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Wales Africa Health Links 15th Conference: Celebrating International Development and a ‘heritage of humanity’

Craig Owen’s research is part of wider project on the ‘History of Welsh Internationalism’, with Aberystwyth and Swansea Universities.

Over 3rd and 4th November 2021, WCIA and Hub Cymru Africa facilitated the Wales & Africa Health Links Network Annual Conference, bringing together health practitioners, volunteers community groups and development charities currently active in health interventions and projects Wales and world-wide.

The Network was set up from 2006, so this conference marks the ’15th birthday’ for WAHLN and the wider Wales Africa links movement. To put current efforts in context – and to consider challenges for the future – WCIA Heritage Advisor Craig Owen was asked to research and share a history of Welsh International Development efforts over the last century.

International development as a concept has evolved as a field of practice since the late 1940s founding of the United Nations, in the aftermath of World War 2. Prior to this however, Welsh people were instrumental in fostering global cooperation through campaigns of the Welsh League of Nations Union, such as the Women’s Peace Petition, Youth Peace & Goodwill Message, and Teaching of Global Citizenship – playing a major role in the founding of UNESCO, and the UN itself.

Craig posited that Wales’ development sector appears to have moved through four ‘development eras’ – and could well be moving into a new era.

The paper and talk pays particular attention to the roles of 2 major historic movements: Wales’ International Youth Service volunteers, involved with swathes of post-war European Reconstruction community development projects through the 1950s and 1960s; and the Freedom from Hunger Campaign, founded in 1962 and headquartered in Wales from 1978-1997, which resourced projects across India, Africa, S & Central America, Asia and Pacific, as well as stimulating the founding of a number of universities. Many projects set up as ‘development initiatives’ can be seen today to have met the ultimate test of sustainability: they still exist, and have grown in the hands of communities – such as the Bihar State Dairy Cooperative in India, and the University of Benin in Nigeria.

Craig finished the discussion with a challenge, observing that Wales has moved through 4 ‘eras of development’, each lasting about quarter of a century. Viewing the changes of time on this scale, it could be speculated that we are entering a period of major change, a paradigm shift… What comes next?

Against the backdrop of Brexit, the COVID Pandemic, technological advance, ageing populations, and the Climate Emergency – with the COP Summit taking place in Glasgow on the same day as this WAHLN Conference – how might Welsh International Development actors of today, adapt to and shape the next quarter century?

Hub Cymru Africa Recording of Craig’s talk on Wales’ International Development Heritage
1985 Sport Aid Wales - Running to Stop Famine supporters with placards in Cardiff streets
Album on Flickr of Welsh International Development Archives from Wales’ Temple of Peace (scroll LH-RH)