Oxford Research Group hosted a prestigious panel of speakers including Hans Blix at a special fundraising event in London on board the museum ship HMS Belfast on 15 July. Former Swedish foreign minister and Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Dr Blix spoke in conversation with ORG’s Professor Paul Rogers and moderator Baroness Helena Kennedy QC. Journalist Jon Snow also contributed his own thoughts, led the fundraising appeal and reflected on the uniqueness of ORG’s role and work.
The panel shared a great deal of expertise on international peace and security challenges ranging from Dr Blix’s experiences as chief UN weapons inspector in Iraq from 2000 to 2003, thoughts on the new agreement between Iran and the E3+3 powers to limit its nuclear programme, the dynamics of the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, and the potential for discreet dialogue to build trust and avert military confrontation or intervention.
Dr Blix also shared his thoughts on ORG’s track II dialogues and his reasons for agreeing to become a patron of ORG in 2014. Referencing ORG’s seminal work mediating dialogue between Iran, Russia and western states, he described himself as likeminded with ORG in terms of understanding the personal and psychological nature of international conflict and believing in the transformative power of quiet behind-the-scenes diplomacy to build relationships between potential adversaries and to generate creative options to diffuse conflict.
ORG’s Gabrielle Rifkind, who has mediated between various regional actors in the Middle East reflected further on the uniqueness and impact of ORG’s work to develop alternative visions of peace and security, often connecting actors unwilling to engage in any overt direct dialogue. She also discussed the high level contacts and credibility that ORG has built in the UK over three decades of engagement with all political parties while retaining its integrity through strict political independence.
Finally, she shared ORG’s plans for a new three-year project to put conflict prevention at the heart of British foreign policy through sustained and quiet dialogue with top-level political, military, diplomatic, academic and civil society actors. Through research and a series of roundtables, the project will seek to understand the psychological and practical impediments to UK government addressing the root causes of global conflict, rather than attacking or suppressing its violent symptoms with military force.
All funds raised from the event will go towards ORG’s ongoing research, analysis, dialogue projects and the new three year project putting conflict resolution at the heart of British foreign policy. Event costs were generously supported by Roger Ross and Lots Road Auctions. To add your own contribution please support our work with a regular or one off donation. Thank you.