The past month offered a good example of the range of issues covered by Wilton Park, from the future of Artificial Intelligence (AI), to the role of soft power, the importance of youth, the role of children in armed conflict, and the power of our Track 2 work on some of the world’s most intractable and devastating conflicts.
At the same time, the Wilton Park team has been proactively engaging stakeholders around the UK and the world to bolster our networks and influence with an ever more diverse range of partners, including younger and more diverse voices, typified in the launch of the Youth Ambassador Network.
Another important example of this took place in April with the launch in Edinburgh of the Scottish Council on Global Affairs (SCGA), attended and supported by colleagues from Wilton Park, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and Scottish Office, as well as the Scottish Government and many other NGOs, businesses and universities.
This new institute is but the latest of a growing number of UK foreign and international policy focused bodies to emerge in recent years, something I have written about for my latest blog. Helping our UK and international partners understand, engage with and benefit from the full complexity of international expertise – whether in the UK or around the world, is a key role for Wilton Park.
The reasons for doing so are obvious in the examples below. Finding new solutions to intractable global problems demands we look for new tools and actors. Whether in relation to shaping the emerging frontiers of the Rules Based International System, or identifying novel routes to address conflicts, Wilton Park is working hard to innovate and diversify the expertise and networks the UK and the world can draw on. In an age of growing uncertainty, this is becoming ever more important.
Preparing the children and armed conflict agenda for the future
This conference marked the 25th anniversary of the mandate for protecting children in armed conflict. A quarter of a century on, 426 million children live in conflict zones, the highest number ever recorded, with an average of 25 children killed or maimed each day.
Held in partnership with Save the Children, War Child, the FCDO, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Office of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, over 40 experts came to Wilton Park to discuss what practical measures need to be taken now to better protect children in conflict.
Lake Chad Basin security risks
With the support of the FCDO, we organised a high-level stakeholder conference with Lake Chad Basin countries in order to capitalise on recent mass defections by members of Violent Extremist Organisations (VEOs) in the region and their increasing willingness to reintegrate.
The conference aimed to follow up on the recommendations of the third Lake Chad Basin Governors’ Forum regarding the urgency of regional harmonisation of reintegration approaches, the categorisation and screening of ex-associates, and the mainstreaming of transitional justice into the reintegration process.
The conference brought together key stakeholders and decision-makers from the four affected countries at national and sub-national levels, international experts in Disarmament, De-radicalisation, Rehabilitation (DDR) and transitional justice, lead UN agencies and key donors.
UK-India: Towards a digital future
In March we hosted an event on UK-India: Towards a Digital Future in partnership with the British High Commission in New Delhi, the major Indian multinational technology company Infosys and the Alan Turing Institute, with the key focus on Artificial Intelligence (AI).
20 of the 40 participants (from government, business and academia) travelled from India for the event – their first international travel since before the pandemic – and demonstrated great enthusiasm for once more being part of an in-person dialogue. New networks have been generated as a result, and the outcomes of the event fed into a report that itself fed into the Prime Minister’s announcement of a wave of new AI collaboration between the two countries during his visit to India in April.
Considering responsible behaviours as part of managing threats to space systems
Space is becoming more contested, competed and congested and threats to space systems could disrupt, damage, destroy or disable services dependant on them.
This event took stock of the existing international legal and other normative frameworks concerning threats, considered current and future threats by States to space systems, and made recommendations on possible norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviours relating to threats by States to space systems.
The event report was provided to the inaugural UN Open Ended Working Group on responsible space behaviours on 9 May.Read the report here
Inspiration, ideas and innovation – the future of UK soft power
This joint Wilton Park and British Council conference convened cross-sector experts, UK Government and political stakeholders from across the UK to identify the most effective strategies for strengthening the UK’s influence overseas and building successful partnerships to tackle global challenges.
The UK has significant assets to attract and influence internationally – from financial institutions and fashion brands, to education, football and culture. But the UK can do more strategically and collectively to use these assets to build partnerships and to share its ideas, influence, and inspiration around the world.
This event identified areas of shared priority, co-operation and mechanisms for effective strategic dialogue between the UK Government, independent institutions and international partners.
Youth Ambassador Network
Last year we launched the Wilton Park Youth Ambassador Network (YAN).
Through the YAN, we are cultivating a more diverse generation of future leaders and provide a platform for young people interested in international diplomacy, development and global policy issues.
We aim to give our Ambassadors exposure to the international policy world of which we are a part, and give us at Wilton Park access to valuable youth perspectives.
For 2022, our Youth Ambassadors are selected undergraduate and post-graduate students from the University of Sussex’s Institute of Development Studies, King’s College London, Manchester Metropolitan University, Cardiff University and The University of Edinburgh.
In April, we were delighted to welcome our Youth Ambassadors for the first in-person YAN gathering. We discussed the role of dialogue, the importance of networks and shared lessons on effective diplomatic engagement to achieve shared aims.
With support from experienced policymakers, they are now organising their own Wilton Park-style dialogues that they will host this month at their universities. We will continue to engage with our Wilton Park Youth Ambassadors after they graduate and continue to support them throughout their careers.
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