On 12th May 2020, Forward Thinking held a video conference with the Rt Hon Alistair Burt and ‘Pathways into Politics’ participants. This was the fourth meeting held as part of a ‘mini-series’ of follow up events after an initial Pathways into Politics programme that was held in February.

Pathways into Politics is a programme which is aimed at developing the ambition of young Muslims to engage with politics and their ability to be able to do so. The programme seeks to develop the participants’ leadership and communication skills as well as their political literacy.

Alistair Burt served as the Minister of State for the Middle East at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Minister of State at the Department for International Development from June 2017 to March 2019. He previously held this ministerial position from May 2010 until October 2013. Alistair also served as Minister of State for Community and Social Care at the Department of Health from May 2015 until July 2016. He entered Parliament for the first time in 1983 and was elected Conservative MP for northeast Bedfordshire in 2001. He decided not to seek re-election in the December 2019 general election.

During the discussion, some key themes emerged: United States foreign policy and the upcoming Presidential elections; the changing role of post-WW2 international organisations, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic; foreign policy decision-making and arms control; and engaging young people in politics.

Discussing the common perception that post-WW2 organisations have failed to work effectively to confront new challenges, participants discussed whether institutions such as the United Nations and European Union still have value in the current political context. There was also a consideration of whether the COVID-19 pandemic could provide an opportunity to highlight the value of greater international collaboration. Participants recognised that there could be a chance for further cooperation on issues such as public health, however the international response thus far led many to conclude that the pandemic could be encouraging political leaders to pursue a more isolationist foreign policy approach.

Alistair Burt gave his advice on how to engage young people in politics, stressing the importance of remaining engaged and involved even when political processes do not appear to be functioning well. He emphasised that political decisions will be made with or without the input of young people, therefore it is important to remain engaged and make your voice heard. Alistair Burt concluded the meeting by sharing his advice for young people to pursue a career in foreign policy and diplomacy.

We are currently exploring opportunities for another meeting to take place as part of the ‘mini-series’ of follow up events based on the interests and needs of participants.