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Defending Global Freedoms, Promoting Global Security

Update from Wilton Park CEO Tom Cargill, February 2022

The easing of restrictions in the UK allows us back to hosting ever more hybrid and fully in-person events, with a packed schedule over the coming months. This includes our work on defence and security, which has continued at pace.

Some of this remains sensitive in nature, but whenever we can, we are keen to be as open and engage as widely as we can to bring challenge and fresh perspectives on critical defence and security issues which affect all of us, both in the UK and around the world.

Science and Technology

During a recent invitation only event for the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and Ministry of Defence (MoD), we explored thinking and approaches to achieve strategic advantage through science and technology.

We are about to host Enhancing security to support international research collaboration – ‘Trusted Research’. This expert-led event will follow dialogue on this issue between science ministers from the Nordic and Baltic countries through the Northern Science Ministerial format, as well as a UK focused Wilton Park session.

It is the first of a series of Wilton Park events to engage international partners on the topic. A range of actors from the UK and Nordic and Baltic countries will come together for an exchange of views on how to get the most out of international scientific collaboration whilst protecting intellectual property, sensitive research and personal information.

In March we will be running an event on greyzone security, exploring what is meant by the term – state behaviour that is aggressive but often covert, or at least deniable, and falls short of acts of war – and considering examples of this activity in Europe and the UK, including foreign interference and cyber intrusions.


Wilton Park has held a series of international events focusing on behaviours in space as the foundation for the transparency and cooperation necessary to make space safe and sustainable for all nations.

In March, we will be continuing our work in this area. Participants will discuss threats to space systems, international law as applied to space, integrated deterrence, and existing frameworks for deconfliction in space before considering responsible behaviours as a means to reduce threats to space systems.

Militaries are key users of space. The Combined Space Operations Memorandum of Understanding brings the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France and Germany together as a community of military space operators.

In May, we will be convening an invitation only event with these military space operators where the Combined Space Operations will seek to share its ideology and vision, and to understand other nations’ perspectives and concerns around military behaviours in space.

Non-proliferation, disarmament and arms control

We have recently completed a suite of hybrid and virtual meetings designed to inform and support the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty’s forthcoming Review Conference.

In partnership with the FCDO and the governments of Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland and the US, we assessed how to reduce the risks posed by nuclear weapons, the work of a UN Group of Governmental Experts, the opportunities for peaceful nuclear technology to advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and also a smaller hybrid version of our annual nuclear non-proliferation conference.

In the coming months, we will build on this and examine irreversibility in nuclear disarmament. Away from the nuclear aspect of weapons of mass destruction, we will also be working on issues key to the chemical and biological non-proliferation regimes.

Looking ahead

In our non-proliferation, disarmament, and arms control programme, we are liaising with the FCDO about their priorities, and are looking at an extensive programme of work across the piste of weapons of mass destruction and conventional weapons. Watch this space for further details.

Longer term projects include biometric and artificial intelligence driven surveillance, responses when climate change results in significant instability, and the vulnerabilities of traditional military platforms and organisations to data transparency and constant contestation.

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