François Heisbourg

Chair of the IISS Council


Professor François Heisbourg began his career in the Policy Planning division of the French Foreign Ministry and was subsequently First Secretary at the French Permanent Mission to the UN (New York) and a security adviser to the Minister of Defence. In 1984 he moved into the private sector as Vice-President at Thomson-CSF, serving as Director of the IISS in 1987, before joining MATRA-Defense-Espace as Senior Vice-President in 1992.

François has since served on several French government advisory bodies, leading the interagency working group on the study of international relations, strategic affairs and defence issues in France (1999–2000); serving as a member of the "Defence and National Security White Paper" Presidential Commission (2007–2008, 2012-2013); and on the Steering Committee for the White Paper on Terrorism (2005–2006). He has also served on several international commissions, including on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (2008–2010), the Balkans (2004–2006), and the European Commission’s Group of Personalities on Security Research and Development (2003–2004).

Since 1998 François has been Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy. In 2001 he became Director of the Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique, Paris, and has served since 2005 as their Special Advisor. In addition to his role as a Trustee, François was appointed Chairman of the IISS Council in September 2001, responsible for leading the Institute’s international advisory body on matters of intellectual due diligence, fundraising support and strategic networking.

François is a frequent commentator in academic and general media and has contributed to a number of books on foreign and strategic affairs. He has most recently authored Comment perdre la guerre contre le terrorisme (Stock, Paris 2016); Secrètes histoires: La naissance du monde moderne (Stock, Paris 2014); La Fin du rêve européen (Stock, Paris 2013); Renseignement et espionnage: le vrai dossier (Odile Jacob, Paris, 2012) Winner of the Prix Akropolis 2012. He was editor and co-author of Les Conséquences de la crise (Odile Jacob, Paris, 2010) and Les Armes nucléaires ont-elles un avenir? (Odile Jacob, Paris, 2011).

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