United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced on 3 January 2007 the appointment of Sir John Holmes of the United Kingdom as Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. He is currently the British Ambassador in Paris, a post he has held since October 2001.
A career diplomat, he joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1973, and has since served in a wide range of roles. He began his career in London, including a spell covering the United Nations, which involved a period of temporary duty at the 1975 General Assembly as part of the British Mission to the United Nations in New York. In 1976, he was appointed to the British Embassy in Moscow as a Second Secretary. Returning to London in 1978, he dealt with Lebanon and the Middle East peace process before being appointed Assistant Private Secretary to the British Foreign Secretary in 1982, covering the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Latin America. In 1984, he went to the British Embassy in Paris as First Secretary to cover economic and European Union questions.
He returned to London in 1987 as Assistant Head of the then Soviet Department in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and subsequently spent two years, between 1989 and 1991, on secondment to Thomas De La Rue, a British company of security printers. In 1991 he went to India as Political, then Economic and Commercial Counsellor at the British High Commission in New Delhi, supervising the British aid programme, as well as economic and commercial issues.
On return to London in 1995, he was briefly head of the European Union Department (External) in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, before joining the then Prime Minister John Major in Downing Street as his Private Secretary (Overseas Affairs) and diplomatic adviser. He continued this role with Prime Minister Tony Blair from 1997 to 1999, becoming Principal Private Secretary. He was also the British Group of Eight Sherpa during this time, including the British Group of Eight presidency of 1998. He was awarded a knighthood in 1999, primarily for his role in the Northern Ireland peace process and the Good Friday Agreement.
From 1999 to 2001, he was the British Ambassador in Lisbon, before moving on to Paris.
John Holmes was born in Preston, in the north of England, in 1951, and educated at Preston Grammar School and Balliol College, Oxford. He married Penelope Morris in 1976 and they have three daughters.