Author: Bethan Marsh

Blog: When Charlotte met Hilary

Our long term Volunteer Charlotte Morgan, has gained a place on the Hillary Rodham Clinton Global Challenges Scholarship at Swansea University.
Here is what she had to say about her experience with us and the exciting new adventure ahead of her: 

 

I started volunteering at WCIA five months ago after hearing about the inspirational work they do from a friend and I am so happy I did! The staff are welcoming and really make you feel like you are part of the team. Entering a new environment can often be daunting but I was instantly put at ease and reassured that I could ask for help with anything I was unsure about.

 

During my time with WCIA so far, I have been presented with a wide range of opportunities (and biscuits!).  I have gained invaluable communications experience, developed my research skills and the inspirational work they do to improve human rights has raised my awareness of contemporary issues both locally and around the world. It has also inspired me to try and make a difference in any way I can in the future.

 

I was particularly taken with the current work WCIA do with schools around Wales, inspiring young people to express themselves through the debating of global issues. There are opportunities to work with other organisations, such as Fairtrade Wales, which has given me an insight into the great work they do too.  I was also lucky enough to attend stakeholder meetings in Cardiff Bay and it was fascinating to hear discussions about human rights in Wales.

It is through WCIA that I learned about a Masters scholarship at the Hilary Clinton School of Law in Swansea University. The programme aims to further international cooperation to address urgent national challenges such as human rights and environmental law.

I was lucky enough to be given one of the graduate scholarships. After learning that I had been accepted, I was excited – this excitement grew when I was then told that Secretary Clinton was visiting Swansea University in the coming weeks, and that she would love to meet the five scholars accepted on to her course. When the big day came around I met the other four scholars who were extremely lovely (and just as nervous as me!).

 

We were introduced to Secretary Clinton and escorted into a room where we got to have an informal chat with her. We each told her a bit about ourselves – what we do, our aspirations, why we chose the course. Secretary Clinton then gave us advice about our careers and goals, and was lovely and genuine in what she said. We were also lucky enough to be given front row seats to her panel event, Gutsy Welsh Women and it was an honour to hear such inspirational women speak about Wales. It was a very surreal but equally amazing day!

I most definitely wouldn’t have been awarded this opportunity without the help of the lovely people at WCIA. Volunteering here is an incredibly enjoyable experience, and I am extremely grateful for all the new skills and knowledge I have gained. Thank you!

 

by Charlotte Morgan

Top debaters battle to be number one at 2019 Wales Schools’ Debating Championships

Pupils from across the country will compete in individual and team rounds to be crowned winners of the Wales Schools Debating Championships 2019.

On Monday 16 December, four teams from Ysgol Tryfan in Bangor,  Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg in Barry, Cardiff’s Cathedral School and Cardiff Sixth Form College and four individuals; Amelia, Cameron, Daniel and Alice, will meet at Tredegar House for the semi and final rounds.

The exciting range of topics to be debated on the day will include protest, equity, democracy and justice.

This is the 18th and final year of the Wales Schools Debating Championship, which has involved up to 60 schools competing each year. Last year’s team champions were Howells School in Cardiff and Arianne Banks from Stanwell School won the award for Individual Speaker.

Cardiff Sixth Form teacher and Head of Debating, Sue Clements said: “Our students have been doing the competition for 12 years because it supports thinking and speaking skills which in turn improves life chances, allowing students to get places in Universities and better jobs.

“What’s great about the Welsh Competition is that it builds confidence and lets students engage with a range of challenging topics that are relevant to today’s world.”

The WCIA team would like to thank Tredegar House for hosting and The Hodge Foundation for their support over the years.

Lydia Griffiths, Visitor Experience Officer at Tredegar House said:

“We are thrilled to be hosting the competition’s finale here at Tredegar House. The event will take place on the backdrop of our Riches and Rebellion exhibition which we launched in September, it was inspired by the 180th anniversary of the Newport Rising which saw Chartist protesters, march towards the Westgate Hotel located in the city of Newport.

“Inspired by the Six Point Charter they fought for the vote and a voice, and sadly 22 of the protestors died for what they believed in. We hope the finalists will be inspired by the history and the Chartist’s legacy, and wish them all the best in their debates and speeches.”

 

 

Read more about our the Debating Championships here 

‘Peace is always the answer’ – Pupils share peace journey at annual conference

By Bethan Marsh and Emma Proux 

 

On Wednesday 6th November, pupils from primary and secondary schools across Wales united in the country’s capital to share their journeys to becoming a Peace School, with the theme ‘Building Peace in Wales and the World’.

Head of Wales for Peace at WCIA, Craig Owen, welcomed pupils to the conference in Ty Hywel, and shared background information on peace heritage in Wales and worldwide.

The Wales Peace Schools Scheme enables schools to develop peace as a cross-curricular theme and whole-school approach, generating exciting learning opportunities and initiatives.

During the morning session, pupils were treated to a ‘behind the scenes’ tour of the Senedd building, before sharing their experiences of how the scheme has impacted positively on their learning and experiences. See photos from the day here.

Pupils were then given the opportunity to grill a panel of AMs (Assembly Members) including John Griffiths AM, Mark Isherwood AM, and Delyth Jewell AM, on contemporary issues such as climate change, inclusive communities and refugees. The event was sponsored and supported by the Office of the Presiding Officer, Elin Jones AM.

Kirsty Williams AM and Cabinet Secretary for Education, met with pupils and learnt more about the ideas behind their Peace School exhibitions. She said:

“Children are born learners and we want to make sure this thirst for knowledge continues throughout their lives. Events like these gives me great hope. It shows how important education is and what it can do. I want to see all the themes discussed today mentioned in our classrooms.”

The conference ended with members of Ysgol Bro Myrddin’s Peace Committee, presenting their journey towards achieving level 1 Peace School status.

One members of the committee, said: “Peace is more than what we hear in our history lessons. On World Peace day 2019, we raised the banner in Carmarthen and stood as a young person with millions of other young people worldwide in the name of peace. Peace is always the answer.”

The scheme is funded through the generous support of the Sallie Davies Memorial Fund, and we would like to thank the fund for their contributions. WCIA would also like to thank Sallie Slade from the family, for presenting the 2019 Peace Schools Award.

Jane Harries, Peace Education Coordinator for the Welsh Centre for International Affairs (WCIA), who organised the event said:

“It was fantastic to see the young people participate and great to see what they have achieved in their journey to becoming a Peace School.”

Susie Ventris-Field, CEO of the Welsh Centre for International Affairs (WCIA), said:

“As Wales embarks on the new curriculum and its first international strategy, this is a vital time for young people to have the possibility to discuss and ask questions to Wales’ leaders, about the issues that matter to them relating to peace.”

 

Take a look at the video HERE  

 

View Photos of the Conference on Flickr
Learn more about WCIA’s Peace Schools Scheme 

World Peace Day at the Temple

 

 

The Temple of Peace opened its doors to old and new friends on Saturdays to mark World Peace Day.

This year’s theme was climate change for peace marked the day with concerts, marches and community events around the world.

WCIA friend Fi Fenton, lead groups of people on temple tours, which explored the Hall of Nations, the Crypt (which holds the Book of Remembrance), the Women in War exhibition, the wall of youth messages and the Peace garden.

Our volunteer Charlotte Morgan, turned a page in the Book of Remembrance at 11am and read out the names of the men and women who gave their lives during the First World War.

 

https://www.facebook.com/welshcentreforinternationalaffairs/videos/455363378399977/

 

The afternoon began with a performance by Cor Cochion (The Red Choir), who sang in the council chamber and paid tribute to his friend Barbara Foxworthy.

The choir was followed by Peace activist Jane Harries, who lead a talk on peace today and asked the crowd, “Where do we stand as peace makers in Wales today?”

 

Retired Teacher Sian Williams, visited the Temple for the first time on Saturday.

She said: “I had heard of the Temple of Peace and have walked by, but had never been in before. It’s a fascinating building, right in the centre of Cardiff and it was interesting to hear more about it on the tour.”

 

Did you come and visit us on World Peace Day or would like to visit the Temple in the future?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or you can keep updated on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram channels

Fighting for Foreign Aid

By former WCIA volunteer, Geena Whiteman 

 

 

The UK is one of the worlds biggest foreign aid donors, having the third largest aid budget in the world and being one of only a few countries consistently achieving the UN’s target of spending 0.7% of the annual budget (the countries gross national income) on foreign aid.

However, with the recent election of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister of the UK, the UK’s position as a ‘development superpower’ is at great risk. In the running of, and since the announcement of his election, there have been numerous whispers and rumours about the ways in which the UK’s foreign aid spending will be reformed.

Currently, approximately 70% of the UK’s £14 billion a year (0.7% of national income) foreign aid budget is spent by the Department for International Development (DfID), with the rest spent by various other departments, most prominently, the Department for International Trade (DIT) and the Foreign Office. On the 22nd July 2019, the now former Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox stated that the DIT will use increasing amounts of the aid budget to “help promote investment in developing countries and promote British interests”.

So, what comes of the countries who are in dire need of foreign aid, but can’t offer as desirable a return on investment as British interests would seek? What becomes of foreign aid to low-income countries such as Nepal, Tajikistan and Rwanda, who are both land-locked and resource scarce?

 

Nepal is an excellent example of the threat that shifting foreign aid to be more trade-focused rather than poverty focused poses.

 

 

Out of the 33 active projects funded by the UK aid budget in Nepal, only one of them has the Department of Trade (BEIS) funding it – and the project has one of the smallest budgets out of all aid-funded projects in Nepal.

 

For a country with little now to offer us, what hope is there for UK aid to Nepal once the new aid reforms come in, especially considering our history of scarcely rewarding the Nepalese Ghurkha for all their loyalty and support in our armed forces. Following the proposed reforms of the Department of Trade controlling even more of the aid budget, how hard will Nepal now have to fight for aid when we’ve taken all the resources we could get?

 

Historically, the UK’s commitment to aid has been justified on two grounds – from a moral perspective, demonstrating the UK’s commitment to help alleviate world poverty, and from a policy perspective, helping support the achievement of development milestones such as the SDG’s. However, numerous charities and agencies have warned that aid is no longer as effective and efficient as before, and taxpayers are no longer getting maximum value for money.

In a letter to the then Chancellor, Phillip Hammond, 23 agencies suggested that aid spending is now diverted from the worlds poor in order to promote commercial and political interests, or as the Prime Minister calls it, British interests. With the UK’s legal obligation to commit 0.7% of GDP on aid, many of those working in the humanitarian sector have raised concerns that ministers are using aid as a form of bribery, by classing politically convenient projects as aid, and ensuring the strings attached lead to increased cooperation with British industry.

 

The ONE Campaigns UK Real Aid Index has shown that DfID’s expenditure of the aid budget was rated highly for its focus on poverty, its effectiveness and its transparency, but the same couldn’t be said for other departments, such as the Foreign Office and the Department of Trade.

 

Of the aid spent outside of DfID, over 1/3 is spent in upper middle-income countries, who have very little need for UK aid.

 

For context, examples of upper middle-income countries are China, Azerbaijan and Russia, who all appear to be thriving off their own industries. A key example of this diversion would be the concerns raised by a committee of MPs over aid delivered under the Prosperity Fund, managed by the Foreign Office. Projects supported by this fund include extensive investment to China, including projects development the film industry and improving museum infrastructure.

 

Considering that the Prosperity Fund “aims to remove the barriers to economic growth and promote the economic reform and development needed to reduce poverty in partner countries”, its an interesting to choice to invest in the film industry in a upper-middle income country rather than invest in projects working with youth, health, education and disaster management in low-income countries.

 

In a time in which the Conservative government austerity measures, essential government departments and public services must fight furiously against budget cuts, the commitment of 0.7% of national income may be infuriating to them.

 

Do I think that we should maintain our 0.7% commitment, in a time where the NHS and the state education system are fighting for every penny? Absolutely. However, should we commit money to a foreign aid budget that serves those most in need, rather than for countries which would “serve the political and commercial interests of the UK”? Absolutely.

 

The foreign aid budget needs reform, but as one of the strongest economies in the world with a bloody history of exploiting and colonising others, we need to own up to that past and make reparations through investing in projects which offer long-term sustainability, rather than serving political interests or offering short-term solutions to ongoing issues. With the UK already facing a turbulent time ahead with a no-deal Brexit on the cards, losing its status as a ‘world leader’ in development aid threatens to weaken the UK’s standing and power on global issues.

 

Inarguably, we need to reform the way we do aid. Aid-scepticism is rising, and before long, we’ll be fighting about sending across 10p to a humanitarian crisis because of a distrust in where it will end up. On leaving his role as Foreign Secretary, the now Prime Minister told the Financial Times that if ‘Global Britain’ wants to achieve its full potential, then DfID must be brought back in-house to the Foreign Office, rather than operating independently.

The proposed expansion of the definition of aid from poverty reduction to include the “nations overall strategic goals” runs the risk of perpetuating the existing idea that the aid budget is used to bribe countries to be our friend. Under our current government with a Brexiteer leader and cabinet, the expansion of aid and in-housing of the budget could mean a total reduction in aid effectiveness and transparency, and an even further decline in it reaching those who need it the most.

 

If we want to maintain our position as a development superpower, we need to seriously reconsider the reforms currently being delivered by our government. If we’re not investing our ODA in bottoms-up approaches to poverty reduction, we aren’t using the taxpayer’s money in the most effective or impactful ways.

 

Views expressed in this blog are those of the writer and not WCIA  

 

 

 

Bibliography

  • Full Fact, 2018. UK Spending on Foreign Aid. [Online]
    Available at: https://fullfact.org/economy/uk-spending-foreign-aid/
    [Accessed 30 07 2019].
  • Hutton, J., 2018. £14 Billion and Counting: What’s the Problem with Britain’s Burgeoning Foreign Aid Budget?. Taxpayers Alliance, 22 12.
  • Islam, F., 2019. Aid Budget To Be Used by International Trade Department. BBC News, 22 07.
  • Mance, H., 2018. UK Seeks Reforms on Overseas Aid Spending. The Financial Times, 9 10.
  • Morris, C., 2017. Reality Check: How Much Does The UK Spend on Overseas Aid?. BBC News, 20 04.
  • Savage, M., 2019. UK Aid Budget ‘Goes to the Wrong Projects’, Leaked Letter Warns. The Observer, 23 02.
  • Wilkinson, P., 2019. Reports Criticise UK’s £14 Billion Foreign-Aid Spending. Church Times, 28 06.
  • Wintour, P., 2019. Boris Johnson Backs Call for Multibillion Cut to UK Aid Budget. The Guardian, 11 02.

 

 

Ellie’s Work Experience

My time at the WCIA

by Ellie Kimpton 

What did you do during your week?

During my week of work experience at the WCIA, I mostly helped towards the preparations for the Mock COP on Thursday (11/7/19), made 2 bilingual Facebook posts, wrote 2 blogs and translated English documents into Welsh amongst other things.

Highlight of your week?

The highlight of my week was definitely the Mock COP event itself.

I had no idea of the enthusiasm and innovative ideas these teenagers had for Climate Change (which was the topic), which was so refreshing to listen to.

What surprised you the most?

The atmosphere. Everyone there is so friendly and supportive.

What did you find challenging?

For me personally, the technology was a struggle. As everything there was mainly technology based, my knowledge of technology was quite basic. I had never used XCEL before which is a frequently used programme there, however as I said, everyone there is really supportive and so I soon learnt what was what.

What skills did you develop?

I would definitely say I benefited from this week of work experience greatly. Not only regarding important skills like teamwork, communication (the meetings) and problem solving (no Wi-Fi, no printer) but ones like confidence and independence. I was definitely surprised how independent I was by the end of the week. Being a secondary school student, using and developing these important skills like initiative and being independent isn’t practised often or indeed enough but I am definitely more confident in making decisions now rather than relying on constant validation from others when completing a task.

And of course one of the most important skills I was looking to improve on during my week at the WCIA was to improve my knowledge on global issues. By the end of the week I was aware of the different programmes the WCIA were supporting, working on and in partnership with. The blog on a global issue was another fantastic opportunity, as I got to brainstorm ideas with members of staff, whilst looking at the problems as a whole and then considering possible solutions. I then chose a topic, researched it in detail and wrote a short essay on it.