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A contested and volatile world

March 2023 update from Wilton Park CEO Tom Cargill.

Integrated Review 2023

The Integrated Review Refresh, published earlier this week, perfectly demonstrates the strategic importance of Wilton Park to the UK and the world.

In a more volatile and contested world our work is shaping the global strategic environment and projecting the UK’s unique strengths in order to build the relationships, resilience and rules upon which UK and global stability depend.

Practical examples include our work to support Ukraine and its future reconstruction; efforts to prevent nuclear, chemical and biological proliferation; convening to build common rules around new frontiers such as the use of space and technology; action on global health; deepening the UK’s links with key allies; shaping the global economic order; supporting the rights of women and girls; convening dialogue between parties in conflict; and the list goes on.

Wilton Park is an essential component of generating strategic advantage, evolving and integrating the levers through which the UK and world can translate strengths into real-world effects, as well as promoting soft and cultural power globally. In the face of increasingly complex threats, Wilton Park’s work is becoming ever more important. If you would like to contribute or learn more please do contact us, and we look forward to working with our friends and colleagues around the world on a full agenda over coming months and years.

A Mediterranean Initiative for Inclusive Citizenship and Freedom of Religion and Belief: Bridging the two agendas.

This month saw the start of an ambitious new Wilton Park series on Inclusive Citizenship and Freedom of Religion and Belief (FoRB).

The first meeting, which focused on the MENA region, took place in Italy in partnership with the British and Italian Embassies to the Holy See, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the Adyan Foundation.

It builds on the International Ministerial on FoRB hosted by the British Government last July and on international momentum for the promotion of religious freedom, such as the recent Wilton Park series of Dialogues on Inclusive Citizenship.

The lack of religious freedom is not only a pressing global issue affecting millions, but also a source of social economic discrimination and segregation, increasing inequality, resentment and unrest and fuelling today’s refugee, migrant and economic crisis.

The 40 participants from all faith traditions who met in Italy took their inspiration from key religious leaders such as The Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Ahmad Al-Tayyib, and Pope Francis. They pioneer the advancement of Freedom of Religion and Belief and Inclusive Citizenship as key to achieving peace and co-existence.

Pope Francis welcomed the Wilton Park participants at an audience in St Peter’s Square in Rome, giving them his blessing and wishing them success in contributing to a more inclusive, stable and peaceful Middle East.


Pope Francis and Wilton Park participants at the Vatican.

US Ambassador Jane Hartley sits for a fireside chat with Shanker Singham at a Wilton Park event in parliament.

Highlighting the Transatlantic Relationship

Last month we were delighted to be joined by US Ambassador to the UK, Jane Hartley, and distinguished guests for a fascinating discussion on the transatlantic relationship and the strength of UK-US cooperation.

Small Island Developing States

On the frontline of climate change, Small Island Developing States (SIDS) represent 25% of developing states, steward one third of the global ocean and protect unique but fragile biodiversity.

But SIDS face unique economic problems due to their narrow economies and high trade dependence.

Small Island Developing States – Improving Finance for Resilience by 2024 will bring together SIDS, development partners and multilateral leaders, to discuss options for improved support.

Romania UK Bilateral Forum

We are planning the Inaugural Romania UK Bilateral Forum.

In the context of the invasion of Ukraine, it is important to deepen and strengthen our relationship to demonstrate Allied unity, as well as to address key security challenges faced in Europe in 2023.

Building on 140 years of diplomatic relations, this bilateral will demonstrate the importance of relationship with a key NATO Ally, support for Ukraine and broader Black Sea Security.

Conflict Related Sexual Violence Survivor Retreat

We have been working on the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative since its inception over 10 years ago.

Over the years we’ve enabled discussion with and about survivors, identifying ways to tackle stigma, exact justice and bring the perpetrators of these terrible crimes to account. The proposal to hold a Survivor led retreat was first raised at Wilton Park six years ago. And last week, with FCDO support and the leadership, and advice and insights of the UK’s PSVI Survivor Champions, Nadine Tunasi and Kolbassia Haoussou, it finally happened.

The survivors in attendance are all in positions of leadership, running projects to support other victims, providing training, legal, medical and psychological support and advising governments, using their own experiences to inform and improve policy making as it affects survivors. People came to Wilton Park to share that learning, to discuss ways in which to improve peer support, and to strengthen links with governments and non governmental organisations, so that they can further influence policies and legal processes in their own countries and reqions and through the international system.

Conflict Related Sexual Violence and Crimes Against Humanity

In continuation of this work, following the recent resolution in the UN’s 6th Committee to discuss the draft Crimes Against Humanity Convention (CAHC), this week we will convene an expert forum for technical discussions on the CAHC.

The discussions will help to feed into the 6th Committee negotiations in April 2023 and support the creation of a common position on an approach to gender equality and conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) in the CAHC ahead of the meeting.

Wilton Park Youth Ambassador Network

We’re delighted to support the next generation of foreign policy and development experts. Last month we welcomed students from across the UK as they prepared to join the Wilton Park Youth Ambassador Network.

The Youth Ambassadors learnt about Wilton Park and the importance of networks and dialogue. Together, we developed new ideas on the opportunities and dangers of ensuring internet freedoms, with a focus on developing policy recommendations for its future and exploring how youth audiences can influence government and technology companies.

The Youth Ambassadors will now go on to plan and host Wilton Park-style dialogues at their universities.

Learn more about the Youth Ambassador Network.

A female engineer at work

“Girls don’t fix cars”

To mark International Women’s Day, Wilton Park Policy Officer Jessica Wilson wrote on the theme #EmbraceEquity.

Read the blog
Strategic risk reduction

We ran a second in a series of events on strategic stability, Strategic risk reduction.

In an increasingly contested and unpredictable world strategic risks have grown and are increasingly complex.

The event convened a core group of NATO Allies and partners and senior experts to critically engage with this agenda, and developed thinking on strategic competition and cooperation in the absence of cooperative dialogue.

Responsible space behaviours

Our latest report, ‘Sharing Latin American & Caribbean perspectives on responsible space behaviours’, is now available. Read the key findings.

Irreversibility in Nuclear Disarmament

In another of our developing series, we convened a second dialogue to explore the concept of Irreversibility in Nuclear Disarmament (IND), a term used (such as in the context of North Korea) much more than it is defined.

This second Wilton Park conference, running a year after the last, brought together government officials from key Non Proliferation Treaty states with selected non-government experts to explore how to take IND forward. The dialogue drew on specially-commissioned research from the non-government experts, and mapped out a plan for further work in both diplomatic and academic fields. There was a clear consensus that a key element in these work streams would be a third Wilton Park conference, with the probability of an annual event.

HMG Futures

We are starting to plan this year’s HMG Futures event, looking out to 2040 on how Britain can go beyond listing capabilities and what needs to be done now to enable those capabilities.

Green grids

Last month our Green Grids series, promoting international collaboration on energy security and cross-border electricity trading, continued in South Africa with a workshop aiming to expedite such cooperation across Southern Africa.

Diplomats, energy utilities, project developers and multilateral partners met near Pretoria to consider proposals for interconnectors between the region’s electricity networks – focussing on the ‘ZiZaBoNa’ proposal to link the grids of Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia.

These ambitious proposals carry the potential to integrate far greater volumes of renewable energy onto the grid, opening the way to exploit the vast solar potential of the Namib Desert and the Botswana Great Plains and to connect hundreds of communities that currently have no access to modern energy services.

The event agreed a detailed action plan committing all present to actions to further this agenda.

Looking ahead

This month, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office launched the UK’s new International Women and Girls Strategy.

This sets out a set of principles and goals, alongside priorities of the 3 Es – Educating girls, Empowering women and girls, and championing their health and rights, and Ending gender-based violence. It also marks the start of a new global campaign – Rights, Freedom, Potential – to drive conversation and action on women’s and girls’ rights.

Wilton Park is supporting this vital initiative with a series of five thematic events, starting with a dialogue on Women’s Economic Empowerment.

A person raising their hand at a Wilton Park event

Upcoming events

We bring together the right people at the right time for dialogues which have impact.

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