Post-Devolution WCIA and ‘Wales for Africa’: 1997-recent

Wales Africa Community Links display their ‘town twinning’ signs at the Senedd’s 2013 UN Gold Star Awards

The onset of devolution in 1997, following what’s commonly termed the ‘Labour Landslide’ and the accompanying ‘Cool Britannia’ era, brought about a complete change in the status and voice of Welsh Civil Society, and in the UK’s conduct and approach to International Affairs. Where for generations communities in Wales had fought to gain attention of distant and largely disinterested London institutions, now they were both architects snd voices of a new vision for Welsh society, facing towards Cardiff Bay but engaging Wales-wide networks and partners. A resurgence of confidence and national identity brought about by the ‘Yes’ vote, was reflected in global campaigns with an increasingly Welsh distinction.

A number of key Wales-based International NGOs , such as Christian. Aid, Oxfam Cymru and CAFOD, were particularly active in engaging with the Assembly and WCVA, the Wales Council for Voluntary Action), to shape the policy environment and the International Sector architecture that would enable Welsh internationalists to have a voice and express their priorities within newly devolved Wales. Campaigns such as Jubilee 2000 and Make Poverty History in 2005 took full advantage of the opportunity to root themselves deeply in Welsh identity and priorities, often developing parallel or complementary campaigning activities to those of England, often generating a high profile and visibility.

At the global level, the celebration of the landmark Millennium in 2000, galvanised United Nations members into creating the UN Millennium Declaration and the 8 UN Development Goals – the MDGs – as a framework for a common approach and ambition to halve poverty in fifteen years. From 2003, WCVA set up the Welsh Civil Society MDGs Task Force.

Although the National Assembly for Wales did not formally have devolved powers over International Affairs, public pressure through the 2005 Make Poverty History campaign encouraged Ministers to ‘find a way’ for Wales to take action on world issues. The Wales for Africa programme was launched in 2006.