Leadership team

Lionel Laurens, Resident Representative 


Lionel Laurens has over 30 years of experience serving in international organizations. He took up the role of UNDP Resident Representative in Somalia in 2023 after serving for four years as UNDP’s Resident Representative in Zambia.

Prior to this, Laurens was the UNDP Guinea Country Director. From 2014 to 2015, he was the UNDP Sierra Leone Head of Programmes and supported the reprogramming of interventions to respond to the Ebola crisis.

From 2008 to 2014, he was the UNDP Iraq Inclusive Growth and Area-Based Development Cluster Team Leader, managing a portfolio of projects focusing on local governance, service delivery, economic recovery and poverty reduction. Before that, he worked in Afghanistan from 2005 to 2008 as a UNDP Programme Manager, engaging with communities to rebuild rural infrastructure, deliver basic services and promote economic development.

From 2002 to 2005, Laurens contributed to the launch of the World Bank-supported CDD Poverty Reduction Fund in Laos as a Senior Technical Advisor. From 1997 to 2002, he worked with the Laotian Government, ILO, and UNDP, developing participatory and integrated planning approaches. He has also worked with NGOs on a variety of humanitarian issues in Cambodia, Haiti, Georgia, and Liberia.

A French national, Laurens holds a Master’s in Engineering and Management from the French Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts et Métiers and an MSc in Sustainability and Responsibility from Ashridge Business School in the UK.


Sophie Kemkhadze, Deputy Resident Representative, Programmes


Sophie is a development professional with twenty three years of experience in leadership and technical advisory positions, of which fifteen years with UNDP. 


Until recently Sophie was a Senior Advisor with UNDP’s Crisis Bureau. During 2018-2022 Sophie served as Deputy Resident Representative in UNDP Indonesia, where she led the work of the Country Office in the areas of resilience, climate and innovative finance, energy transition, health governance, and digitalisation. She is particularly proud of the Gold Gender Seal Award which Indonesia Country Office earned under her leadership in 2020. Previously, she was Deputy Country Director of UNDP Nepal (2014-2018) where, among others, she led the Country Office’s work in post disaster reconstruction and resilience building following a devastating earthquake in 2015, support to the federalisation and parliamentary development following the approval of the new Constitution, and women’s empowerment. Sophie started her career with UNDP as ARR in Georgia CO in 2007, and served in Armenia as DRR a.i. in 2013.


Before joining UNDP in 2007, Sophie managed large-scale development projects with USAID, DFID and the EU, mainly in the fields of agriculture development and public finance management. She also worked as Technical advisor with the WB and FAO. During 2004-2007 she was advisor to the Ministers of Agriculture and Finance in Georgia, and was a member of the Reforms Council under the Office of the Prime Minister of Georgia. Sophie was also a member of the Advisory Board of the Community Development Initiatives of the British Petroleum Exploration.  


A Georgian citizen, she holds a PhD in Mathematics from Georgian Academy of Sciences and a Master’s in Economics and Policy from Warwick University, UK. She earned her undergraduate degree in Mechanics and Mathematics from Tbilisi State University. 


Sophie is married with three children.