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A farewell to Wilton Park

Julia 1

After 19 years at Wilton Park, it’s time for me to hang up the conference bell and step back from the world of work.

Over the years I’ve facilitated over 190 conferences and had the privilege of working with hundreds of fantastic and committed people. I’ve been party to some extraordinary, powerful and uplifting discussions and I’ve seen how the convening power and ethos of Wilton Park enables experts, activists, opinion formers and change makers from around the world to tackle some of the trickiest problems facing the global community, right across the policy spectrum.

Much has changed since I joined Wilton Park in 2005. We’ve seen a terrible escalation of conflict, the critical impacts of the climate emergency, the global pandemic and a sense of increasingly polarised politics, all amplified by social media. What hasn’t changed is the powerful dynamic created when people meet, talk and openly share different – often opposing – views, driven by the intent to shift the dial and move forward.

There is a magic in those remarkable ‘Wilton Park Moments’. I have experienced some real ‘kerching’ break throughs and even the occasional ‘oooh er’. I’ve seen diplomatic bumps smoothed out, unlikely alliances formed, seemingly intractable problems unpicked and solutions emerge.

I’ve worked on a wide range of dialogues, particularly on human rights, gender and inclusion, but my highlights have to include the 2012 launch of the 2012 launch of the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative with Angelina Jolie and William Hague.

Subsequent convenings on conflict related sexual violence led me to one of my proudest Wilton Park moments, hosting a Survivor Retreat with the FCDO and the remarkable PSVI Survivor Champions, Kolbassia Haoussou and Nadine Tunasi, who have taught me so much over the years. Their voices and those of other Survivors, activists and Human Rights Defenders including LGBTQ+ persons and my most recent conference on the rights of disabled people have been amongst the most powerful and memorable.

It’s been an absolute privilege to co-create a safe and trusted space enabling activists to be fully seen and fully heard by other duty bearers. Their impact is immeasurable.

As I pack up my laptop, hand in my pass and say adieu and thank you to all my fantastic Wilton Park colleagues and friends, I’ve been reflecting on the advice I was given when I first walked nervously through those big wooden doors back in 2005. Those words endure: be curious, be creative, be pro-active in connecting the dots. And don’t eat too many Wilton Park cakes. Three out of four ain’t bad…

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