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BASIC Announces New Executive Management Team

BASIC is delighted to announce its new executive leadership from the 1st August, 2019.

New Executive Co-Directors Sebastian Brixey-Williams, Maxwell Downman and Marion Messmer will lead BASIC as the new Executive Management Team, with equal responsibility for programme delivery and the strategic development of the organisation. The Co-Directors have exciting and ambitious plans, with the aim of strengthening BASIC’s role at the heart of multilateral and transatlantic diplomacy to advance international peace and security at the strategic level.

Co-Chair of the BASIC Board of Trustees, Dr Trevor McCrisken, says: “We have carefully chosen an Executive Leadership Team where each person brings an impressive and diverse set of skills, while sharing the common goal of leading BASIC in innovative directions. I look forward to working with the team to further BASIC’s promotion of dialogue to advance global security.”

The Co-Directors and the Board of Trustees would like to thank Paul Ingram, who steps down from his post as BASIC Executive Director on 31st July, for his inspiring and dedicated leadership over the past 12 years. In this time, Paul developed and significantly influenced approaches to diplomacy in the field of nuclear disarmament, arms control and risk reduction, bringing a clear focus on strategic empathy, active listening, inclusivity, patience and respect. He hands over BASIC in a strong position: in recent months, BASIC has moved to a larger office to accommodate its expanding team of experts and programme work. Paul will continue to be a consultant with BASIC as the project leader of our Stepping Stones to Disarmament programme.

BASIC will be expanding all three core programme areas in the coming months and welcomes interest and involvement from new partners:

  • Our Programme on Nuclear Risk Reduction is building consensus on actionable measures to tangibly reduce the risk of miscalculation, inadvertent escalation and nuclear accidents.
  • The Programme on Nuclear Responsibilities is fostering a new kind of dialogue, where states think and talk to each other in terms of their responsibilities around nuclear weapons, and so demonstrate the inherent and underlying ethics and values behind each nuclear weapons programme.
  • Our Stepping Stones Approach to Nuclear Disarmament – launched by the Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström in Stockholm last month – is revealing exciting opportunities for incremental progress on nuclear disarmament, even while the security environment remains challenging.

Sebastian Brixey-Williams is the Co-Director of BASIC, as part of the Executive Management Team, with full executive responsibilities for programme delivery and the strategic growth and development of the think tank. He has expertise across a breadth of multilateral disarmament and transatlantic issues relating to nuclear weapons and emerging technologies.

Sebastian’s practice focuses primarily on trust and confidence-building between Nuclear and Non-Nuclear Weapon States, through quiet diplomacy based on empathic dialogue and pluralistic understandings of each other’s policies, values, and needs. Since 2016, Sebastian has been the Director of the Programme on Nuclear Responsibilities: a multi-year diplomatic initiative which serves to foreground states’ conceptions of their responsibilities around nuclear weapons and the global norms by which they abide. This has led to a wider interest in the application of mediation and other conflict transformation practices to nuclear diplomacy to break through existing deadlocks.

Sebastian is also interested in finding new ways to engage and educate the general public on nuclear weapons issues, through multi-stakeholder collaborations with the media, private sector and artists.

Sebastian regularly appears in the national and international media for comment on international security and nuclear weapons policy issues. He has published in Arms Control Wonk, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and the World Economic Forum, and his work has recently featured on BBC News, BBC Radio 4, The Economist, Forces TV, and The Guardian. He has addressed three All-Party Parliamentary Groups – on Drones, on Global Security and Non-Proliferation, and on Future Generations – and has been called to give evidence to the House of Lords International Relations Committee.

Sebastian is an Executive Committee member of British Pugwash, a distinguished network of scientists and technologists concerned by existential threats. He is the co-founder of the Gender, Think Tanks and International Affairs breakfast series with Chatham House and the Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy. He holds a first-class degree from the University of York in English and Related Literature, and a first-class Master’s in International Studies and Diplomacy from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), where he received the Postgraduate School’s Prize.

Maxwell Downman is the Co-Director of BASIC, as part of the Executive Management Team, with full executive responsibilities for programme delivery and the strategic growth and development of the think tank. His research focuses include nuclear risk reduction, NATO and the role of nuclear weapons in transatlantic diplomacy, as well as disarmament diplomacy in the NPT. He is also the Clerk for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Security and Non-Proliferation, a cross-party group of UK parliamentarians working on WMD issues.

Prior to BASIC, Maxwell worked in the UK Parliament for a number of years on a range of policy issues, including counter-terrorism and Brexit. He holds an MA in International Studies and Diplomacy from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London and in Japanese Studies from the University of Edinburgh. 

Maxwell Downman is an N-Square Fellow, an alumnus of Chinese MFA’s 2017 Young Sinologist Programme and has featured in numerous media outlets. Recent publications for BASIC include ‘Stepping Stones to Disarmament: Making progress in a polarise international climate’; ‘Re-emerging Nuclear Risks in Europe: Mistrust, ambiguity, escalation and arms-racing between NATO and Russia’ and ‘Peace through strength: Europe and NATO Deterrence beyond the US Nuclear Posture Review’ in International Affairs.

Marion Messmer is the Co-Director of BASIC, as part of the Executive Management Team, with full executive responsibilities for programme delivery and the strategic growth and development of the think tank. Her expertise includes a breadth of issues in transatlantic security and conflict transformation, including strategic risk reduction, disarmament diplomacy and NATO-Russia relations. Marion also leads on BASIC’s Gender and Nuclear Weapons Programme and the organisation’s overall communications strategy.

Marion has been an invited speaker at a range of international conferences, including the 2019 Preparatory Committee, the Geneva Nuclear Disarmament Colloquium, the Heidelberg Center for American Studies and the Central Eurasian Studies Society Annual Conference. She regularly comments in national and international media on international security issues.

Marion is completing a PhD in the School of Security Studies at King’s College London where her research focuses on trust building and cooperation in the relationship between Russia and NATO after the end of the Cold War. Marion also holds an MPhil degree in International Relations from the University of Cambridge and a BA degree from Mount Holyoke College. Before joining BASIC, Marion worked in a range of policy roles in NGOs and local government.

Image: Erik Drost

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