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Census Day 2021: 75 years of tackling critical global issues

Census Day for the UK is on Sunday 21 March, and an important opportunity to understand some of the fundamentals about who we are as a country.

It’s also an invaluable opportunity to learn how we have changed over the 10 years since the last Census in 2011, and indeed over each decade stretching right back to 1801. That first census too underscores both the international and policy relevance of the census. It was held partly to understand how many soldiers might be mobilised to fight Napoleon at a time of existential threat. However we may feel about it, that basic reckoning regarding our relative position and characteristics in comparison with other countries, continues to make a fundamental contribution to what makes us distinctive as a country.

Of course; looking inward is just one part of understanding who we are. As important is to look outwards, and for 75 years Wilton Park has played a vital role in building the wider global awareness, relationships, and international collaboration that help define the UK and our role in the world.  If, in the spirit of the census, we measure some of the key data regarding Wilton Parks’ activities over the past 10 years, the scale and changing shape of that contribution becomes clear.


Wilton Park has welcomed over 31,000 participants since 2011

Since 2011, Wilton Park has hosted over 700 events in 66 countries, involving over 31,000 participants. Of those the largest group are diplomats, but participation also includes NGOs, business, faith groups, media, parliamentarians, academics and international bodies. These events have all been carefully designed and curated to tackle a range of global issues, including peace building, human rights, trade, security and international development. We always aim to demonstrate real impact, and fortunately have a good story to tell here. Over the past ten years we have contributed to nuclear non-proliferation, shaped efforts to ban landmines, catalysed a global roadmap for eradicating Meningitis by 2030, and supported a stronger voice for youth across Africa in global climate change. On climate change in particular we are a significant centre of international collaboration in preparation for the UN Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, to be hosted by the UK in Glasgow this year.


On behalf of the UK Government, we are delivering online events across the full range of COP26 campaigns  and partnerships


The next census will likely be in 2031, by which time I hope we can demonstrate another decade of impact, including a strong and positive contribution to accelerating progress towards global net-zero emissions by 2050. In our 75th Year Wilton Park is also embarking on another stage of our evolution to ensure we remain effective and relevant for another generation, diversify our networks, and further sharpening our focus and activities to deliver real policy impact at a time of growing global instability. The census on Sunday will deliver important data on how best we can ensure we as a UK agency are serving the needs of the citizens across the UK as well as around the world, so if you are in the UK please do make sure you participate. In a world where the distinctions between domestic and foreign policy are ever more blurred, our place in the UK is inextricable linked to our place in the world. Understanding both is vital to securing our individual, national and global future.

Tom Cargill, Chief Executive