An anthropologist by profession, Joan Boer started his career as a development worker in Kenya and Rwanda. He joined the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1979. Posts in the Ministry a.o. Head Food and agriculture section, director special programs, deputy director general International cooperation and auditor/inspector. As an ambassador he represented the Netherlands at OECD and IEA in Paris and later on, based in Bangkok, for Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia.
He carried out various other assignments such as President of the Club du Sahel and West Africa, co-chair management for development results at OECD/DAC and chair of the external relations committee of OECD.