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Defence in a Competitive Age: we are supporting the Integrated Review

Update from Wilton Park CEO Tom Cargill, 13 May 2021

In Britain there is now a tentative but growing movement towards ‘normalising’ as vaccination rates continue to soar.

Yet as the deluge subsides, at least in the UK, there is a strong sense of renewed immediacy with the many and multiplying threats to national, regional and global stability that have in many cases been accelerated by the pandemic.

So whilst Wilton Park’s plans for in person events are maturing, we are also accelerating our work bringing influential global networks to bear on some of these fast growing challenges. Critically we will also be working even harder to support and encourage the follow up and policy focus required to convert ideas into action, whether that is in relation to diplomacy, development, trade, or security.

In respect of global security, Wilton Park is building further on a particularly strong record of converting ideas to action. Much of this we are unfortunately not able to detail, but our newsletter this month captures just some of the activity and focus we are already providing in this, as well as our other key themes of Development, Diplomacy and Trade.
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Tom Cargill, Chief Executive

Defence and security

Following the publication of the Integrated Review and the Defence Command Plan: ‘Defence in a Competitive Age’ in March, we are continuing our strong tradition of engagement in defence and security, with events on proliferation, space and climate security.

We are always keen to establish new partnerships – and enhancing existing ones – on these issues and others across international defence and security. Please get in touch with ideas and suggestions for where we can direct our efforts – we would be very interested in learning more.

Our recent work

Building on a series of events “Operating in space: current multilateral policy issues and challenges” between January and July 2020, we are supporting Britain’s efforts at the United Nations to seek consensus on responsible behaviours in space. In February and March we held two events providing the opportunity for nations to set out specific or general areas of behaviour they might wish to recommend for addressing threats to space systems. From a defence perspective, we are planning to explore the ideology and vision for combined space operations and to understand other nations’ perspectives and concerns around military behaviours in space.

Following our annual HMG ‘Futures’ event and making the link between climate and security, we ran a series of events on increasing military sustainability and addressing the security implications of climate change. This includes a series across defence, diplomacy and development in partnership with adelphi.  NATO, the US and nations from the global south recognise the challenges the Prime Minister described in his address to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in February and together with adelphi we are planning a programme of events to supporting a community of practice on climate security.

In March we held a dialogue in support of the rescheduled Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review in partnership with the FCDO, Dutch and Swedish foreign ministries, and Sandia National Laboratory. Looking ahead, we are now in close consultation with the FCDO about our work programme on non-proliferation, arms control, and disarmament policy.

Looking ahead

Elsewhere in defence and security, we are turning our attention to designing a work programme which – COVID permitting – should see a return to in-person events. There’s an increased demand for this among our international partnership network and we are now re-engaging with them.

We already have a well-established programme of work on counter-proliferation issues, a policy theme that was prominent in the Integrated Review, and are in discussions to design a future work programme. Expect to see our work on nuclear issues explore the future of the NPT and new paths forward for disarmament and non-proliferation.

Our work on chemical and, especially in the wake of the pandemic, biological weapons issues will develop further. And we are exploring a number of options for further work on weapons of daily destruction – landmines and small arms & light weapons. Emerging technology also featured in the Integrated Review as a source of both opportunity and challenge for rules-driven approaches to international security, and we are working with potential partners to expand into this space.

Our future ambitions

Our ambition is to continue to broaden and develop our portfolio of defence and security work in support of HMG priorities and the ambitious proposals outlined in the Integrated Review. We aim to develop new partnerships to bring added focus and momentum to such key areas as emerging technology, and underpinning the UK’s position of influence in the international arena.


In May we will hold the Risk-informed Early Action Partnership (REAP) meeting. REAP brings together an unprecedented range of stakeholders across the climate, humanitarian and development communities with the aim to make 1 billion people safer from disaster by 2025.

The Partnership will meet to take stock and explore examples of progress inviting countries considering joining the Partnership to describe their priorities. During May to July, we will convene a series of five virtual conferences in support of international work on peaceful uses of nuclear technology for advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Two thematic meetings will assess better access to radiotherapy and agricultural uses, two regional meetings will look at the challenges and opportunities in Latin America and Southeast Asia, and a forum for over 100 participants will draw the themes and conclusions together.


We are exploring how to put the Integrated Review policy into practice. This includes the implications for the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) in working closer together on defence diplomacy, linking to the annual HMG ‘Futures’ event.

We’ll also be exploring ‘persistent engagement’, considering our international partners’ and others’ perspectives, the regions that enable material impact and the necessary capability requirements.


Following on from supporting the crucial work on nature-based solutions when we hosted One Earth One Future, we are planning to support Race for our Planet at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) pre-COP in Milan in October.

Race for our Planet brings together the UN-led Race to Zero and Race to Resilience campaigns which offer a platform for non-state actors to rally together, moving the global economy to net zero and protecting the most vulnerable from climate impacts. To support preparations for COP26 we hosted the Zero Emissions Vehicle Transition Council’s second meeting. This Ministerial-level Council met to discuss the pace of the transition needed to meet the collective Paris Agreement goal and the relative environmental performance of technology options to support the transition. We plan a series of regional Zero Emissions Vehicle roundtables over the next four months.

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