The WCIA50 Story: a Voice for Wales on the World Stage

In October 2023, WCIA celebrates our 50th Anniversary alongside our longstanding International Youth Service arm, UNA Exchange. They in turn had their roots in the post-WW1 Welsh League of Nations Union movement established in 1922, and its post WW2 successor, the United Nations Association.

The world has changed tremendously in half a century. WCIA continues to lead efforts to engage the people of Wales with world issues through global learning, global action and global partnerships, with programmes continually seeking to build a better world for future generations – building upon our learning from the past. Here we explore WCIA’s journey from its earliest years.


Abstract / Summary

  • WCIA Origins and Civil Society context
  • WCIA Structure and Participation
  • WCIA’s Work: Strategic Priorities, Timeline of Campaigns and Activities
  • Introducing Narratives of Welsh Internationalism of the 1970s-80s
  • Active Welsh Global Citizenship and Participation
  • Humanitarian Compassion
  • Security through Cooperation
  • Human Rights and Environmental Interdependence
  • Evolution towards Devolution
  • Synthesis and Legacy 

Supporting Appendices

  1. Timeline of WCIA Development and Campaigns on Knightlab (and Google Sheet)
  2. WCIA Standing Conference – Civic and Civil Society Participation
  3. References – WCIA digitised archives on People’s Collection Wales and 2b. WCIA Annual Reports – spreadsheet of contents

5.3 Summary / Abstract

The Welsh Centre for International Affairs, or WCIA, was opened on 11 October 1973 following a 5-year campaign among Welsh civil society, public figures and the Western Mail calling for a distinctive ‘Welsh voice on world affairs’. Two decades of post-World War Two national narratives emphasising profound ‘Britishness’, had progressively marginalised many in Wales – nationalists and proudly internationalists alike – who felt increasingly centralised Whitehall governance cut Welsh voices out of world conversations. The ‘WCIA proposal’ was formalised as a legacy of the UN 25th Anniversary celebrations in 1970, the UN25 Committee becoming the WCIA’s ‘Standing Conference’, attracting widespread civil society, NGO and local authority participation.

The WCIA was an experiment in coordinating cooperation across multiple sectors, building bridges between state and non-state actors often with widely divergent world views – seeking to marshall Welsh energies, hearts and minds towards visible action on global issues. As WCIA approaches its ‘half century’ in October 2023, this case study seeks to draw together the backdrop to WCIA’s formation, its emerging role within Welsh civil society, and the narratives of ‘Welsh internationalism’ that underpin the WCIA’s campaigns and activities over its first 15 years, with a particular focus on emergence of humanitarian public discourse.