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Building coalitions to drive change

September 2023 update from Wilton Park CEO Tom Cargill.

Earthquake in Morocco - Hero

The catastrophic earthquake in Morocco and flooding in Libya highlight again the fragility of our assumptions of what tomorrow will bring – both as individuals, but also as societies.

I am currently near Berlin for the annual Königswinter meeting. As our plane landed, passengers’ phones erupted with alerts as Germany tested its emergency warning system which many countries, including Britain, are re-implementing for the first time since the Cold War.

It is important not to be pessimistic. Many governments are moving at pace to understand and rebuild the national resilience and international cooperation required to meet and overcome the complex challenges facing us which are as local as they are global.

As is clear from the examples below, Wilton Park is playing an ever more important role in supporting the UK and others to find solutions, as well as build the domestic and international coalitions required to drive real change.

The Future War, Strategy and Technology Conference

Future War, Strategy and Technology is a new kind of dialogue in which the priority is deep immersion in the issues built around working groups.

It will proceed down five distinct but linked tracks: strategy and future force; technology, innovation, capability requirement and capability-development; policy; ethical and legal; training and education.

The dialogue is a means to the end of a major report that will assist decision-makers and policymakers to better understand the security and defence investment choices all democracies are facing given the changing character of war.

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Development and climate change
Addressing humanitarian needs and famine risk: the role of climate adaptation finance

Last year 258 million people in 58 countries experienced crisis, emergency, or famine levels of acute food insecurity. Many of those affected live in places where they experience the double vulnerability of climate change and conflict.

As part of efforts to build climate resilience to prevent acute food insecurity and famine, this conference brought together key stakeholders, including donor and recipient country governments, climate finance providers, humanitarian agencies, and development actors, to inform essential work to improve the access of countries with high humanitarian need, and at risk of famine, to climate adaptation finance.

Ministers from Somalia and Niger provided first-hand insights into both their needs and the disproportionate challenges they face to obtain climate finance. Developed in close collaboration with FCDO departments and the Overseas Development Institute, the event formed part of a broader UK campaign to drive ambition on tackling famine and food insecurity and included a roundtable chaired by FCDO Permanent Under Secretary, Nick Dyer. Subsequent political developments in Niger underscored the complexity of the context in which this crucial work is needed.

A Chair’s summary of the event included recommendations for actions leading to COP28.

Women, Religion and Climate Change: Working together to move faster on climate change

Climate change often has a woman’s face and this Wilton Park Dialogue, in association with Global One, The Doha International Center for Interfaith Dialogue, The Qatar Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, Partnership for Faith and Development, The International Learning Movement UK and The Stirling Foundation drew together participants from 15 countries to discuss the nexus between women, religion and climate change.

It recognised the significant role that women play as agents of climate change and explored how increasing women’s leadership and influence can contribute to the development and implementation of efficient and long-lasting climate resilient policies and accelerate the achievement of climate goals.

Mary Robinson, the Former UN Special Envoy on Climate and Founder of a new women led initiative, Project Dandelion spearheaded the discussion, with an inspiring call for women to act and lead locally and globally working together to achieve a clean energy, safe climate world.

A new women led faith inspired framework of radical collaboration on climate action was proposed to harness the energy and activism of women of faith worldwide. And a return to Wilton Park to make that a reality! Watch this space.

Emerging markets in debt distress: exploring options for debt restructuring

Many low-income (LICs) and middle-income countries (MICs) are facing high debt vulnerabilities. The IMF estimates 60% of LICs are already in (15%) or at high risk (45%) of debt distress and that 25% of middle income countries (MICs) are also at high risk. Sustainable debt levels are vital for economic development, as well as poverty reduction.

The public and private sectors agree that there is scope for – and opportunities and benefits attached to – more innovative approaches to restructuring debt for countries in debt distress. The conference aims to break new ground and help unleash this innovation, such as with climate resilience debt clauses (CRDCs) and majority voting provisions (MVPs).

Diplomacy and geopolitics
A Euro-MENA Dialogue on Inclusive Citizenship and Freedom of Religion and Belief: Bridging and advancing the two agendas

The lack of Freedom of Religion and Belief (FoRB) and Inclusive Citizenship is a pressing global issue affecting millions, as well as being a source for socioeconomic discrimination and segregation, increasing inequality, resentment and unrest.

Promoting both FoRB and Inclusive Citizenship is seen as critical to peace and co-existence, both within increasingly diverse societies and between them. This dialogue is the second in a new Wilton Park interreligious initiative, in partnership with the British and Italian Governments, the Adyan Foundation and Globethics, aimed at bridging and advancing the two agendas in the MENA region and in Europe.

Recent reports

Read the latest reports from Wilton Park

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NATO’S new ‘deterrence baseline’ and the future of extended nuclear deterrence

Our annual conference on the future for extended nuclear deterrence convened 18-21 July, in partnership with UK Ministry of Defence and the US national laboratories of Lawrence Livermore and Sandia.

This conference has run since 2009, and a short scan of the conference programme over that period is revealing for what it says about the ebb and flow of different concerns and priorities. For example, the invasion of Ukraine has led to discussions that would have not been imaginable in the early days of the conference.

As with recent iterations, this year we covered the ongoing challenges to NATO strategy, how they were covered in the 2023 NATO Summit, and how they can be expected to evolve, but with one eye also on the potential threat of China, which one participant called “the slow-motion shock” alongside the more fast-moving one of Russia in Ukraine. The report from this conference will be published soon.

Economy and trade
The use of Information Technology to drive efficiency and efficacy in Tax Administration

Wilton Park hosted a dialogue bringing tax officials together from the UK, India and seven Commonwealth countries in ‘The use of Information Technology to drive efficiency and efficacy in Tax Administration’ at the end of July.

We partnered with the British High Commission India, HM Revenue & Customs, the Commonwealth Association of Tax Administrators and the Central Board of Direct Taxes, Government of India. Roundtable discussions focused on using IT as a tool to improve tax administration.

Paul Aplin, one of the dialogue participants commented, ‘I have attended countless conferences and sat through countless presentations over the years. What Wilton Park does is different, bringing people together as equals and building mutual trust so that what ensues is a genuine dialogue in which participants feel able to share their insight and experience openly and honestly. The degree of candour is, in my experience, unique. Everyone leaves having contributed and everyone leaves with fresh knowledge.’

Looking ahead
The Grand Challenge: planning for sustainable biocontainment diagnostic laboratories

Diagnostic laboratories that safeguard biological materials, equipment, and methodologies, play a critical role in the global campaign to prevent, detect and respond to infectious disease outbreaks, whether they be naturally-occurring, accidental or deliberate.

Such laboratory facilities, however, were pioneered in and designed for developed countries with ample resources, and are therefore often too expensive, too complex and too ‘western’ in design to be built and sustained in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Identifying ways and means to address this persistent challenge promises to strengthen global health security.
In this context, the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), Canada’s Weapons Threat Reduction Program and the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence have identified a Grand Challenge for Sustainable Laboratories as an innovative and promising approach. The Grand Challenge seeks to reimagine the physical laboratory infrastructure in order to reduce ongoing operational costs and ensure safe and secure handling of high consequence pathogenic materials, including ‘disease X’, whilst maintaining core functions of a diagnostic lab in low- and middle-income countries.

It is assessed that this Grand Challenge would stand a greater chance of success if supported by a broad-based, multi-sectoral consortium. Such a consortium would have significant advantages: diversity of interests across health, development, security and innovation sectors; a wider outreach to the innovation community; and greater ability to leverage resources to see innovative ideas through to reality.

WOAH and GAC are convening this Wilton Park conference to invite key stakeholders and investment partners to consider financial and technical contributions to make the Grand Challenge for sustainable laboratories a reality.

A person raising their hand at a Wilton Park event

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