On Wednesday, 21 January 2015, Dr Trevor McCrisken, chair of BASIC’s board of trustees awarded Dr Patricia Lewis an Honorary Doctor of Laws at the University of Warwick.
Dr Lewis is currently the Research Director for International Security at Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs. She has made a unique contribution to the world of disarmament and arms control, combining technical knowledge, with a warm and charismatic personality, and smart international political strategy. Her latest work at Chatham House has focused on nuclear security, cyber security, conflict prevention, and the prospects for the now long overdue Helsinki Conference on the proposed Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone in the Middle East. As she warned recently: “If states fail to take this opportunity, the consequences will be severe.”
Dr Lewis is a dual national of the UK and Ireland – in fact, she was actually born here in Coventry. She holds a BSc (Hons) in Physics from Manchester University and a PhD in nuclear physics from the University of Birmingham. She is the recipient of the American Physical Society’s 2009 Joseph A Burton Forum Award recognizing ‘outstanding contributions to the public understanding or resolution of issues involving the interface of physics and society’.
Central to Dr Lewis’ work has been the promotion of credible trust between states in international affairs. For example, she was instrumental in establishing VERTIC, which she directed from 1989 to 1997. As its Director, she established VERTIC as the most respected international source of information on verification matters, central to the confidence of states when they embark on treaty making. She went on to direct the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) in Geneva from 1997 to 2008, when she was also a member of the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters. Before joining Chatham House in February 2012, she was Deputy Director and Scientist-in-Residence at the Center for Non-proliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California.
Dr Lewis’ impact on global disarmament and non-proliferation policy is undeniable. She has been a consultant for the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the UK Ministry of Defence on the verification of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. She was a reviewer for the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons in 1996, a Member of the Tokyo Forum for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament from 1998-99, worked alongside Hans Blix on the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission from 2004 to 2006 during the Iraq War, and was a special advisor to the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament in 2008-10. Most recently, Dr Lewis served on the Advisory Panel on Future Priorities for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
Throughout her career, Dr Lewis has straddled many communities, and built a highly credible international reputation. But more importantly, she has used her position to question established assumptions and cynical game-playing, opened the debate on disarmament to visionary perspectives, and encouraged younger and marginalised communities to engage. As BASIC executive director, Paul Ingram, says: “She remains a true inspiration.”