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The return to in-person, advent of hybrid

Update from Wilton Park CEO Tom Cargill, November 2021

Despite the uncertainty, a new landscape for the post-pandemic world is emerging, defined by an accelerated move to online interaction for much day-to-day business.

Perhaps ironically, this is already increasing the value of Wilton Park’s role convening secure, discrete in-person dialogue, as organisations and individuals face the need to take regular time out for properly mediated personal engagement, over time, in a room. As UK Ambassador to Washington, Karen Pierce has said, diplomacy will remain a contact sport.

Yet there is a third, hybrid, form of interaction developing that mixes the virtual and the in-person, and this is where Wilton Park has been experimenting and pioneering best practice. This month’s newsletter explores our emerging work in this space, and how Wilton Park has, as ever, been staying one step ahead to keep our worldwide networks of influence connected, secure, flexible and informed for UK – and global – benefit.

The Wilton Park blend: in-person, hybrid and virtual

With Covid continuing to shape our lives, our thoughts at Wilton Park are focused on our much-anticipated return to in-person events at our Wiston House home in West Sussex and the inevitable place of hybrid events (part in-person, part virtual).

In some ways, it feels like we are on the cusp of a new era, pioneering a blend of three delivery methods. Whilst in-person events will be our preferred model, we will also be able to offer virtual and hybrid options. What is very clear from our discussions with both partners and participants is that there is a great readiness and desire to see Wilton Park back in the position of being able to run residential events. We share that enthusiasm!

And so we have been genuinely thrilled to be able to invite visitors back to Wiston House over the past couple of months and to be able to run our first hybrid events, including the latest meeting of the British-German Forum – where young leaders from both countries addressed the common challenges and goals driving British Germany relations – and the forthcoming Supporting NPT Diplomacy.

This month, we are maintaining our delivery of virtual events, including Enhancing Security to Support International Collaboration and Healthy Societies, Healthy Populations.

And the period between January and March is filled with our traditional 48-hour in-person events with virtual events being run in tandem.

Read on to find more about the in-person/hybrid events that are at the forefront of our delivery as we welcome people back to Wiston House.


In December we will be bringing together global experts for a hybrid dialogue as part of a series on Developing a roadmap for fatty liver disease.
This condition affects an estimated two billion people globally and has been described as the ‘silent pandemic’, gaining little attention from policy makers, practitioners and leaders in global health.

Reinvigorating the Children and Armed Conflict Agenda will discuss how actors can come together to help support, build momentum and make tangible progress in reinvigorating the Children in Armed Conflict agenda, protecting the most vulnerable children in fragile and conflict settings.
In March, we hope to bring together diverse stakeholders in person as part of our series, Healthy Societies and Healthy Populations with the Swedish Government and World Health Organization (WHO).

This will explore what it will take to achieve healthy societies through considering social, economic, and environmental determinants, the promotion of cross-sectoral approaches for better health and the prioritisation of health in other sectoral policies and settings. This will be the final dialogue in a series held over the last 18 months, aiming to stimulate a community to take this work forward in the coming years – together or through their own platforms.

We will also continue our conversations about the future of international development, having met in September for our first full in-person Wilton Park dialogue at Wiston House after 18 months. We focused those discussions on the future of the UK’s approach as it develops its International Development Strategy. We will continue with a second dialogue early in 2022, focusing on the intersection between development and climate financing, a crucial part of the post-COP26 agenda.


We held our annual British German Forum as part of Wilton Park’s 75th anniversary year celebration.

This brought together future leaders from both countries to build partnerships and engage in topical dialogues on climate, the changing security landscape, and building resilience inclusively. Postponed last year due to the pandemic, this year’s event was held as a hybrid, with the participants together at Wiston House in person, and some sessions held with speakers joining virtually.

In January we’ll be holding the 16th meeting in the annual human rights series. This in-person conference will provide an opportunity to take stock of concerning trends and challenges to the international human rights framework.

In March a conference on Innovation in mediation: leading the thinking on mediation diplomacy will be an opportunity to re-examine the established approach to mediation and peace process support.


As you read this, we will be convening a hybrid event in partnership with the Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and the Swiss government to assist their work on nuclear risk reduction as we head towards the rescheduled NPT Review Conference in January.

Our annual December meeting in support of NPT diplomacy has had to be cancelled once again, but we are convening a smaller, shorter, and invitation-only conference with the same objectives, meeting in hybrid format later this month. With around 30 in-person participants, it will be a sharp contrast from the last in-person December conference in 2019, when 100 participants squeezed into our conference room! But this distilled version will still have the key states, international organisations, and non-government experts working on how to achieve success at the Review.

The following week, we will convene virtually, in partnership with the FCDO, to support the UK’s work in multilateral on lethal autonomous weapons systems.
In October, with Wilton Park in support, a cast of naval decision makers and maritime experts were brought together by the Council for Geostrategy at their in-person event Extending ‘Global Britain’ through naval diplomacy at Wiston House.

We are currently planning support for the UK-led NATO Defence and Deterrence strategy workshop on 13 December, to be held in person at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London.

As part of the annual HMG Human Futures series, we are now planning an event on Science and technology as a strategic advantage in security and defence plus a dialogue in support of UNGA Resolution 75/36 on “Reducing space threats through norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviours”. Both these events are planned as in-person events, but we maintain the ability to run them as hybrids, with some speakers joining virtually.


We are developing a programme to work with UK cities to build better understanding of local interfaces with national foreign policy, with a specific focus on supporting UK business and international trade.

The first events in this series will focus on trade & global Britain and international development & trade.

And in the crossover between trade and security, we will be running an in-person event on Tackling the Trade in Illicit Tobacco.

Looking ahead

We played an active part at COP26 and, after working virtually on the COP26 Catalyst for Climate Action on Capacity Building, it was wonderful to meet some of those we’ve been engaged with. The Call to Action for Transformational Capacity was launched at COP26 and included in the Glasgow Climate Pact.

We will now be exploring how we should best contribute to the post-COP26 climate change agenda, including implementing the Catalyst’s work. We will also be developing a portfolio based on the first key focus areas within our regional strategy – the US, Europe, Africa and the Indo-Pacific – and continuing to develop our series of events on Trusted Research.

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