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The price of war and the value of peace

October update from Wilton Park CEO Tom Cargill.

People in advanced democracies are relearning the fragility of the freedoms from war and want at home which many of us have taken for granted for generations.

This in turn is forcing governments and citizens alike to rediscover those sources of strength and resilience our societies may have started to forget. It is also leading many to call for more effective international action to rebuild and refresh the values and structures of multilateralism underpinning a secure, prosperous and sustainable future for humanity.

At Wilton Park we’ve been bringing together diplomats, experts, business, civil society to discuss these critical issues. Our unique ability to provide a secure and enabling environment for addressing challenging issues is in increasing demand and make our mission and purpose ever more relevant.

In particular it feels like we’re at an inflection point for European strategic culture, as defence and security are reprioritised and their value reassessed. The connections between security, economic, environmental, and other issues are simultaneously becoming more complex and deepening. Clear and robust debate is key to navigating this complexity and helping us to build the capabilities and structures needed to restore and advance peace and stability.

We have a packed schedule over the coming months, as we bring to bear our expert facilitation and global networks to tackle new and familiar global challenges. We’re at a critical juncture and Wilton Park is determined to play the role that only it can as an informal global hub for sensitive diplomatic discussion  – connecting the dots between disparate issues, bringing together diverse groups of experts, fostering understanding, and promoting respectful policy debate – all focused on building a fairer and safer world.

Below is a snapshot of the recent work we are able to tell you about.

Future War and Deterrence

Organised by Wilton Park and The Alphen Group we brought together leaders, experts, analysts and commentators from public policy, politics, the armed forces, the private sector, and from technology and innovation the democratic world-over.

The core focus of the discussions was to assess what deterrence of state-on-state conflict will require in a horizon to 2035, and if needs be fighting and winning a major war.
Lessons from the Ukraine war as well as Chinese military exercises in the Taiwan Strait were examined. Participants agreed that in relation to the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, deterrence had not failed; rather it had simply not been applied.

The entire second day of the conference was devoted to discussions in six working groups meeting in parallel; on affordability and resilience, future force, policy, industry and innovation, strategy, and technology.

A more agile, adaptable defence industrial base constitutes a key enabling foundation to deliver many of the goals elaborated in the other groups. Military advantage will go to countries/alliances that more effectively integrates new technology rather than just developing it. In this regard, the quality of relationships between political and military leaders will become even more important than they are today in a context of more rapid, AI enabled decision-making.

We were delighted to host via hologram, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, General Philippe Lavigne and thank him for his efforts to participate in this critical discussion.


Transformational change towards a sustainable future was the latest in a series of events looking at the impacts of the climate crisis, which continues to threaten societies globally with its economic, social, and environmental impact an increasing challenge for us all.

A group of international stakeholders came together to identify immediate action for adapting to these impacts in the future with the aim of meeting the terms of the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), by identifying examples of transformative pathways and actions that will truly work to mitigate climate change risks and foster systemic resilience.

In September we also ran the fourth in a series of regional events focused on Reducing the Harmful Effects of Alcohol, this time focused on the Asia-Pacific region.

It brought together industry and non-industry global stakeholders in a safe space to build consensus on solutions to reduce the harmful use of alcohol, in line with a ‘whole of society’ approach and in a manner accounting for national, religious and cultural contexts. The series has been framed by the 2018 UN Political Declaration on the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases; “Encouraging economic operators in the area of alcohol production and trade, as appropriate, to contribute to reducing harmful use of alcohol.”

Launched at the UN Climate Action Summit in September 2019, the Risk-informed Early Action Partnership (REAP) brings together an unprecedented range of stakeholders across the climate, humanitarian and development communities with the aim of making 1 billion people safer from disaster by 2025.

In June 2022 REAP and Wilton Park, co-sponsored by the UK and Germany, convened a discussion for early action donors aiming to take stock of the findings of a REAP-commissioned report titled Finance for Early Action. This month we convened again to look at the action-orientated next steps in the discussions and commitments that were initiated by the June roundtable discussion.


Over the past two and a half years, Wilton Park, in partnership with the Government of Sweden and Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research (AHPSR), has engaged more than 165 people from close to 50 countries in a series of dialogues on Healthier Societies.

The dialogues, which concluded in June, provided space for different groups and individuals with common interests to come together to consider the pathways to achieving healthier societies and to stimulate a community to take this work forward. You can find the series report and communication materials here.


In September, a conference originally planned for mid-2020 was finally able to convene in-person: 48 participants gathered to assess the implications of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), for nuclear policy.

The impact of emerging technologies has assumed greater saliency in recent years, but their implications for nuclear risk and the global nuclear order remain contested and uncertain.

Applications of some technologies could have the potential to exacerbate nuclear risks. There may also be ways to leverage these technologies in support of non-proliferation, disarmament, and arms control efforts.

The conference report will be on our website in due course, and watch this space for an extensive programme of nuclear work over the autumn and winter.

Away from nuclear issues, we convened a dialogue on the Chemical Weapons Convention in partnership with the FCDO and Global Affairs Canada. The Convention faces significant challenges ahead of its Review Conference next year, and speakers included the Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) who led off the conference with a keynote address.

We’re currently hosting the latest in a series of meetings on space security. Our use of space is multiplying and military interest in space as a domain is accelerating as nations come to realise the importance space has on national security, resilience, and global stability.

Wilton Park has held a series of international events with the diplomatic community, focusing on responsible space behaviours as a foundation for the transparency and cooperation necessary to make space safe, secure, and sustainable for all nations. This event seeks to understand the security and defence aspects of responsible military space operations and behaviours.

Russia’s unjustified and unlawful invasion of Ukraine has created concerns over strategic stability in Europe. During the cold war, strategic stability was defined by an East-West dynamic.

Modern strategic stability must contend with a multi-polar and increasingly competitive world, and a lack of understanding between the key players. Next month, we bring together partners to explore the changing nature of strategic stability from various national and regional perspectives, to identify the risks of strategic escalation and tools for managing that risk.

Youth Ambassador Network

I’m delighted that we have once again opened applications for the Wilton Park Youth Ambassador Network. An opportunity for those interested in foreign policy, international affairs, and diplomacy to work with Wilton Park to hone their skills by becoming a Youth Ambassador and hosting their own events and dialogues.

Not only is the programme a way for us to help nurture a new generation of diverse, ambitious, smart, internationally minded students, but it also provides us with challenge and fresh perspectives. It’s a programme that we hope to grow and develop over the coming years. If you’re interested in supporting the programme don’t hesitate to get in touch. Students interested in applying for the scheme can find out more here.

Looking ahead

The next couple of months are set to be incredibly busy as we enter a period which has typically been our most in demand. The breadth of areas we work across continues to match the complexity of the challenges faced by our partners.

You can keep up to date with those events which we are able to disclose details of publicly here. Due to the nature of our work, there are some events which we facilitate discreetly and do not promote. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us to find out more about our work and to discuss how we could help you.

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