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Wales Civil Society MDGs Task Force, 2004-2014

Welsh Civil Society MDGs Task Force members, led by Peter Davies (LH), at the 2008 UN Gold Star Awards. L-R: Peter Davies, Sustainable Development Commissioner; Cathrin Daniel, Head of Dolen Cymru; Apollo Mwenyi and Edith Wakumire, PONT Mbale; Graham Benfield, WCVA Chief Executive; Jon Townley, Welsh Government International Relations; Craig Owen, WCVA International Programmes Manager; Alan Thomas, Network of Development Researchers; Steve Brooks, Head of Oxfam Cymru; Kevin Higgins, Head of British Council Wales; Hilary Thomas, PONT; John Whitaker, BUILD.

MDGs Task Force – Mobilising Civil Society internationalism post-devolution

The Wales Civil Society Millennium Development Goals Task Force – usually shortened to ‘MDGs Task Force’ – was established by WCVA, Wales Council for Voluntary Action to bring together civil society actors beyond the traditional aid sector:

  • Trade Unions
  • Town and Community Councils through One Voice Wales
  • Educationalists
  • NHS Health volunteers and staff exchanges
  • British Council Wales
  • Network of Development Researchers
  • Dolen Cymru
  • WOAG (Welsh Overseas Aid Group)
  • WCIA (Welsh Centre for International Affairs)

From 2005, WCVA brought in Peter Davies, Sustainable Development Commissioner, as Chair of the Task Force to bring coordination, networking and invigorated energy. The Task Force actively developed a range of distinct projects that have shaped the post-devolution internationalist landscape of Wales:

  • Wales for Africa
  • UN Gold Star Awards and Wales Africa Community Links network
  • Size of Wales forests conservation
  • Welsh Civil Society and the MDGs
  • Hub Cymru Africa
  • SDGs and Future Generations Commission

Read Peace Garden tribute to Peter Davies

June 2021 planting of a “Peace Rose’ by the Size of Wales team

Inspired by CIVICUS, the World Alliance for Citizen Participation

CIVICUS Secretary General Kumi Naidoo

The MDGs Task Force’ was established under the leadership of WCVA’s internationalist Chief Executive Graham Benfield, following participation in the 2004 CIVICUS World Assembly in Gabarone, Botswana (view 2004 CIVICUS report). CIVICUS Secretary General Kumi Naidoo challenged civil society leaders of all nations to take leadership in bringing ‘substance to the vision‘ of the Millennium Development Goals.

As one of the founding partners in the 1990s of CIVICUS – the world alliance for citizen participation – WCVA had invited Kumi Naidoo to address their Annual Conference in Llandudno in 2001, where he ‘wowed’ Welsh Civil Society leaders with an internationalist vision for the (then) newly devolved nation. WCVA actively participated in the CIVICUS ‘Civil Society Index‘ (CSI) pilot over 2003-5, and in annual World Assemblies, establishing prospective collaborations with movements worldwide.

Make Poverty History and Wales Africa ideas, 2005

Make Poverty History campaigners wrapped Snowdon in a white band, to send a message from the ‘summit of Wales’ to the 2005 UN MDGs Summit in New York.

The Make Poverty History campaign of 2005 captured the public imagination at an unprecedented scale. Within Wales, a coalition of organisations coordinated through WISEN at the Welsh Centre for International Affairs – supported by Oxfam Cymru and Christian Aid Wales – mobilised communities Wales-wide with popular campaigning activities that included:

  • Tsunami Relief Concert in the Millennium Stadium (WalesOnline gallery)
  • Creation of ‘Idris the Dragon‘, Wales’ Make Poverty History puppet ‘mascot’ (still conserved within Wales’ Temple of Peace)
  • Mass mobilisation to the G8 Summit in Gleneagles, Scotland and G8 Rally in Edinburgh – chartering a ‘Make Poverty History train’ from Cardiff to Edinburgh.
  • Wrapping the summit of Snowdon in a White Band, to send a message form the ‘summit of Wales’ to the UN Summit in New York. (Daily Post)
  • Producing a ‘Pantomime of World Trade’ at the Wales Millennium Centre, to mark the WTO Summit in Hong Kong.

Far from being satisfied with participating in actions targeting global bodies however, the Welsh public and wider civil society voiced an overwhelming demand that Wales should make its own distinct contribution to world development. Organisations and policy makers worked hard to identify what that contribution might look like, within the devolved powers of the National Assembly for Wales:

Civil society efforts led to the announcement in September 2005, of the Welsh Government’s new International Development Strategy – with the idea of a ‘Wales for Africa’ programme at its heart, which the MDGs Task Force went on to shape.

Wales for Africa – a Welsh Government and Civil Society partnership

First Minister Rhodri Morgan welcomes Hay2Timbuktu visitors from Mali to the Senedd in 2007.

The Welsh Government’s ‘Wales for Africa’ framework programme was launched in June 2006, with the aim of enabling Welsh Government to support civil society-led initiatives that would build Welsh relationships with the wider world, skills building and knowledge exchange, whilst supporting valuable development projects between communities and practitioners from different sectors such as health and education.

Gold Star Awards and Wales Africa Community Links

Map of Wales Africa Community Links, 2013

In 2006, the MDGs Task Force and WCVA responded to the Welsh Government’s strategy by proposing a partnership pilot, alongside the UN (United Nations Innovation Hub in Geneva) and BUILD, for a ‘Gold Star Awards’ scheme that would support and recognise the work of community based Wales – Africa linking organisations. An initial 6 partnerships participated in the pilot:

The network expanded to 20 more Wales Africa Community Links by 2008, when the first UN Gold Star Awards were presented by First Minister Rhodri Morgan at the National Eisteddfod in Cardiff. By 2014, the network had grown to 140 linking organisations supporting several hundred projects throughout Africa (see Google Map) – supported by a modest WCVA small grant scheme that enabled organisations to follow a good practice scheme, the ‘Gold Star framework’, that was linked in to complementary schemes by BOND, NIDOS, CADA and the European Alliance for Citizen Initiatives.

The 2012 UN Gold Star Awards, presented at the Senedd, made publicly visible Wales’ innovative twinning links across Sub-Saharan Africa with colourful roadsigns, building on the tradition of celebrating communities’ European twinning relationships since WW2.

‘Size of Wales’ tropical forests conservation and Climate Change education movement

Size of Wales ‘Go Green Day’ Campaign

From 2008, the MDGs Task Force and WCVA, supported by the Cardiff-based Waterloo Foundation, supported a pilot for an initiative to turn the phrase ‘Size of Wales’ – usually a measure of rainforest destruction – into a challenge for Wales to conserve an area of forests the Size of Wales. Capturing the public imagination, the project was established as an independent charity from 2010, launched by HRH the Prince of Wales at the National Botanic Gardens in Carmarthenshire, and has remained under the leadership of co-founder Peter Davies through to 2021, when he passed on the reins of Chair to former Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones.

Welsh Civil Society and the MDGs Survey & Report

Report produced in 2010, for the 10th anniversary of the MDGs, to assess the breadth and nature of Welsh Civil Society contributions towards the Millennium Development Goals beyond the traditional ‘aid sector’. The report identified 930 organisations Wales-wide playing an active role in global action.

In 2010, as the world reflected on a decade’s progress (and in some cases, lack of progress) against the Millennium Declaration and MDGs, the Task Force enlisted the support of the BIG Lottery Fund to undertake a survey of the extent of Welsh Civil Society activism and contribution to the Millennium Development Goals.

As well as spotlighting case studies of good practice, the report identified 930 organisations active in Wales’ International civil society sector linking with 107 countries, from branches and local movements of international organisations such as Oxfam and Christian Aid, to education and campaigning organisations, twinning, diaspora linking and community groups (including approximately 25% beyond the geographic scope of the Wales Africa programme).

Hub Cymru Africa

From 2015, the operational and project work of the MDGs Task Force was subsumed into Hub Cymru Africa, with WCVA becoming one of the board partners, and coordinators of the supporting Wales Africa grants scheme.

From MDGs to SDGs: the Future Generations Commission

The work of the MDGs Task Force continues in a wider policy sense beyond 2015 through the establishment of Wales’ Future Generations Act and Future Generations Commissioner for Wales. Useful additional references:

A Place in Wales’ Peace Heritage

The role of Peter Davies and the MDGs Task Force in Wales’ Peace Heritage was celebrated in June 2021 with the planting of a ‘Peace Rose’ in Wales National Garden of Peace.

The 17 United Nations SDGs, Sustainable Development Goals, which replaced the MDGs from 2015 as the world’s development targets for 2030.