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75 years at the heart of British diplomacy

Update from Wilton Park CEO Tom Cargill, December 2021

This year marks the 75th anniversary of Wilton Park’s establishment – that’s 75 years of bringing together the right people and partners in effective dialogue, 75 years of working to make the world a safer and fairer place, and 75 years of dedicated commitment to be a force for good around the world.

Borne out of the challenges and uncertainty of post-WWII Europe, Wilton Park evolved from a project to help prisoners of war conceive a democratic post-war Germany, to what it is today – a globally focused UK agency forging new networks of influence to tackle common challenges. Wilton Park was founded by diplomatic visionary Sir Heinz Koeppler – a man who worked tirelessly to promote open and frank discussion across the globe.

That indefatigable spirit of our founder to promote global dialogue is just as relevant now as it was then as, in our 75th year, we again find ourselves in an uncertain world facing challenging global issues. The pandemic has seen Wilton Park reinvigorate some of our historic networks of influence, act with agility and innovation in response to current conditions, and establish new platforms for dialogue that will help us continue our work well into the future – whatever that may look like.

Here we highlight some of our major achievements from our 75th year.

75 Bottle top

Friends of Wilton Park

Strengthening our ties with partners across the globe, we have created and launched the Friends of Wilton Park (FoWP) network. Now at over 1150 members, this exclusive network of Wilton Park participants is already supporting our drive to foster dialogue across the globe.

We will continue to expand this network in future, providing a forum for organisations to connect around shared goals, wherever they are in the world.

Youth Ambassador Network

This year we also launched our Youth Ambassador Network, to link future leaders around the globe and capture their vision of what they want the world to look like for the next 75 years.

The Network provides an opportunity for ambitious, smart, internationally minded students from a handful of UK universities to run Wilton Park style events on campus – promoting and practicing open dialogue and strategic conversations around the challenges we face today. This work gives the next generation of thought leaders the chance to meet diplomats, policy makers, activists and influencers from around the world to deepen their understanding of foreign policy and public service.

British German Forum (BGF)

It has been 26 years since the BGF was established by Chancellor Kohl and Margaret Thatcher. As important now as it was then, the partnership between the UK and Germany has inevitably evolved alongside geopolitics in Europe and beyond.

For this reason, Wilton Park has held a series of events this year to reinvigorate and reimagine the BGF – providing a forum for leaders and policy makers from both countries to continue shaping an even stronger relationship for the future.

Hybrid events

Despite the uncertainty, a new landscape for the post-pandemic world is emerging, defined by an accelerated move to online interaction for much day-to-day business. Understandably, this has increased the value of Wilton Park’s role convening secure, discrete in-person dialogue.

We continue to explore how our events can be as inclusive as possible though, which is why Wilton Park has been experimenting and pioneering best practice in hosting hybrid conferences that mix the virtual and the in-person. Wilton Park has, as ever, been staying one step ahead to keep our worldwide networks of influence connected, secure, flexible and informed for UK – and global – benefit.


Putting our values into practice starts right here on our doorstep, which is why we launched SussExport earlier this year. These events bring together businesses from across Sussex to showcase the range of quality exportable products, produce and expertise on offer.

Breathing life into the concept of a “global village”, these events provide local businesses an opportunity to engage with ministers, business leaders and trade ambassadors and share their stories on what it takes to deliver Sussex-made products into the global marketplace. The next event will take place on Friday 15th July 2022, and we will expand this work to support more regions and devolved nations of the UK over coming years.

Wilton Park All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG)

Parliamentarians have long been central to our work, and this year Wilton Park launched an APPG, chaired by Andrew Griffith MP, to strengthen our work supporting and informing UK parliamentarians to understand and engage with global issues.

The Wilton Park APPG will help us both focus our work with parliamentarians globally, as well as bring more UK MPs and Peers into the work of Wilton Park both in the UK, and around the world.


Perhaps the most eagerly anticipated COP conference so far, COP26 saw global dialogue focus on the world’s most pressing issues right here in the UK. Throughout this year, we have been acting as the Secretariat for a major COP26 initiative, Catalyst for Climate Action, consulting and engaging a diverse range of stakeholders on behalf of the UK’s COP26 Presidency, to identify capacity constraints and needs to support countries in their implementation of the Paris Agreement. Wilton Park hosted over 100 online sessions in support of the whole range of priority issues for the negotiations and beyond.

Looking ahead

Since 1946, we have pursued our objective to address and resolve global challenges. This remains central to our mission, by building and curating trusted global networks to stay at the forefront of global policy development.

While we celebrate 75 years, we also look to a future where our work, and commitment to these values, is ever more important. From next year we will revitalise our ambition and mission to place Wilton Park at the centre of the renewed debate on the values driving international relations in the 21st century. This will include deepened focus on issues such as leadership, climate change, human rights, promoting peace and stability, respecting other’s faith and beliefs, the future of international development, and the role of free trade and free and fair markets.

More on this in early 2022, but in the meantime thank you to all our friends and partners around the world who continue to make Wilton Park such a unique focus of honest dialogue for UK and global benefit.

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