Lakes Region: Beyond Emergency Responses" -Bujumbura (Burundi), 4 June 2009–
Protecting civilians from abuse in Congo – Letter to The Guardian −29 July 2009–
Alan Doss responds to Refugees International −22 September 2009–
Letter from Refugees International to Alan Doss −28 September 2009–
IPI Speaker Events "It's a Moral Dilemma, I Don't Hide That" by Alan Doss −14 December 2009–
The Ambassadors Review – Spring 2010 – In Pursuit for Peace by Alan Doss -May 2010
RUSI: "Peace-Building in Practice: A Personal Perspective on Liberia and the DRC" in "Victory Among People: Lessons from Countering Insurgency and Stabilising Fragile States" ed: David Richards and Greg Mills – 2011
GCSP Policy Paper No 17: "After the Fall: Leaders. Leadership and the Challenge of Post Conflict Peacebuilding" – June 2011
Conference Series No. 23,The Geneva Papers: "What capabilities to bridge the expectations gap? For a more realistic approach to peacekeeping mandates" in "For a renewed Consensus on UN Peacekeeping Operations" ed: Thierry Tardy – October 2011
Research Series No 4, The Geneva Papers: "Great Expectations: UN Peacekeeping, Civilian protection, and the Use of Force" – December 2011
"A Life in Trouble: A Personal Reflection on Managing Crises" published in Britain and the World – Edinburgh University Press – September 2012
International Relation and Security Network – "International Peacekeeping Operations in Africa – A Troubled or Evolving Landscape?" – 20 November 2012
Africa Progress Panel "Rich Countries, Poor People" by Alan Doss and Alero Okorodudu – November 2012
PRISM – The Journal of the Center for Complex Operations: "Towards a Taxonomy of Militaries By Alan Doss, Jeffrey Herbst and Greg Mills – 2013
Project Syndicate : " Truth and Consequences " by Alan Doss and David Tolbert – 11 July 2014
Alan Doss (2014): In the Footsteps of Dr Bunche: The Congo, UN Peacekeeping and the Use of Force, Journal of Strategic Studies, DOI
Chapters 56 "United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC)" and 68 "United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO)" in the Oxford Handbook of United Nations Peacekeeping Operations – Oct 2014