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The alchemy of Wilton Park in action


By dxw

 ……..or a chemists view of the life of a Wilton Park Programme Director!

Iain Ferguson, Chair, Wilton Park Board, writes:



Take 76 delegates from 26 countries and gently but thoroughly mix together in carefully controlled conditions for 3 days. Observe the reactions closely and add external stimulus, delicious nutrients and appropriate lubricants as required to encourage active participation in discussions (transmitting and receiving!) and in building networks of long term value and resilience.


Experimental Method

I was very privileged to be able to join the Wilton Park conference last week which was discussing The UN framework for business and human rights. I was hugely impressed by the high level of contribution and by the intensity and passion of feeling so evident in the conference sessions and by the way that the debate carried on into the coffee and meal breaks (and for some people late into the night!).

We were extremely fortunate to have Professor John Ruggie who is the Special Representative of the UN secretary-General for Business and Human Rights with us for all of the conference. John has been, in many ways, leading the debate to move the framework forward and was responsible for the focus on Protect, Respect and Remedy as a statement of policy. John has that great quality of being a man who both knows his subject intimately and has almost limitless patience and desire to help all those around him to fully appreciate the really important issues in his world. John has recorded a podcast – its on the WP website – do listen to it, it will give you a flavour of the conference and the way in which John works.



So was the conference a success? And how do we define success?

Talking to a number of the delegates during the conference provides strong evidence that they really value the opportunity to have the time and space to rehearse and reflect on a broad range of arguments – some they agree with – some they dont and to better understand the landscape of positions as arguments evolve. They also welcome the opportunity to deepen existing friendships and to add new connections to their networks.



So back to the Alchemistdid we find GOLD at the end of our experiment (conference)? I would like to think that 76 people going back to their 26 countries each knowing and appreciating more about the Human Rights agenda and about each other is a precious outcome and true gold in our hurried and troubled world.


Further work

I would encourage you to learn more about the work we do at Wilton Park. Richard Burge and his team are always delighted to discuss your ideas – so do get in touch with them and do remember to listen to the Podcast!!


Iain Ferguson