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Diplomacy: our greatest tool

January update from Wilton Park CEO Tom Cargill.

My prediction for 2023 is that this will be the year when diplomacy becomes increasingly widely recognised as the best tool humanity has for securing our future.

There are some epic global challenges. Amidst growing determination to provide Ukraine the means to restore its territory and overcome Russian aggression, there will remain the need for complex and sensitive diplomacy.
On climate change there is growing consensus that the world must move faster. The need to deal with unsustainable debt among the poorest countries, a growing global food crisis, tensions over Taiwan – the growing list goes on.
Hovering over it all is the continued atrophy of multilateral institutions, and the values which have underpinned them for 70 years. All of this will require all the skills of careful, thoughtful and ambitious diplomats globally.

In 2023, we need to recognise and support those skills further, and Wilton Park will be playing our part by further promoting the quiet, patient diplomacy which delivers sustainable, long term change for all of us.

Looking back on 2022

2022 was an incredible year for Wilton Park. We held 105 events, attended by over 4,200 people representing 113 countries. I want to thank our partners across the world for participating in and supporting Wilton Park events. You can watch some of my reflections on 2022 and the work of Wilton Park below.


Our report is published this month on Preparing the Children and Armed Conflict Agenda for the Future.

This dialogue took stock of the progress made since the creation of the children and armed conflict agenda 25 years ago which signalled a new era of global commitment to prevent grave violations against children in armed conflicts and holding perpetrators to account.

However, with an average of 25 children killed or maimed in conflict every day and the latest figures showing the highest number ever for verified violations perpetrated against children in conflict zones, more needs to be done.

One recommendation in the report was holding an event dedicated to the key challenge of the reintegration of children who have exited armed forces or armed groups as recruitment and use of children by armed actors continues to rise around the world. This event runs from 15-17 February.


Marking the 40th anniversary of the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), our conference on Human Rights Law at Sea reflected on the recommendations of the recent Report of the House of Lords International Relations and Defence Select Committee (IRDC) Inquiry to develop an understanding of how human rights obligations can be projected into the maritime domain in ways which respect both the essential structures of ocean governance and also offer meaningful rights-protection to individuals at sea.

A range of recommendations focused on the articulation of what a human rights violation at sea entails, the conceptual basis for how human rights at sea needs to be reconsidered and the need for better monitoring and data gathering of human rights at sea. It also drew up a list of specific barriers to effective enforcement of human rights at sea that should be removed.


Earlier in January we ran an event on Responsible Space Behaviours – Latin American and Caribbean Perspectives which precedes the third meeting of the UN Open Ended Working Group on space threats which runs from 31 January to 3 February 2023.

The Wilton Park meeting brought together Government policy makers in the Latin American and Caribbean region, with academic experts and commercial operators, to consider norms and behaviours in response to state threats to space systems.

Latin America and the Caribbean are increasingly involved in space operations but as more nations appreciate their shared dependencies on space, we are starting to lose the perhaps unhelpful distinction between space faring nations and others.

With strong engagement from regional representatives, the conversation moved forward from previous events focusing on our dependency on space and the risks to space-based systems, to talking about what responsible norms and behaviours and their governance might look like.

In December, one of our longest-running conferences, which focuses on challenges to the international regime governing nuclear proliferation and disarmament, The future of the nuclear non-proliferation regime, convened for the first fully in-person format since 2019.
This time 75 participants were able to join us in-person for discussions including on the Iran nuclear deal, the future of nuclear arms control and disarmament diplomacy, the opportunities of peaceful nuclear technology, and the challenge of North Korea.

You can watch video interviews on key topics of discussion here.


In March, Moving forward on Irreversibility in Nuclear Disarmament will build upon and advance the outcomes of our March 2022 conference on this topic, co-funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The FCDO used the outcomes from that conference to commission original research by selected thinktank experts which will be used as the basis for our dialogue.

We will again be working with these partners to convene a non-formal meeting of the United Nation’s Group of Governmental Experts on Nuclear Disarmament Verification, to be held in Montreux, Switzerland.

Last July, the UK government published its first-ever strategy on critical mineral supply lines. In the foreword, the Minister of State for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said “We are moving to a world powered by critical minerals: we need lithium, cobalt and graphite to make batteries for electric cars; silicon and tin for our electronics; rare earth elements for electric cars and wind turbines”.

In March we’ll convene a conference in partnership with the UK Cabinet Office that will assess how to take this strategy forward.


As countries increase their climate ambition and aim to integrate ever-larger volumes of renewable energy into their electricity networks, regional power trading is becoming increasingly important.
The more interconnected a nation’s grid with those of neighbouring countries, the greater the potential for cross-border power trading to even out the natural variability of renewable power sources. This enables a cheaper, more efficient transition to an economy powered by clean energy.

The Green Grids Initiative, which is designed to accelerate this process in key markets, launched during COP26 with Wilton Park as a core delivery partner. Having established the global action plan for the initiative at previous Wilton Park events, we have now begun the stage of developing detailed plans at the regional level. This process began in December with a gathering in Bangkok of officials and power industry players from across the Asia-Pacific region, and will continue in February with a dialogue focused on Southern Africa.

Looking ahead

LGBTQ+ minorities are under represented in STEM disciplines in both the US and the UK. In both countries, however, policymakers are struggling to design evidence-based interventions to address this problem.
Often, this is because there is very little data collected on this minority population which prevents policymakers from targeting interventions. Policymakers cannot focus efforts on a particular discipline or on a particular timepoint in a research career trajectory.

Our upcoming conference on Data for Retention: Addressing under-representation of LGBTQ+ minorities in STEM will build on work undertaken to date, to understand and address under-representation and will explore what data is currently collected, gaps in existing data and ways in which to overcome barriers to future data collection.

The conference will be a key milestone toward collaboration on data sharing and the establishment of a US-UK repository of datasets. It aims to progress three key objectives:

  • Establish a UK-US community of experts working together on DEI in STEM from government, NGOs, university administrations, researchers, and funders
  • Create the world’s first repository of datasets for researcher access
  • Draft a UK-US open-source policy guide for universities to reference in designing evidence-based interventions to stop the attrition of LGBTQ+ minorities in STEM.

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