Skip to main content

The renaissance of bilateral forums

Wilton Park CEO Tom Cargill, writes on the value of boosting our bilateral relations.

There’s perhaps nothing more important than the relationships between nations. Our bilateral relations are shaped by history, geography, culture, language, migration, trade, and shared interests. Whilst multilateralism is critical to managing affairs between nations, we’ve perhaps too often been guilty of overlooking the importance of cultivating our bilateral links.

Bilateral fora have played an important role in providing spaces for building links between nations and their people. There are many excellent examples of where these have helped to connect future leaders, unite people from across nations and hand down the wisdom learnt by previous generations. We ourselves at Wilton Park organise the British German Forum, which was established by Chancellor Kohl and Margaret Thatcher in 1985 and has been an annual event ever since. Through dialogue, it aims to facilitate both increased shared understanding and the building of strong relationships between influential young Britons and Germans.

As the UK redefines its relationship with Europe there are several fora which are particularly important – Tertulias, Aurora and Königswinter. Each one has developed an effective platform for the UK and its partners (Spain, the Nordic and Baltic nations, and Germany) to come together. I’m delighted to share with you that Wilton Park will be more involved in these important bilateral forums in the future. We’ll provide our expertise on behalf of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to help support these forums on the UK side, working with the excellent teams already leading them. We’ll look at how the forums can do even more to deepen and enhance the UK’s relationships with some of its closest neighbours.

This is a time for a revival of bilateral fora, making them a key part of strategic dialogue, building networks, and creating space to grapple with complex challenges together. These are things that Wilton Park intrinsically believes in and does day in day out. We’re delighted that we can play a small part in helping to support the great work at Tertulias, Aurora and Königswinter. Wilton Park is keen to help lead a wider renaissance in bilateral fora, working with likeminded partners to bring nations together. We hope to be able to work with many more partners to expand the range and impact of dialogues which deepen bilateral relations. Dialogue is the cornerstone of building understanding and influence, two things which will be vital as we navigate global challenges.

In a world that is becoming ever more complex and competitive, strong, and deep-rooted multilateralism is vital. Strengthening our bilateral relations can enhance, rather than detract from it, allowing us to align on key issues, build partnerships, deepen our shared values, and ultimately strengthen our alliances.

Want to find out more?

Sign up to our newsletter