On Thursday 9 November, on the eve of Remembrance Sunday, RUSI held an all-morning conference to reflect on the role commemoration has to play now and in the future, including as an instrument of international diplomacy and as a reminder of the human cost of warfare.
RUSI’s "Commemorating the Past: Safeguarding the Future" conference, hosted at 61 Whitehall jointly with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), brought together international commemoration organisations, academic scholars, military experts, politicians and diplomats from around the world.
A range of panellists considered the potential of acts of commemoration to help governments and nations meet global challenges. Chaired by BBC Newsnight’s Diplomatic Editor, Mark Urban, the panel included: the UK Shadow Foreign Secretary, The Rt. Hon. David Lammy MP; Director General of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Claire Horton CBE; the High Commissioner of India to the UK, HE Vikram K. Doraiswami; the UK Military Representative to NATO, Lieutenant General Sir Ben Bathurst KCVO CBE; and the Australian Government Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel, The Hon. Matt Keogh MP.
The conference included a keynote speech, delivered by renowned historian Professor Sir Hew Strachan, exploring the relevance and significance of commemoration for future generations – particularly now as the World Wars fall out of living memory.
Commenting on the conference, Sir David Lidington, RUSI’s Chair said:
Together with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, we are pleased to have been able to host such a valuable and timely discussion on the future of commemoration. In connecting past, present and future generations, commemoration forms an important part of our collective social memory. Today’s conference has made clear that commemoration will continue to play an essential social role, not least as a reminder of the human cost of warfare.
The Rt Hon Sir David Lidington KCB CBE
Claire Horton CBE, Director General of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission said:
Commemoration serves as a timeless bridge connecting past, present, and future generations, ensuring that the profound sacrifices of those who lost their lives in service are never forgotten. I am grateful for the contribution of our distinguished speakers, RUSI, and all attendees of the Commemorating the Past: Safeguarding the Future conference. Profound insights on remembrance have left us all inspired and resolute for the next chapter for at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
Claire Horton CBE, Director General of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
About the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s mission is to ensure those who died in service, or as a result of conflict, are commemorated so that they, and the human cost of war, are remembered for ever. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is a global leader in commemoration. Founded by Royal Charter in 1917, we work on behalf of the Governments of Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom to commemorate the 1.7 million men and women from the Commonwealth who lost their lives in the two World Wars.
We believe that remembering individuals who have died in conflicts is of universal, perpetual relevance, and that reflecting on their deaths is of continuing and paramount importance for us all. The cemeteries, memorials, graves, landscapes, and records in our care will be found at 23,000 locations and in more than 150 countries and territories. They are both the practical means of our commemoration of the fallen and vehicles for discovery, inspiration, and engagement.
We believe that each one of those we commemorate were people like us, with their own ambitions, hopes, and dreams. It is our duty and privilege to care for their graves and memorials and through our charitable Foundation, keep their stories alive.