Where we come from

The WCIA itself was founded as a Charitable Trust in 1973, but from origins that stretch back to World War One with the founding of the Welsh League of Nations Union – proposed from the stage of the Neath National Eisteddfod in 1918 by former soldier and peace builder David Davies of Llandinam, who also founded Wales’ Temple of Peace and Health – opened in 1938 and our home to this day. Following WW2, from 1946 the ‘League’ evolved into CEWC (the Council for Education and World Citizenship), UNA (United Nations Association) Wales, and the International Youth Service (better known from 1973 onwards as UNA Exchange) – all 3 of which during the 2010s have merged into the Welsh Centre for International Affairs, which in 2014 evolved into a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO).

Throughout that time, the overall purpose of our work has remained consistent: to get people thinking, talking, and doing things about important global issues so they can make a difference in the world.

Our methods for doing so have, of course, evolved over the years, and we build on a strong Peace Heritage of Welsh Internationalism, with many notable successes as we approach WCIA’s 50th birthday in 2023:
  • Responsibility for the UK Freedom from Hunger Campaign in the 1970s, administering major projects in India and Africa that contributed to the development of many well-known international NGOs today such as Oxfam and Save the Children.
  • Fundraising for a Wales-Lesotho Link, leading later to the establishment of Dolen Cymru from 1988.
  • Welcoming high-level guests, including the first visits of a UN Secretary General to Wales (Peres de Cuellar, 1983) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (2012)
  • Hosting the 1995 and 2006 World Schools Debating Championships
  • Involving over 200,000 young Welsh people in globally focused events and activities
  • Delivering major projects on Wales’ Peace Heritage (Wales for Peace, 2014-19), Global Citizenship education, and the Philosophy for Children teaching method.
  • Organising Wales’ International Development Summits, and founding Wales’ Hub for International Development – now Hub Cymru Africa

Today’s WCIA is a result of these successes, the work of our team, and the context of the world as it is now. What has emerged is an organisation with a number of distinct strengths:

  • We have internationalist values but are resolutely non-partisan, making us a ‘safe’ forum for the public, governments, businesses and schools
  • We work across a wide spectrum of international issues, including poverty, peace and justice, sustainability and human rights
  • We deliver a healthy mixture of core services and ambitious projects
  • We are connected with many other internationalist-focused organisations from local to global, and have forged strong partnerships with schools, community organisations, universities and other charities.
  • We have a longstanding track record of success in our educational work
  • We have a distinctive brand and open, accessible online resources.
  • We manage a vital asset and a ‘national icon’ in the Temple of Peace and Health, hosting other organisations and providing a venue for many external events.

The WCIA’s history is closely linked with the history of the building we occupy: the Temple of Peace and Health in Cardiff’s civic centre.

'A New Mecca'1938 to 1973 – the first 35 years

Founded by ex-soldier and peacemaker David Davies of Llandinam, the Temple was opened on 23 November 1938 by Mrs Minnie James of Dowlais, who had lost 3 sons in the First World War and represented the war-bereaved mothers of Wales. Lord Davies provided £60,000 towards the £72,000 cost, with £12,000 coming from the King Edward VII Welsh National Memorial Association (WNMA), which Lord Davies had founded in 1912 with the aim of eliminating tuberculosis in Wales.

Lord Davies built the Temple of Peace and Health to provide a focal point and symbol for Welsh people’s concern for international peace through the Welsh League of Nations Union (LNU), a voluntary organisation which supported the League’s work to preserve peace worldwide through campaigns such as the Welsh Women’s Peace Petition to America (supported by 390,296 women across Wales in 1923).

Unfortunately, Lord Davies, after a ceremonial x-ray in one of the fleet of vans he had provided to carry out mass radiography against TB, was found to be suffering from terminal cancer, and he died on 16 June 1944 – just months before the end of World War 2, and the founding of the United Nations and of the National Health Service, causes he had advocated throughout his life, and which became the focus of the Temple’s work from 1946 onwards.

The LNU had been very widely supported, but financially dependent on philanthropy; and its successor after the Second World War, the United Nations Association (UNA) Wales, fared little better. By the late 1960s, supporters of the work at the Temple of Peace were concerned that something new needed to be done, as UNA Wales was short on members and money. It had difficulty in providing the leadership needed for Wales’ response to major campaigns, such as International Co-operation Year in 1965 and International Human Rights Year in 1968.

1973 to present day – 5 decades of the WCIA

The idea came about to form a ‘Welsh Centre for International Affairs’ (WCIA). In 1968 a Western Mail editorial commented that this idea was “exciting and interesting” and would “encourage Welshmen to look beyond the confines of Wales and Britain to extend their knowledge and understanding of the rest of the world”. In 1970 a proposal to form the WCIA was formally adopted by the Committee set up by the then Secretary of State for Wales, George Thomas MP (later Viscount Tonypandy), to mark the 25th anniversary of the UN. The organisations on that 25th anniversary committee – the Welsh Office, local authorities, the University of Wales and colleges of education, MPs, trade unionists, industrialists, the churches, political parties the media and voluntary organisations – became the WCIA’s Standing Conference, thereby also extending the range of organisations associated with the Temple of Peace.

The WCIA was officially opened on 11 October 1973 by Lady Tweedsmuir, Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Hywel Francis, former MP for Aberavon, once said in the House of Commons:

“The Welsh Centre for International Affairs… has for decades played a vital role. Its quiet, educational voice of tolerance and reason needs to be listened to and valued in Wales and beyond. It deserves our full support and we should be proud of its work.”

Find out below about some of the people who have supported the WCIA over the years.