John Sawers

Former Chief Of The British Secret Intelligence Service

A former British diplomat and senior civil servant, Sir John Sawers held one of the most high profile roles in the British secret service. He acted as the Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), between from November 2009 until November 2014. Prior to this he was  the British Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

In his early career, Sawers worked in Yemen and Syria, on behalf of MI6 an experience which has left him with some fascinating anecdotes. He became Political Officer in Damascus in 1982 and then returned to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office to take up the role of Desk Officer in the European Union Department in 1984 before becoming Private Secretary to the Minister of State in 1986.

As well as his time in the Middle East he also ventured to Africa in the late 80s where he saw first hand the effects apartheid had on the continent and in particular South Africa.

His career also saw him work alongside some of  the biggest political figures of the time including working as Foreign Affairs Adviser to Prime Minister Tony Blair. Here he dealt with all aspects of foreign and defence policy and worked closely with international counterparts. The period included the Kosovo War, working on the Northern Ireland peace process and reviewing the Iraq sanctions policy.

He served two years in the Middle East as Ambassador to Egypt from 2001 to 2003, and for three months was the British Government’s Special Representative in Baghdad assisting in the establishment of the Coalition Provisional Authority as the transitional government during the Occupation of Iraq.

In 2003 John was then appointed Director General for Political Affairs at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. 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 Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans. Sawers headed the British team in the EU-3 negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program in 2006, utilising his scientific background on nuclear matters.

In 2009, John succeeded Sir John Scarlett as the new Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service. He took up his new appointment in November 2009. Holding such a high profile role in national security has given John a whole host of experiences which he is always happy to share as an after dinner speaker.

During the Syrian Civil War he supported the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir David Richards in drawing up plans to train and equip a Syrian rebel army of 100,000 to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, as an alternative option to the government’s plan for limited direct military involvement. The plans were rejected by the National Security Council as too ambitious. Ultimately on 29 August 2013, parliament refused to support the government’s plan to participate in military strikes against the Syrian government.

Since retiring as Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, John has become Partner and Chairman of Macro Advisory Partners, who provide strategic advice and insights to investors and governments. He also became a Visiting Professor in the Department of War Studies at King’s College, London.

To book Sir John Sawers as the after dinner speaker for your corporate event, function or conference, simply contact the Champions Speakers agency by emailing or by calling a booking agent directly on 0207 1010 553.

When at corporate events, Sir John is known to speak on the following topics:

  • World Defence
  • Kosovo War
  • Tony Blair’s Government
  • Foreign & Commonwealth Office
  • Drive & Determination

John was fantastic yesterday, and his thoughts were very much appreciated by the attendees at our conference. Please do pass on our thanks and best regards to both him and Ian for their participation, as well as the very professional way that they carried out the engagement.
DeclanOak Hill Advisors