Skip to main content

The age of polycrisis

May 2023 update from Wilton Park CEO Tom Cargill.

G7 Hiroshima

Wilton Park plays a critical role hosting informal multilateral defence and security discussions.

Many of these are rarely discussed, but a blog post below from Senior Programme Director Mark Smith lifts the lid on some our work on nuclear non-proliferation – very much supporting the recent G7 Hiroshima recommitment to ‘achieving a world without nuclear weapons’.

We are increasingly reaching out too, and were proud to support this month’s London Defence Conference at which the UK Prime Minister spoke and highlighted the rising tempo of UK diplomatic, defence and trade activity globally.

This includes in East Africa where the UK has just pledged £143 million to support people facing multiple challenges. Our recent event in Nairobi touched on this as part of a wider discussion of peacebuilding in the context of complex challenges.

Supporting such efforts, whilst sensitively feeding challenge and external expertise into policy making is central to our work, and a role which we take very seriously. One key aspect of this is helping citizens and taxpayers better understand the value of such activity at a time when resources, and requirements, are stretched. How to achieve this is a theme of a blog linked below.

Verification, irreversibility and the road to nuclear disarmament

Last week, leaders of the G7 countries gathered in Hiroshima, site of the first use of nuclear weapons in 1945, for their annual Summit. It was, as the Summit’s Communique noted, the first such statement to have a particular focus on nuclear disarmament, and G7 members reaffirmed “our commitment to achieving a world without nuclear weapons with undiminished security for all”.

How is that nuclear weapon-free world to be achieved? In March this year, working in partnership with the UK and Norway, Wilton Park convened a pair of dialogues on two closely-interlinked issues for nuclear disarmament and the wider NPT regime: verification and irreversibility. These topics can trace their importance to the Treaty back to the Action Plan agreed at the 2010 Review Conference, which established three key principles of disarmament: transparency, verification and irreversibility.

Read more about our work on verification and irreversibility.

Development and climate change
Working together to promote comprehensive, universal sexual and reproductive health and rights

Our thematic conferences in support of the FCDO’s ‘International Women and Girls Strategy 2023–2030’ continues.

The Strategy, launched in March 2023, is framed around the 3 Es – Educating girls, Empowering women and girls, and championing their health and rights, and Ending gender-based violence.

The second conference in the series took place in April and explored ways of working together to promote comprehensive, universal sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

At the multilateral level, SRHR has become a political lightning rod. Opposition to SRHR is well organised and well-funded, and the polarisation of debate around SRHR risks undermining and weakening multilateralism, which could have damaging effects on international human rights more generally.

Despite the tensions, it is notable that at the local and national level, communities, medical providers, legislators and national governments are working to increase access to SRHR in many places across the globe. There have been huge strides in access to family planning and reproductive health services. Since 1994, only 4 countries have taken steps to reduce the legal grounds for safe abortion. In contrast over 60 countries have taken some steps to expand the grounds for legal abortion over the same period. At country level, the general direction of travel, is still one of strengthening women’s rights and increasing access to SRHR.

The conference convened key partners from UN member states, civil society, UN agencies and grassroots organisations, providing an opportunity to better understand efforts to rollback progress on SRHR, gender equality and more broadly women’s and girls’ rights. This rollback on rights has a real impact on the lives of women and girls and discussion included ways in which to strengthen alliances to protect and advance SRHR and gender equality.

Upcoming events in this series will be on Preventing gender-based violence, Addressing violence in and through education and Engaging women’s movements and strengthening women’s rights.

Peacebuilding in Africa: Transitions, Complexities and Responses

This conference, held in Nairobi in late April, was the culmination of the annual Wilton Park series on peacebuilding in Africa that started in 2015.

It was held in partnership with the African Peacebuilding Network of the Social Science Research Council, New York and the African Leadership Centre, Nairobi, with support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

The dialogue took stock of evolutions in peacebuilding in Africa since the first five conferences, exploring the continuities and complex changes that have occurred, and considered the implications of current and emerging developments for the future of peacebuilding in Africa, focusing in particular on the role of youth and inter-generational engagement with peacebuilding.

Promoting African ownership of its peacebuilding agenda, by securing financial autonomy and engaging with African civil societies, businesses and other indigenous actors, is critical to reduce conflict risks. Establishing an African-based and African-funded peacebuilding fund complemented by a peacebuilding strategy that systematically engages the private sectors would enhance African ownership of its peacebuilding agenda. A core thrust of this agenda must be directed towards intergenerational dialogue and co-leadership to hopefully pave the way for productive engagement between the state and youth with the aim of developing lasting peace.

King Charles’ speech at Wilton Park’s 50th anniversary

In 1996 HRH The Prince of Wales, now His Majesty King Charles III, attended Wilton Park for an event celebrating our 50th anniversary. His Majesty gave the opening speech at the dialogue, titled ‘A Sense of the Sacred: Building Bridges Between Islam and the West.’ The importance of multifaith collaborations reflect his Majesty’s lifelong interests and were reflected in his Coronation earlier this month.

Read more
Diplomacy and geopolitics
British German Forum

The British German Forum (BGF) was established by Helmut Kohl and Margaret Thatcher in 1985.

It provides a dynamic space in which participants can network and share ideas among peers, and gain insight and inspiration from experienced professionals. Through dialogue, it aims to facilitate both increased shared understanding and the building of strong relationships between influential young Britons and Germans.

This year’s Forum 2023 in early July will bring together around 35 future leaders to connect and discuss ‘Working together at home and abroad post COVID’. Dialogue will focus on the areas for collaboration between Britain and Germany in future security strategies, energy security, and information environments and challenges.

A new Code of Conduct: taking sanctions reform further to advance humanitarianism

Government representatives from the US, UK, Netherlands, Ireland, Mexico, Germany and Switzerland gathered at Wilton Park this month alongside international sanctions and humanitarian experts and practitioners.

Discussions focused on a newly drafted set of non-binding principles or ‘Code of Conduct’ to help guide actors designing and implementing sanctions, and a checklist to help sanctions units design, implement and monitor sanctions in a way that minimises and mitigates the unintended humanitarian impacts of this increasingly used tool.

There was agreement that this was a significant opportunity to lay down foundations for guiding the future use of sanctions and that consultation on this new ‘Code of Conduct’ should continue over the next year, with a return to Wilton Park anticipated for its launch in 2024.

The challenge for diplomacy in an age of polycrisis

Wilton Park’s Chief Executive, Tom Cargill, explores the challenges and opportunities facing diplomacy in an age of fast-paced change and multiple crises.

Read more
Five Partners in a Competitive Age: the evolving geostrategic landscape

In 2023 the Five Eyes finds itself at a pivotal moment.

This Wilton Park dialogue in October marks the first 1.5 track dialogue in the Five Eyes’ eight-decade history, bringing together officials and leading intellectuals to reflect on the challenges and opportunities for the Five Eyes given the new geostrategic reality.

Participants will survey the status and views of the Five Eyes partnership. They will examine the prospects for deeper and more coherent strategic collaboration across geostrategic issues impacting the five countries’ interests.

HMG Futures – identifying capabilities now to win future influence

The Integrated Review Refresh describes a competitive future in which many of the challenges are shared, and the lines between outward and domestic are increasingly blurred.

Across states, companies and societies, what will power look like and what capabilities will enable influence?

This year’s annual Wilton Park Futures event will examine power across military strength, diplomacy, science and technology and economics in the future. Looking to possible futures beyond the focus of most strategies and planning, participants will identify the capabilities states, companies and societies most need to exert influence and the actions needed now to preserve existing and build new capabilities.

Looking ahead

With its home in the heart of Sussex and networks that span the globe, Wilton Park is the perfect venue for showcasing the region’s best export brands.

This July we will host the third SussExport, a unique event supporting local businesses that have their sights on global trade.

SussExport brings together local companies with senior participants from the Department for Business and Trade and Sussex brands that have successfully reached global markets. Participants will benefit from targeted advice on how and where to expand their exports, along with presentations and experiences from some of the regions’ leading businesses.

This year’s event will consider what Sussex has to offer the rest of the world, from the maritime sector to agriculture, horticulture and tourism and a growing digital and technological industry. Business and government leaders will discuss what the region’s businesses need in order to succeed internationally, and what they are already doing to create an environment for a better Sussex.

A person raising their hand at a Wilton Park event

Upcoming events

We bring together the right people at the right time for dialogues which have impact.

Find out more

Want to find out more?

Sign up to our newsletter