The 1935 Peace Ballot in Wales

By Rob Laker, History Masters Researcher, Swansea University (student placement with WCIA’s ‘Peace Heritage’ programme).

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The 1935 Peace Ballot was a UK wide poll of Britain’s electorate designed to measure the public’s opinions regarding the key debates in international relations at the time. Despite lacking government sponsorship, the Ballot received extraordinary attention across the United Kingdom – nowhere was engagement higher, however, than in Wales, which quickly came to be recognised as a leading light in the cause of internationalism.

1,025,040 people in Wales voted in the Peace Ballot of 1935… 62.3% of eligible registered voters”

Between the wars, a new form of outward-looking patriotism had become an important part of Welsh national identity, as ordinary people worked actively to create a Wales which existed at the centre of the international community. Local branches of the Welsh League of Nations Union were active in every corner of Wales, running cultural events such as ‘Daffodil Days’ – the since forgotten annual custom of selling daffodils in aid of the League – and coordinating networks of local activists. This pride in their nation’s role in the quest for international harmony manifested itself in Welsh responses to the Peace Ballot, producing an overwhelming endorsement for the cause of internationalism.

The UK Ballot

By the end of 1933 it seemed that the international order was unravelling: the World Disarmament Conference had failed to produce results, Germany had withdrawn from the League of Nations, and the organisation had proved itself unable to resolve the Manchuria Crisis.

Internationalists in Britain, however, were anxious that the government remain committed to the League, and so the League of Nations Union set about organising the Peace Ballot in order to demonstrate the British people’s unwavering commitment to internationalism. Between the end of 1934 and the middle of 1935, half a million volunteers canvassed door to door, collecting ‘yes’ or ‘no’ responses on five key questions:

1)    Should Great Britain remain a member of the League of Nations?

2)    Are you in favour of all-round reduction of armaments by international agreement?

3)    Are you in favour of an all-round abolition of national military and naval aircraft by international agreement?

4)    Should the manufacture and sale of armaments for private profit be prohibited by international agreement?

5)     Do you consider that, if a nation insists on attacking another, the other nations should combine to compel it to stop –

       a) by economic and non-military measures?

       b) if necessary, military measures?

Credit – Northern Friends’ Peace Board, c/o Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) 

Despite being independently conducted, the Ballot – which received 11.6 million responses nationwide – has been described as Britain’s first referendum, and was highly effective in stimulating engagement with the key issues dominating international politics. The poll did not disappoint its organisers, for the result was an emphatic endorsement of internationalist policies from the British public.

  • An astonishing ninety-seven percent of voters felt that Britain should remain in the League
  • while ninety-four percent believed that it should outlaw the arms trade
Read more

WLNU Postbox in the Temple of Peace today.

The Welsh Case

In Wales, the organisation of the Ballot fell solely on the shoulders of the Welsh League of Nations Union (WLNU), a challenge which it took up with great enthusiasm. Vast reserves of internationalist sentiment, which permeated every corner of Welsh society, were an important part of interwar society. To believe in Wales was, in this period of salient hope, to actively pursue the cause of peace, thereby locating the Welsh as a ‘force for good’ at the crux of global anxieties.

Google Map of Communities who organised Daffodil Days between 1925-39, collated by Rob Laker for his feature article on Daffodil Days of the WLNU . Zoom, or click on pins, to find individual communities. Further info on local activism can be gleaned from Welsh League of Nations Union reports (digitised by WCIA on People’s Collection Wales).

Lord David Davies of Llandinam  (painted by Sam Morse Brown:  National Museum of Wales collections)  

As a result, Lord David Davies (who co-founded the Welsh League of Nations Union with Rev Gwilym Davies) was determined that Wales should produce a spectacular result in the Ballot which he viewed as the very ‘essence of democracy’.

Drawing upon a committed network of volunteers across Wales, supplemented by an army of canvassers (paid at the personal expense of Lord Davies), WLNU representatives went door to door in nearly every Welsh town and village collecting responses.

The responses proved to be an affirmation of Wales’ internationalist credentials, as over one million adults voted in the Ballot – which at the time, represented 62.3 percent of the Welsh electorate (24 percent higher than the average across Britain as a whole).

As of 6th June 1935, the top twelve constituencies in Great Britain with the highest percentage turnout were all in Wales, in some of which over eighty percent of the total electorate responded to the ballot (RH).

In a few cases, turnout was particularly spectacular. In Llanerfyl (Montgomeryshire), for instance, all 304 of its adult inhabitants responded to the poll, likely a testament to the zeal of local activists.

Turnout was in fact much higher in villages than in large towns across the board, and despite hosting the headquarters of the Welsh League of Nations Union, Cardiff produced some of the lowest turnouts of the poll.

We can interpret this as evidence that the success of the Ballot in Wales rested not just in the League’s popularity, but in the strength of Welsh community activism. It is highly likely that organisers in villages such as Llanerfyl (Montgomery) and Nantlle (Gwynedd) were able to achieve a 100 percent response rate because they operated in a tight-knit community, allowing them to rally support face-to-face, one neighbour at a time, in a way which proved more difficult in larger cities.

It is worth noting, however, that despite the strategy of going door-to-door in their local communities, activists were still able to obtain phenomenal results from many larger towns. In Port Talbot, for example, 82.8 percent of the town’s 27,000 adults voted.

Viewed in this light, the results of the Ballot are a testament to the strength and scale of the local networks upon which the Welsh League of Nations relied upon for support.

The way in which Welsh people voted also reflects the strength of their commitment to internationalism. In fact, just 1.7 percent of voters in Wales wanted to leave the League – around half the national average – while Welsh voters were consistently more often in favour of disarmament.

Wales had proved itself a ‘special case’. As historians such as Helen McCarthy have noted, the League of Nations Union was the largest ‘League themed’ society of any in Europe and easily enjoyed the most popular support. It is not unreasonable then, in light of the disparity between Wales and the rest of Britain in Ballot responses, to conclude that…

“in 1935 the Welsh ‘were the most ardently internationalist nation in Europe’.”

Digitised Wales Peace Ballot Records

This collection draws together leaflets, voting forms, campaigner bulletins, articles and analysis by the Welsh League of Nations Union for the 1935 Peace Ballot - a national canvass of public opinion on Peace in the context of the then-escalating European Arms Race. Although the Peace Ballot was an initiative by the UK League of Nations Union, Wales set out explicitly to 'lead the way' and 'top the polls,' to demonstrate the strength of feeling in favour of peace, 16 years after the end of WW1.

The bulletins gave a detailed breakdown of progress on the Ballot, returns from each county of Wales (with comparisons to England), and analysis / encouragement from key figures in Wales' Peace movements. The bulletins carried motivational 'Opinion Pieces' from leaders of Wales Peace movements, such as Gwilym Davies and David Davies; and in depth analysis of the returns received from constituencies all over Wales

Later bulletins and introduction of 'YMLAEN / ONWARD' newsletter, explore implications of the results for Wales' peace building movements, and impact upon domestic and international political affairs - in particular, the meeting of the 1936 League of Nations in Geneva, which was regarded as a failure on the part of national governments. A poster graphic illustrates the UK-wide results, and Wales' leading place within the polls - with 5 of the top 10 constituency returns being Anglesey, Aberdare, Swansea East, Rhondda West and Merthyr Tydfil.
1935 Peace Ballot – Briefing for Households 1935 Peace Ballot – Canvassers’ Briefing ‘Peace Calls for Plain Answers to Simple Questions’ – 1935 Media Article Bulletin 2, Jan 22 1935 Bulletin 3, Feb 6 1935
Bulletin 4, Mar 9 1935 Bulletin 5, Apr 9 1935 Bulletin 6, June 7 1935 Bulletin 7, Oct 1935: ONWARD YMLAEN / ONWARD Bulletin, May 1936

Outcomes for Britain

The will of the people was unequivocal – Wales and Britain wanted to remain in international circles – what this meant, however, remained open to interpretation.

The organisers of the Ballot presented the result to the prime minister and his cabinet, but it quickly became clear that, due to the binary nature of responses, that the format of the Ballot was a poor vehicle for dictating policy.

‘Remain may have meant remain’, and ‘disarm may have meant disarm’… but the Ballot gave no sense of the scale or manner of which these aims should be pursued.

This left little room for nuance, and instead general opinion was measured without details of its practical implementation. The failure of Ballot organisers to frame the poll’s questions within the myriad complexities of Britain’s international position, made integration of the Ballot’s result into policy making both confusing and impractical – and so the consequences of the Ballot in Britain’s foreign policy are hard to identify.

The Ballot may have failed to significantly influence policy, but the strength of the poll lay in its ability to measure popular opinion. It demonstrated that an overwhelming majority of the population supported Britain’s active involvement in the League of Nations, even if there was no uniform vision of what that involvement should look like.

Across Britain, League of Nations Union branches enjoyed a surge in membership and enthusiasm for the League which, despite the Abyssinia Crisis and the aggression of Hitler, was maintained right up until the outbreak of the Second World War.

UK wide returns against the 5 questions posed by the Peace Ballot.

 

Outcomes for Wales

WLNU Organiser Rev Gwilym Davies

The Welsh League of Nations Union had a very clear idea of what the result should mean for Wales. For Gwilym Davies (Organiser of the WLNU) the result of the Ballot was ‘the vindication of the democratic right of a free people’ and a demonstration of the ‘notable achievements’ of Wales in the cause for world peace.

In a bulletin on the subject of ‘facing the future’, Davies called for the ‘Welsh million’ to be converted into one hundred thousand new members across Wales. While this roughly eight-fold increase failed to materialise itself,

the WLoNU organisation more than doubled in size, reaching 27,545 paid members by 1937 – the highest at any point in the interwar period.

For Wales, Gwilym Davies published a Constituency by Constituency Analysis of the 1935 Peace Ballot voting returns – which can be viewed on People’s Collection Wales at: www.peoplescollection.wales/items/1247091

Clearly then, far from being a fleeting spike of interest, the Peace Ballot was the source of revitalisation of Wales’ identity as an international nation.

Furthermore, the setbacks suffered by the League of Nations in the mid and late 1930s – instead of leading to disenchantment – only made people in Wales more determined that the principles they had committed to in the Peace Ballot should be upheld. This wave of enthusiasm for peace through internationalism was carried right through to the outbreak of war in 1939 and beyond, later providing the support structures and the much of the personnel for the creation of the United Nations.

One such example is Gwilym Davies himself, Director and co-founder of the WLNU, who not only became president of the Welsh National Council of the United Nations Association, but is considered to be a key architect in the creation of world education & scientific body UNESCO.

Temple of Peace: Headquarters befitting a ‘Booming’ Movement

One of the most striking and longstanding results of the Peace Ballot in Wales is the Temple of Peace and Health, which was opened in Cardiff in 1938.

Envisioned by Lord Davies as ‘a memorial to those gallant men from all nations who gave their lives in the war that was to end war’, construction of the building was started in 1937 at a time when the organisation was rapidly expanding.

'A New Mecca'

Account from the Opening Ceremony, ‘A New Mecca’, from the Temple of Peace Archives

It was felt that, in light of the precarious international situation, it was more important than ever for Welsh internationalism to have a headquarters which suitably reflected its growing influence. Thus rose the Temple – a bastion of peace, intended to make good the sacrifice of those who fell in the ‘war that was to end war’.

Today the Temple of Peace still stands – an enduring legacy of the Ballot’s success. The organisations it now houses continue to work in the spirit of the Ballot’s organisers, inheriting the desire that Wales should be at the centre of the international community.

The WCIA – Welsh Centre for International Affairs, founded in 1973, is the modern iteration (the ‘grand daughter’, via UNA Wales) of the Welsh League of Nations Union. WCIA continue the work and vision of WLNU, and the million Welsh people who voted in the 1935 Peace Ballot, to build a better, more peaceful world.

WCIA, like their predecessors, believe that Wales is a nation which can create real and lasting change in the wider world. It is for this proud tradition – driven by the dedication and commitment of local people across Wales – that the galvanising effects of the Peace Ballot should be remembered today.

Blog article and research by WCIA Research Intern Rob Laker, on placement with Wales for Peace from Swansea University History Dept over Summer 2019 with ongoing research through 2020. Drawing on materials from the National Library of Wales and Temple of Peace Archives; and Annual Reports of the Welsh League of Nations Union 1922-45 on People’s Collection Wales, digitised by WCIA (with support of Swansea doctoral student Stuart Booker) for open access research. Final edit by Craig Owen, Wales for Peace.

Rob Laker, WCIA Archives Intern




Global Perspectives on COVID Pandemic: Solidarity, Community and Cooperation

Published on 25th March, in a fast changing international situation.

As the COVID Pandemic of 2020 has reached ‘lockdown’ for the UK and many other nations, the need for our communities – and community of nations – to work together has never been greater. Wales and the World are inextricably linked through global health: pandemics know no borders – and information is international. In an age of social media we are intertwined, and interdependent; we are Humankind.
Kindness, compassion and clarity will help us to face this world crisis, and support the most vulnerable, through cooperation and humanity – from the local to the global. Over coming weeks, WCIA will be sharing (via WCIA’s website, Twitter and Facebook feeds) ‘stories of solidarity’, links to reliable information / updates, and examples of inspiring civil society, individuals and community leadership from around the world.

View WCIA’s ‘Global Perspectives’ Blogs

 

Wales amidst a Global Health Crisis

Wales and Welsh communities must do all we can within a crisis of global proportions – and requiring global solutions. Summarised below are quick links to key sources of information and updates from around the world; ways that people can take action in local to global solidarity; learning from our heritage; and stories of solidarity from individuals around the world.

Quick References and Information Sources

UK & Welsh Government, NHS and Voluntary Sector

Global Health Bodies & Cooperation

Reference Resources and Useful Articles

temple of peaceWCIA and the Temple of Peace & Health

As with all venues and workplaces, the Temple of Peace is closed throughout the shutdown period and WCIA staff have been working from home since Monday 16th March (though as with many in this challenging time, our capacity is limited).

  • Venue bookings, and all WCIA events, have been postponed until the COVID situation becomes safer.
  • WCIA are sharing Stories of Solidarity (see below) from around the world; and useful resources (such as home learning and means to take action) via WCIA’s Twitter and Facebook social media feeds.
  • WCIA are supporting international volunteers on placements through UNA Exchange to self-isolate if in UK, and to find passages to their home countries where possible / appropriate.
  • Hub Cymru Africa and the Wales Africa Health Links Network are offering guidance to local linking organisations and charities supporting or whose work is affected by COVID.

Internationalism in Action: Taking a Global Stand

How are internationally-minded individuals in Wales able to contribute to understanding and combating the COVID crisis in any way… on top of looking after themselves and their loved ones in a lockdown? WCIA will be gathering and sharing actions and ideas of people Wales and world-wide via our social media channels, and here:

Community Action

Gemma from Hong Kong shares her experiences of COVID in WCIA’s Global Perspectives blog.

Global Learning

Global Action

Global Partnerships

Global Perspectives: Stories of Solidarity

Campaigner Glenda Fryer with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, whose leadership has been praised worldwide, shared her feelings as Kiwis entered a month long lock-down.

At the WCIA, we understand that the outbreak of COVID-19 is difficult for so many people across the world. In uncertain times like these, it is heartwarming to see communities uniting in solidarity, and even song in some cases. We are reaching out to people worldwide to share global perspectives on COVID-19, recognising the global nature of the issue, and some of the similarities and differences of experiences in different countries. We want to identify and share the positive stories emerging from the situation as a source of inspiration for people in these challenging times.

Personal ‘Stories of Solidarity’ from across the world, mapped.

Learning from the Past: Heritage of Cooperation

Bodelwyddan, Denbighshire – Canadian War Graves from 1918-19 Spanish Flu Epidemic (Geograph)

Not since the ‘Spanish Flu’ pandemic of 1918-1920, has the world experienced something of the scale the world is facing today in COVID19. Affecting as many lives globally as World War 1 itself, “Spanish flu” (so called, ironically, as Spain was the only WW1 nation that allowed uncensored reporting on it to save lives), ended up infecting 500 million – of whom 17-100 million died, making it the world’s worst epidemic since the ‘Black Death’ Plague of 1331-1353. In Wales, between 8,700 and 11,400 people are thought to have died.

Alongside Tuberculosis, the combined impact of World War One and Spanish Flu inspired the creation of Wales’ Temple of Peace and Health – home to WCIA today, and opened in 1938 as a beacon for the nation’s efforts to end the scourge of tuberculosis, and secure sustainable peace through global cooperation – initally through the work of the WNMA (Wales National Memorial Association for Eradication of Tuberculosis) and WLNU (Welsh League of Nations Union).

After World War 2, these movements evolved to support creation of the NHS (National Health Service) and the United Nations – two of humanity’s greatest achievements in facilitating cooperation for the common good. In the words of the Temple’s founder, David Davies:

“A ‘Temple of Peace’ is not of bricks and mortar: It is the spirit of man. It is the compact between every man, woman and child, to build a better world.”  

Has a generation taken our grandparents’ inheritance for granted? Over recent decades, support for and resourcing of these ‘institutions of humankind’ has fallen, health services and social care have suffered strident Austerity cuts, and many nations – the UK and US in particular – have turned inwards and away from the very bodies that enable international cooperation in times of crisis.

The COVID Pandemic will seriously test – and potentially reverse – many of these policy approaches. Working in global cooperation and solidarity with others, we will owe it to a generation who lose their lives, to come through this crisis to build a better world.

 

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford addresses the nation on 23 March.  




Happy (convoluted) birthday, United Nations!

Today marks the 75th years since the United Nations came into existence in October 24, 1945. So much has happened since its launch and likewise so much is happening right now with clear consequences in the future. Looking at the UN’s history, it seems it has attended a cyclical, never-ending loop of political ups and downs, social progress and regression, increasing climate thread caused by unlimited human activity… And so on and so forth while new generations come and go:

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (December 1948), the signing of the Treaty of Rome that would later lead to the creation of the European Union (March 1957), the rise of gender equality movements in the 1960s, the arrival of the man to the moon (July 1969), the rise of global awareness in the 1970s, the independence of many African states in the 1970s, AIDS/HIV epidemic in the 1980s, the finalized Cold War in the 1990s, the Gulf War (August 1990), the fall of the Berlin Wall (November 1991), the Bosnian War (April 1992), the Rwandan genocide (April 1994), 9/11 (2001), the eruption of social media in the early 2000s, exacerbated deregulation market leading to the 2008 financial crisis, the Arab Spring (December 2010), the Syrian Civil War (March 2011), an intensive wave of terrorist attacks throughout Europe from 2015, the ongoing refugee crisis, the Brexit referendum (June 2016)…

Climate activist Greta Thunberg discusses plans to tackle on climate emergency at the European Parliament

And the most recent event being COVID-19, a worldwide pandemic that is deeply deteriorating world stability. This is though a westernized chronology that needs to be revised and decolonized, for it probably erases similarly relevant occurrences happening beyond the global north, hence subject to lack or very poor media coverage, academic analysis and layerization of the sort. To give you a quick idea, I was born April 1991. So one could argue I have seen the Fall of the Berlin Wall when the demolition came to an end in November ‘91 and the rise of social media from 2010 thereon, just to name two diametrically opposed worlds in a relatively close period of time.

But, are we really that different as society? The United Nations emerged as a pacifist attempt to solidify international commitment to a multilateral arena where states could discuss a more inclusive, advanced political ensemble. Nevertheless, it seems that power differential keeps playing an important role. Be it Transnational Corporations, surreptitious forces much displayed on massive communication channels like social media, or outraged countries who decide to drop off fundamental accords to the existence of humankind in the world, what’s at stake is our very ability to discern what’s true from what isn’t amidst a post-truth environment and morally questionable faits accompli.

In this uncertain times, how can we really be aware of the factual reality? To me, this feels like a self-explanatory question. Maybe the mere fastest answer is that we cannot. And therein lies the very importance of multilateral tools such as the United Nations emerging as a coalitional, binding giant to safeguard a more balanced, peaceful world. Nowadays, although at times it would seem so, we are not embedded into a dualistic international dynamic, but rather a polarized one where strengthening bonds is of the upmost necessity.

Empty streets in London following lockdown caused by COVID-19

In its 75th anniversary, one could argue the United Nations to be that grandparent in the position to remind us through their wisdom how to not keep stumbling against the same stone, what it takes to build up on Human Rights (including literacy, little girls accessibility to resources, or accountability being taken by off-shore polluting Transnational Corporations), and the way in which cooperation may bring political stability where opportunism and short-sightedness used to be at ease. This is not to say the UN is a sanctum sanctorum or the perfect mechanism to rely on for the ultimate wellbeing of our contemporary democracies. Instead, we collectively hold the moral duty to constructively criticize its, at times temporary, ostracism.

For example, following on the COVID-19 global pandemic, the World Health Organization could have coordinated an early response that would at least have mitigated the pandemic’s impact. Or so could have done the World Tourism Organization, essential to my motherland, Spain, where the country’s 15% (!) of the GDP depends on tourism. The sector is suffering from irreversible tissue tearing, therefore elongating the already precarious labor market where thousands need to migrate to Northern Europe. At the same time, this perpetuates, once again, a power differential dynamic and an increasing socioeconomic gap between regions. That said, to what extend is this a collective responsibility as opposed to one from each and every state?

That is a difficult question that nonetheless comes to confirm the necessity to keep strengthening sociopolitical bonds to effectively avoid the process of dissolution causing polarization. So for all that, thank you to the United Nations to remind us what the Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana crystallized in his eloquent aphorism: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Written by Santi, our long term ESC Volunteer




Volunteer’ stories – Michelle’s story

Greetings to all of you, my name is Michelle and I am a volunteering at Boys’ and Girls’ Club Wales (BGC) in Cardiff. It’s been almost two months since I moved here, with my fears and insecurities along for the ride.

At Cardiff Castle

Over the last few months, I asked myself, what should I do know? Am I doing something important with my life? Should I have chosen another bachelor’s degree instead? And then, to complicate these feelings even more, the world suddenly changed the pandemic was upon us and people were forced into a ‘lockdown’ and told to stay at home.

So I asked myself, how am I supposed to carry on with my life if the world seems to be on fire? The situation back in my home country of Spain was just impossible to handle, especially for young people as it started to affect my personal life. I remember that one day I was looking at stories about people who have volunteered or internships abroad and I asked myself why not? What do I have to lose?

And so that was the beginning of my Welsh adventure. I started applying for a few projects and got through to the interview stage but time after time, I was rejected. It made me feel even more lost as to what to do, and so I gave up. However, a few weeks passed and I told myself to keep trying otherwise I will never know what will happen and again asked myself, what do I have to lose?

“How am I supposed to carry on with my life if the world seems to be on fire?”

I fortunately got through to the interview process for BGC and after days of waiting, I heard great news: I was successful! They had decided to give me the chance to be a part of their project. Before I knew it, I found myself packing all my belongings and had started a new and (rather unexpected) experience.

Spain has been hit hard by Covid, and so the British Government decided to put a 14 days quarantine in place for anyone who enters the country from abroad.

This meant I spent 24/7 with strangers, who I am sure will eventually become my friends during my time here. At the beginning, almost everything was completely new but with patience and energy, I found that you can work through the challenges you face when living with new people. We already have had some issues related to housework. It is, in my point of view, mainly because of cultural manners besides our personal habits but I believed that we have now managed it properly.

I must say that one of my biggest concerns was the frustration of being in a new country and having fewer possibilities to meet new people or visit other cities in the UK because of Covid. But the people who I work with have been go good, and they make me feel so comfortable. In spite of the Covid situation, I am pretty sure I will enjoy this opportunity and will have the chance to meet some awesome people who may jsut become important friends for life. As well as making new friends, I can be 100% sure that I will improve my English language skills, among other skills, thanks to my role at BGC Wales.

BGC is a non-profit organisation where I work as a volunteer in the communication department, which was similar to my previous job in Madrid. I haven’t worked at BCG for very long but I believe it is always great to work in a different environment from ones you are used to.

So, if you are thinking about doing a European Solidarity Corps (ESC) or any volunteering programme, my advice would definitely be: “Do it, because you really have nothing to lose, only a world to discover”




Spanish/Hispanic/Latinx Day… Whose Day?

Frida Kahlo & Chavela Vargas, universal Mexican painter and singer

Today is bittersweet for so many. For some people in Spain, October 12 is a day to celebrate to dust off their military paraphernalia and march up and down wide avenues in Madrid while thousands of people flag national symbols and hum the anthem. All the political parties are expected to attend the event (including the Spanish Monarchy) and there is even some minutes of fame, as Andy Warhol would predict, for a goat in spearheading the march with a specific military unit, the Legionnaires.

Having said that, my knowledge of this historical moment stops here, for I am part of the other half who believes by now, in 2020, there should be already a reformulation of what this date entails. Due to global pandemic, the parade has been cancelled this year. To be truthful, I would bet that more people whined over the cancellation of the summer’s Gay Pride celebration; which exemplifies, on the one hand, the level of engagement to the military parade as opposed to other social events and, on the other, the economic impact along with international resonance of them compared.

Pablo Neruda, Chilean politician and poet, awarded Literature Nobel Prize in 1971

Hispanic Day was originally marked in 1892 after Cristobal Columbus´s arrival to the Americas in October 12, 1492. From thereon, this date was incorporated into Spanish imaginary’s to allegedly represent societal unity. By the creation of the Spanish 1978 Constitution after over 40 years of dictatorship, it briefly merged with Spanish National Day, but the latter got prioritized in detriment of the primary feeling of Latinidad. It goes without saying, that the Iberian peninsula and Latin America share a strong sociocultural bonding that nonetheless has been troubled by centuries of colonialism and post-colonialism.

Latinidad is an umbrella term to identify those who share cultural values across continents, with the Spanish language being one of the most recognizable markers of this complex and diverse ethnic identity. Lately, the narrative has been troubled by the Black and Indigenous communities, for they too take part in this pan-identity, and yet they are ever hardly recognized within it. That per se is a debate that would need a whole new post…

Back to Hispanic Day , and some might say that October 12 is not precisely a joyous day to be celebrated, but rather a remembrance of how power differential and potential acculturation works. In the times of #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo and an increasing awareness on social issues, Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Argentina or the US would celebrate Día de la Raza, Día del encuentro entre dos mundos, Día del respeto a la diversidad cultural and Columbus Day respectively.

Penélope Cruz & Pedro Almodóvar, Oscar winning Spanish actress and film director

That said, notice that each country has tailored the celebration to different internal demands, which adds up controversy in the US for not having done so just yet. All in all, throughout Latin America this day centres Indigenous communities and ethnic diversity, whereas in Spain is mostly its national day. Coming from the linguistic field myself, I am aware that socio-ethnic collaboration is worked through cultural and linguistic organizations such as Instituto Cervantes and the Real Academia Española.

Although it has improved after decades of social progress, Spanish cultural and linguistic organizations are oftentimes said to be normative, which needs to be challenged in acknowledging the diversity of Hispanic, Latino or whatever identity you may be comfortable with. Personally speaking, and being conscious of the need to unpack colonization by certain structural narratives along with the privilege I carry within those, I believe the beauty of our pan-Latino identity resides in a certain chaotic conviviality where Spanish language and ethnicity are an intertwined cross-roads of multiple identities even contradictory at times.

As the great Gloria Anzaldúa once said: Soy mi lengua / I am my language (Anzaldúa, G. (1987). Borderlands: la frontera). And that is a beautiful statement that resonates with me, for it shows how polyhedral yet universal can get the sentiment of community.

Written by Santi, our long term ESC Volunteer




Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future

In the current sociopolitical, economic and cultural climate, Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future is a particularly accurate heading coined by UNESCO to celebrate World Teacher’s Day. This is a much needed day to reflect upon the endurance of the learning process, how it shapes our multiple identities, and more specifically the role of teachers:

My memories growing up are happy ones, filled with laughter. I remember walking to school on my own while trying to learn how to whistle, maybe during 10 or 15 minutes, as I would feel the most independent child among my friends at school and beyond. Our primary school was named after Federico García Lorca, a Spanish poet belonging to the fruitful 1927 artistic wave among which we can count Salvador Dalí (painting, sculpture) and Luis Buñuel (cinema).

Inspiring educators and pupils join the 2014 LGBTQI+ Pride in Washington D.C.

By the schools entrance, someone had graffitied the name ‘García Lorca’ on a wall, which always made me think there was a personal connection with the poet. Our teachers, among whom I recall Manuel, Carmina or Felix would teach us mathematics, Spanish language, and gymnastics.

They too encouraged us to read Lorca’s verses aloud, creating a sort of artistic dynamic that would feed itself over time. It’s been more than 20 years from , and I still picture Carmina calling me out for talking too much, or help us dive into poetry, literature and the art of writing.

The episode mentioned above is just a tiny bit of the educational process, but it exemplifies how the latter echoes throughout your personal journey. We all have that one teacher or professor with whom we relate. Maybe they taught us a specific subject we have not forgotten about and ended up making our own profession, or maybe they provided us with that empowering advice we carry along and have cherished to face challenging times. Maybe, they just join us in the process of learning and taught us how to relate respectfully…

Whatever the educational nature of our relation to them, teaching matters. Establishing solid, fruitful relations student to teacher and vice versa matters. Making the most out of the never-ending process of education matters. And ultimately, respecting teachers, professors and all those professionals involved in the learning process thanks to whom we have hopefully developed our critical thinking as well as creativity, empathy and curiosity matters.

As a teacher’s son myself, this is a wholehearted thank you to all the educators who help us find out who we are and what we want to become in life.

Written by Santi, our long term ESC Volunteer




International Translation Day

Today we celebrate the International Translation Day! In a similar way to my previous post on Sign Language, this day is a reminder of how crucial it is to implement an effective translation through diplomacy. Translation per se is the process by which meaning is transferred from one language to another, hence the importance of accuracy and the need to pinpoint multilingualism so as to ensure each and every voice is heard.

Interpreting Services during a plenary session of the European Parliament in Brussels

In a way, translation can help to build bridges between cultures and strengthens cooperation as well as multilateralism for the sake of our modern democracies. In terms of communication, translating is a powerful tool in fact-checking, facilitates the understanding of all the parties involved and prevents potential misunderstandings and miscommunication.

The latter unfortunately, is rather common nowadays. Admittedly, a non-biased translation is useful to echo words along with intentions, therefore exposing double-standards or bold attempts to mask the facts amidst a post-truth environment. Ensuring translation flows multilaterally is also a responsibility that needs to be taken seriously by international organizations such as the United Nations and the European Union, along with mass media, academia or culture (including cinema, literature, the publishing world, and so on).

Because it is not enough to utilize English as a lingua franca given that just doing so depletes cultural diversity, linguistic richness, and ultimately a complex, idiosyncratic compendium of cosmovisions.

So, let us take this day to celebrate linguistic diversity and make sure that everybody does have the right to communicate in their own language no matter its written, audiovisual or tactile nature. Sometimes all it takes is a bit of empathy to unpack the power divide created by mainstream languages.

Written by Santi, our long term ESC Volunteer




Online Resources and information from Successful Futures through Global Learning Conference Taster

Here you will find useful resources and information from our first Successful Futures through Global Learning Conference Taster.

Group activity

Participants were divided into breakout rooms to focus on global learning. 

The example given was centred around Victory in Europe Day and groups were asked to discuss perspectives on this day and how you can ensure multiple perspectives are reflected in schools’ curriculum, on a local, national and global context. 

Here is the full list of VE Day perspectives  from participants. 

View the PowerPoint activity in full here:  Anti-racist global citizenship

 

Feedback 

We received positive feedback on the confine, with more than half of people agreeing the event was useful and 98 per cent of those who provided feedback said they would attend a similar event.

Take a look at the results in full PollReport 

 

Useful Information 

We have written a directory of activities on offer from members of the Wales Alliance for Global Learning. Read about them all here : Directory of some of the Global Learning Opportunities available in Wales

 




‘Young people are ferociously political’ – Education Minister praises students during digital conference on global learning in Welsh Curriculum

 

The first digital Successful Futures through Global Learning Conference Taster held by  Wales Alliance for Global Learning proved to be a success with a total of 109 people taking part.

Kirsty Williams MS speaking at our digital conference

Chaired by WCIA,  the conference focused on global learning and aimed to support educators to deliver the four purposes of the new Curriculum for Wales, and united schools, policy makers and government officials to focus on the role global learning will have in tackling racial equality in the new curriculum.

Welsh Minister for Education Kirsty Williams, took part in a live Q&A where participants asked questions surrounding training opportunities for educators as well as support for student teachers, aiming to achieve their Qualified Teacher Standards this year. 

When asked how we make sure that global learning and education for sustainable development still remains a priority, given the current pressures school are facing, the Minister replied: 

“I think the new curriculum protects that priority, because each of the learning of areas and experience are given equal status in the curriculum. In the new curriculum and assessment bill, the legal responsibility in the school and governing body, will be to provide a broad and balanced curriculum right up to the age of 16 and pupils will need to participate in the each of the areas of learning and experience and given the opportunities to participate, even if they are not going to sit a formal qualification in that particular area.

“Young people care deeply  about what issues are happening in their community and in the world around them” 

“Listening to children and young people, they understand more than ever, that English and maths is important but what they need is that broad and balanced curriculum and they want to engage in these issues. When I speak to young people, they are ferociously political in a non- party political way, they care deeply about what issues are happening in their community and in the world around them. They want the opportunity in school to have that space to engage in those subjects.”

Listen to the Minister’s speech and the Q&A session in full, here:

 

 

The session’s school case study was presented by Ysgol Bro Dinefwr students, Charlotte and Millie. The pair shared news about their school project as part of the Walk the Global Walk project.

Millie and Charlotte (pictured right) are two of the five Goalkeepers in their school, and the team have already hosted school assemblies to raise awareness of climate change and how students can take action.

They said:” This project has allowed us to work with other schools, pupils and teachers in Wales and from other countries. It has definitely increased our confidence, we have really enjoyed being a part of it. There will be new Goalkeepers in the schools next year, allowing other students to get involved, but we hope we we can continue to work on our long term projects and ideas in the next year. ” 

You can learn more about the Goalkeepers’ project at their school here- https://vimeo.com/402870418 

Participants also took part in group activity, which considered practical tips for using critical thinking and multiple perspectives in the classroom.

Key points from the activity, as well as useful recourses and more information from the conference can be found here – Online resources and information

Follow us on our social media channels or SIGN UP to our newsletter to keep updated on plans for our next online conference in Spring 2021.

 

 




WCIA to hold first digital Global Learning Conference on anti-racist approaches into the Curriculum for Wales

Our first digital conference taster will bring together schools, policy makers and government officials to focus on the role global learning will have in tackling racial equality in the new curriculum for Wales 2022. 

The new curriculum has the international context flowing through all Areas of Learning and Experience, and global citizenship understanding, skills and values are visible throughout the Framework. 

This is a  Wales Alliance for Global Learning event, and over 100 schools are registered to take part tomorrow

The Successful Futures through Global Learning Conference Taster , will include a Q&A with Minister for Education Kirsty Williams, a workshop taster session on Global Citizenship and #BlackLivesMatter and a chance to hear more from a school case study.

This conference will support you to deliver the four purposes of the new Curriculum for Wales by:

  • Sharing practical ideas for how you can deliver the four purposes through global citizenship approaches across Areas of Learning and Experience
  • Finding out what support is available to help you and your school
  • Answering your questions about the curriculum

Take a look at the policy paper HERE to find out more about the impact that global learning can have on racial equality and click here to book your ticket to the conference – limited spaces are now available so you’ll need to be quick!

You can also learn more about the work we do surrounding Global Learning




International Day of Sign Languages

This year has brought its fair share of changes, however, despite the unforeseen changes, this year also marks a very special day is celebrated for over 70 million deaf and hard of hearing people around the globe. Considering its multilingualism, the United Nations decided in 2017 to establish September 23rd as the International Day of Sign Languages (see resolution).

Now, this decision, although probably late, is not inconsequential. Deafness can be found on a spectrum and, according to the World Federation of the Deaf, about 80% of the community lives in developing countries, adding up to 300 different sign languages. The community itself is sometimes ignored, through political inaction regarding inclusive policies or when it comes to reciprocal societal knowledge. This is, our daily lives are not necessarily welcoming for people on the hearing spectrum, hence the complexity in being held accountable when relating to their community.

American Sign Language advocate Nyle DiMarco (Global Goals UN, 2018)

However, considering we all take part of a larger community, this day is used as a platform to reflect on how frustrating it must feel not be actively engaged when you are perfectly capable and willing to do s, and yet public policies lack the ability to make you feel that you belong.

And this is precisely the keyword we are looking for: to belong. The right to feel that you belong to that larger community you are contributing to through empathy, reciprocity and respect for diversity.

The latter should be a model of a conscious society that is held accountable for its progression and implements effective inclusiveness, so that we all feel welcomed. In this vein, let September 23rd be a celebration of the deaf and hard of hearing community worldwide and I urge you not to lose the determination that this is a fight for visibility on the continuum, and that public regulations need to be paired up with knowledgeable attitudes.

So let’s get informed, get active and naturalize the fact that languages are a complex array of multiple forms to express valuable ways of seeing life itself.

Written by Santi, our long term ESC Volunteer




Volunteer blog: What is migration?

What is migration? What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word “immigrant”? Migration is such a broad word, that sometimes it can lose all meaning.  

We tend to group migrants together, but the truth is that behind them there are thousands of stories yet to be told, especially the ones of those who don’t come from certain backgrounds such as what we would call, privileged. This post will be a first approach to a specific type of migration, the journey of those who MUST be protected: MINORS.

There are different kind of migrants with, of course, diverse backgrounds, origins, incentives to abandon their countries, etc. But somehow, the general image of an immigrant tends to be the one of a male adult usually coming from Africa. That’s why is important to raise awareness about the different situations of migrants and the need to highlight those unheard voices.

Protest against Donald Trump’s refugee ban
(Fibonacci Blue)

During the World Summit for Children, UNICEF, in 1990 it was said:

“There is no cause that deserves higher priority than the protection and development of the child, on whom depends the survival, stability and progress of all nations and, indeed, of human civilization.”

According to that statement, infancy should be protected, with independence of the circumstances that surrounds those minors. Problems begin when minors are crossing borders alone and in an “irregular” way.  In these situations, unaccompanied minors face inevitable barriers with their hybrid identities, as both illegal aliens and children.

The main issue here, is that there is a whole international protection system that should be there to support them, but at the same time this idea is crashing with the general consideration of how to handle irregular migration.

Is important to keep in mind that these children who are facing irregular migration situations, are at risk. They are mostly exposed to both organized crime and violence, and even violence perpetrated by the authorities working in the borders. Being unaccompanied makes them even more vulnerable, and different countries should take measures to protect these unaccompanied or asylum-seeking children. The United Nations World Summit for Children says that children who migrate alone should be protected but does not dictate what kind of protection method should be followed.

In fact, the European Union has not yet established a common framework for action. There are simply certain legal instruments that do not have direct legal effect. The most common response to the arrival of the unaccompanied minors, is their transfer to common centres, although again depending on the country, there will be distinctions.

In Belgium, there is a specialized protection system in place for children, that will be different from that of minors who were born in the country or children who do not migrate autonomously.  The Lisbon Treaty and its Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, was an attempt to move towards unification in Europe. This then to the development of an Action Plan that was approved by the Commission in 2010.

Unfortunately, it still failed to provide the required protection for these children. It is necessary to create a common framework of action for the well-being of children. A framework would notice incorrect procedures and ensure the safety of the unaccompanied minors.

Written by Marta, our long term ESC Volunteer