The Canada-UK Colloquia celebrated its 40th Anniversary in 2011 and over this period has brought together leading politicians, officials, academics, businessmen, practitioners and members of the media to discuss matters of current public policy concern to each country.
Participation in the annual Colloquium is at a senior level and by invitation as this ensures a close and detailed examination of the issues relevant to that year’s chosen topic. A Report of the proceedings, including conclusions and recommendations, is published and distributed in each country to government officials and others concerned with the subject. A formal launch of the Report is held involving follow-up meetings at the Canadian High Commission or the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and in Parliament, to discuss the outcomes of the Colloquium and identify ways in which the Colloquium’s recommendations can be taken forward.
The Colloquia have as a consequence resulted in many new relationships and partnerships between businesses, among government departments, academics, NGOs and others. Those relationships and ongoing exchanges of information, and other forms of concrete cooperation (joint research, business relationships, two way visits, exchanges of valuable reports and experiences) collectively serve to strengthen the bilateral relationship in much richer and sustained terms than government to government relations on their own can achieve.
The organisers of the Colloquia are also acutely aware of the future challenges facing our two countries. These will become greater than ever, more dynamic, unpredictable and complex. Their resolution will be assisted by the opportunity for continuing dialogue afforded by our annual Colloquia, drawing upon our communion experiences, interests and values. Examples over the years have covered multiculturalism, Islam, delivery of government services, disenfranchisement of youth, global pandemics, Africa in worse shape than ever, entrenched and growing 3rd world poverty, terrorism, regional conflicts, nuclear proliferation, the emergence of China, and many others.
At the Denver Summit in June 1997 (and the subsequent 1998 report ‘A Dynamic Partnership for the 21st Century’), Prime Ministers Blair and Chrétien issued a Joint Declaration to mark a programme of modernisation in the bilateral relationship in which there was specific mention of a role for the Canada-United Kingdom Colloquia to play in broadening its scope “to include younger participation and a carefully defined focus on issues of immediate concern to the bilateral agenda of both countries”. At least four post-graduate students participate in each Colloquium. Feedback from students has emphasised the great value they achieved from their participation both in terms of directly befitting their research and in establishing contacts in the two countries.
Mindful of the continuing and close relationship between Britain and Canada, in September 2011 Prime Ministers Harper and Cameron issued a Joint Declaration dedicated to “A Stronger Partnership for the 21st Century”. The Declaration celebrated the bond between the two countries, forged in peace and war, and made a commitment to renew and deepen that bond.
In their Declaration of September 2012 renewing and refreshing the Joint Declaration, Foreign Ministers Baird and Hague endorsed the role of the 2012 Canada-UK Colloquium on “the Shifting Centre of Global Gravity”. This was recognised as contributing to the dialogue between Britain and Canada on political, economic and strategic issues in the Asia-Pacific region.
At a time where tensions in the world are all too prevalent, it is the important not to take relationships for granted. Ensuring a good working relationship between “movers and shakers” in policy terms in our two countries is increasingly valuable.
The objectives of the Canada-UK Colloquia have evolved over the years to focus closely on the current policy priorities of our two countries. More and more effort is being made by the British Committee of the CUKC and its Canadian partners at Queen’s University to ensure that they result in positive outcomes and follow-up. The two High Commissions have played a major part in assisting and encouraging this process.
Current aims are broadly as follows –