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Unlocking progress through diplomacy

July 2023 update from Wilton Park CEO Tom Cargill.

Much of our work at Wilton Park is as a sort of ‘back office’ for more formal multilateral organisations, unlocking progress, exploring policy initiatives, and building the relationships required to make the most of more set piece diplomatic encounters.

Achieving this requires an unusual organisational and convening skillset. Unlike thinktanks or colleagues in government, our experts are focused not on their own views or the views of our government alone, but on exploring and facilitating the expertise and perspectives of others.

It’s typical, and to its great credit that the UK political system can support such an organisation as Wilton Park, but it is clearly in our interests to do so, because the result is a patient, steady contribution to the kind of pragmatic international diplomacy for which the UK, at its best, is renowned and appreciated.

Over the summer we will be continuing to up the level of our ambition, respond to a more contested and volatile world, and ensure Wilton Park is maximising its contribution to an open and stable international order.

Ambassadorial Summit

Wilton Park hosted its inaugural Ambassadorial Summit at the end of June, welcoming senior foreign diplomats in the UK from countries across Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania and Latin America.

The participants were joined by Minister David Rutley, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Americas and Caribbean at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, who opened the first session with a keynote speech outlining the most pressing global challenges, the UK’s response in terms of foreign policy, and the need for multilateralism and more modern and synergistic partnerships with other countries.

Ambassadors and High Commissioners also heard from leading experts on topics ranging from new thinking on UK foreign policy, to the perspectives of devolved nations. The participants were able to share their own views on the UK’s role in the world and identify key opportunities, which generated frank and honest discussions.

We look forward to welcoming the Ambassadors, High Commissioners and other senior foreign officials back to Wiston House for next year’s summit.


Tom Cargill, Chief Executive of Wilton Park, delivers a speech at the Ambassadorial Summit, July 2023.

Ambassadorial Summit

Tom Cargill’s speech on cooperation, multilateralism and the importance of diverse voices in diplomacy.

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Development and climate change
Towards the Global Refugee Forum 2023

The Global Compact on Refugees affirmed by the United Nations General Assembly in 2019, put in place a comprehensive refugee response model in the form of a framework for more predictable and equitable responsibility-sharing, recognising that a sustainable solution to refugee situations cannot be achieved without international cooperation.

It provides a blueprint for governments, international organisations, and other stakeholders to ensure that host communities get the support they need and that refugees can lead productive lives.

A central arrangement is the Global Refugee Forum where States and other actors come together every four years to share good practices and contribute with financial support, technical expertise and policy changes to help reach the goals of the Global Compact.

These contributions are key to transforming the aspirations of the compact into positive changes in the lives of refugees.

In advance of the second Global Refugee Forum in December 2023, this Wilton Park conference provided an opportunity for states, multilateral and regional bodies, civil society, private sector, refugee leaders, and other expert stakeholders to build on previous pledges and initiatives, take stock of current challenges and future opportunities and ensure the international community delivers on the vision and ambition of the Global Compact on Refugees in a challenging humanitarian landscape.

Towards the Global Refugee Forum 2023

Read the full transcript of Minster of State in the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, Andrew Mitchell’s speech, pre-recorded for ‘Towards the Global Refugee Forum 2023’.

Andrew Mitchell, Minster of State in the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
Development and climate change
Addressing humanitarian needs and famine risk: the role of climate adaptation finance

Last year 258 million people in 58 countries experienced crisis, emergency, or famine levels of acute food insecurity. Many of those affected live in places where they experience the double vulnerability of climate change and conflict.

These pressures are placing an unsustainable burden on an already overstretched humanitarian system. Climate adaptation financing can play a key role in helping these countries prepare and build resilience to risks and shocks. Despite this, many states with high levels of humanitarian need and food insecurity, in which conflict and climate impacts compound, struggle to access a proportionate share of climate financing to tackle these issues.

This event brought together representatives from international financial institutions, global climate funds, government donors, humanitarian agencies and recipient country governments to focus on solutions to improve access to and use of climate adaptation finance for fragile and conflict-affected states with low levels of access currently.

Ministerial and senior representatives from Somalia and Niger shared their insights and spotlighted the challenges their countries face to address these underlying climate-related drivers of famine and food insecurity. The meeting culminated in a high-level roundtable, where participants representing key stakeholders in the discussion proposed a broad set of recommendations to be taken forward in the lead up to COP28, and beyond.

Reinvigorating the response to antimicrobial resistance (AMR): Priming for political action and multistakeholder engagement

The global campaign to counter growing antibiotic resistance in humans and agriculture was overshadowed by the COVID pandemic.

Building on a dialogue in April on ‘Reinvigorating the response to AMR’, this virtual event aimed to reprioritise AMR on the political agenda before a UN High-Level Meeting on AMR in September 2024, including through targets to focus action and political asks.

An in-person event is planned around the end of the year, and will include engaging parliamentarians and stakeholders beyond the health sector, including the private sector.

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Diplomacy and geopolitics
The British German Forum

While focusing on topical issues, the British German Forum is about the future.

The 2023 Forum brought together perhaps its most diverse group yet of future leaders from both nations to connect and start collaborations for stronger German British relations.

Beginning with a reception in the German Embassy, participants then convened at Wiston House to focus on three key areas: future security strategies, energy security and information environments and challenges. Just a few of the observations from the discussions included the return of territorial defence in Europe and the lag between policy and funded priorities; economic security as a set of properties which are perspective dependent; and the contribution to societal resilience of good journalism making sense of messy information.

NATO’S new ‘deterrence baseline’ and the future of extended nuclear deterrence

At NATO’s 2022 Summit, the Alliance agreed to set “a new baseline for our deterrence and defence posture” in response to the evolving nuclear challenges following the invasion of Ukraine.

Just over a year later, our annual conference on extended nuclear deterrence and assurance convenes to assess progress made and ask: is NATO’s nuclear deterrent fit fur purpose?

Once again, the UK Ministry of Defence, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratories are our partners.

Economy and trade

Earlier this month, it was fantastic to welcome Sussex based businesses, local MP’s, government ministers, officials and trade experts to the third annual SussExport at Wilton Park.

Participants benefited from advice on expanding their exports along with updates of successes in the region with presentations from local leading businesses.

With regional businesses showcasing their wares and services, it is clear that Sussex has huge amounts to offer the world with ambition to match. Planning for SussExport 2024 is already in motion.

Climate transition plans as an emerging international regulatory norm

As companies and organisations across the globe grapple with a climate crisis of increasing intensity and urgency, a disparity is emerging between entities that are taking the crisis seriously and developing credible net zero plans and those who are further behind in building their capacity to offer meaningful responses to climate change.

Governments are now moving towards integrating the most successful elements of the various voluntary schemes for carbon disclosure and transition planning into mandatory reporting requirements applied across the whole economy.

In 2023, there is a pivotal moment of opportunity to rapidly build overall convergence and interoperability between requirements in different jurisdictions. At a meeting hosted by Wilton Park last week, key decision-makers from central banks and financial regulators met to discuss next steps for these private sector climate transition plans.

The use of Information Technology to drive efficiency and efficacy in Tax Administration

This month Wilton Park will be hosting a dialogue bringing tax officials together from the UK, India and seven Commonwealth countries in ‘The use of Information Technology to drive efficiency and efficacy in Tax Administration’.

We are partnering with the British High Commission India, HM Revenue & Customs, the Commonwealth Association of Tax Administrators and the Central Board of Direct Taxes, Government of India.

Roundtable discussions will focus on using IT as a tool to improve tax administration. Participants will be encouraged to share views and case studies demonstrating how tax bodies can best engage digitally with taxpayers, and what internal developments need to be made to achieve this.

This is an opportunity for participants to benefit from each other’s expertise to build collective capacity for using IT in tax administration. Our intention is that the dialogue will result in a new working group that will allow for greater collaboration across the Commonwealth.


Looking ahead
Women, Religion and Climate Change: Working together to move faster on climate change

With preparations well underway for the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP28, September sees our dialogue Women, Religion and Climate Change: Working Together to move faster on climate change.

It will focus on the urgent priority of greater collaboration on climate action and particularly on scaling up women’s leadership by drawing women of faith and women leading in secular contexts into closer collaboration with mainstream climate action.

A person raising their hand at a Wilton Park event

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