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Sir (Robert) John Sawers, KCMG (born 26 July 1955) is a Britishmarker diplomat and senior civil servant. He is the current Chief of the British Secret Intelligence Service MI6marker . He was previously the British Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN) from August 2007 to November 2009.


Born in Warwickmarker, Sawers was brought up in a family of five children in Bathmarker and educated at the City of Bath Boys' Schoolmarker (which became Beechen Cliff Schoolmarker before he left), where he still holds the 440 yards hurdles school record. He studied Physics and Philosophy at the University of Nottinghammarker, and spent periods at the Universities of St Andrewsmarker, Witwatersrandmarker and Harvardmarker. His interests include theatre, hiking and sport, especially tennis and cycling. His wife Shelley is a teacher. They have three grown-up children.


Sawers was previously Political Director at the Foreign and Commonwealth Officemarker, a post he held since August 2003. In this post he advised the Foreign Secretary on political and security issues worldwide, and negotiated on behalf of the Foreign Secretary with international partners in the G8, EU and the UN. He was particularly closely involved in policy on Iranmarker, Iraqmarker, Afghanistanmarker and the Balkans. Prior to this job he served two years in the Middle East, as Ambassador to Egyptmarker 2001-03, and, for three months he was the British Government’s Special Representative in Baghdadmarker.

Sawers headed the British team in the EU-3 negotiations over Iran's nuclear program, utilising his scientific background on nuclear matters.

From January 1999 to summer 2001 he was Foreign Affairs Adviser to Prime Minister Tony Blair, dealing with all aspects of Foreign and Defence Policy, and working closely with international counterparts. The period included the Kosovomarker conflict. He also worked on Northern Irelandmarker and the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

From 1995 to 1998 he was in the United Statesmarker. He spent a year as an International Fellow at Harvard University and then joined the British Embassy in Washington where he headed the Embassy team dealing with foreign and defence policy issues.

This came immediately after being Principal Private Secretary to Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd, a post he held for two and a half years. The period was dominated by war in Bosniamarker, crises in the Middle East, and the debate in Britain on the European Union.

In his early career, Sawers worked in Yemenmarker and Syriamarker, which according to some reports was on behalf of MI6marker. He was in South Africa from 1988-91 during the first part of the transition from apartheid. Between spells overseas, he worked in London, mainly on EU business.

Sawers was announced as the new chief of MI6marker the British Secret Intelligence Service on 16 June 2009. He succeeds Sir John Scarlett and he will take up his new appointment in November 2009. In July 2009 his family details were removed from the social networking site Facebook.

Sawers is a governor of the Ditchley Foundation which aims to promote international, especially Anglo-American, relations.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office career timeline

  • 2009- Chief of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6)
  • 2007–2009 British Permanent Representative to the United Nations
  • 2003–2007 FCO, Director General for Political Affairs
  • 2003–2003 Baghdad, UK Special Representative
  • 2001–2003 Cairo, Ambassador
  • 1999–2001 Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Minister
  • 1996–1999 Washington, Counsellor for Foreign and Defence Policy
  • 1995–1996 Harvard, sabbatical
  • 1993–1995 FCO, Principal Private Secretary to Foreign Secretary
  • 1991–1992 FCO, Head of EU Presidency Planning Unit
  • 1988–1991 Pretoria/Cape Town, First Secretary
  • 1986–1987 FCO, Private Secretary to Minister of State
  • 1984–1986 FCO, Desk Officer EU Department
  • 1982–1984 Damascus, Political Officer
  • 1977–1982 FCO


Offices held

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