WCIA was founded in 1973 out of work by Bill Davies, WCIA’s first Director (from 1973 to 1996). It emerged from a period over the late 1960s, when Welsh civil society movements and political figures had been expressing open frustration at increasingly London-centric machinery of Whitehall and Westminster, ‘carving Wales out of the picture’. This was reflected in a resurgence and confidence in the Welsh independence movement, but also in a widespread desire for Wales to have it own distinct voice on world affairs. A campaign was taken up by the Western Mail:
“the idea of a “Welsh Centre for International Affairs” is an exciting and interesting one… it will encourage Welshmen to look beyond the confines of Wales and Britain; to extend their knowledge and understanding of the rest of the world.” Western Mail Editorial 1968.
From the 1950s, the United Nations Association had been the world’s leading post-WW2 body, “stirring the conscience of a new generation” as David Melding (ex WCIA staff / recent Member of Senedd) described. But by the 1960s, UNA Wales was in sharp decline, overtaken by issue-based movements such as CND; and with the loss of traditional fundraising mechanisms such as mass membership, community collections and big philanthropic donors. Conversely however, it was taken for granted by the British Public and politicians that “somebody must do” all the educational, volunteering, campaigning, policy and advocacy, humanitarian aid and global partnerships work on which Britain’s – and Wales’ – global relationships were based, and for which the Temple of Peace had been founded. To survive, the Temple of Peace had to become an institution in its own right.
Both WCIA, the Welsh Centre for International Affairs, and UNA Exchange, International Youth Service Volunteers, were launched and officially opened on 11 October 1973 by Priscilla Buchan / Lady Tweedsmuir, then Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; and will mark their 50th Anniversary in October 2023.