Growing Peace Stories in Riverside

By Esther Jones

As part of Wales for Peace, UNA Exchange organised the Growing Peace Stories project. A group of international students from across Europe spent two weeks (9-23 August 2016) volunteering with a group of women from Women Connect First (WCF)*.


Photo by Martina Gargari

Every day the international students worked with local volunteers from WCF as they helped to prepare for the Riverside Festival, build plant boxes and garden, as can be seen in these photos. The volunteers also spent quality time sharing and listening to stories and reflections on peace and worked together to produce and share these ‘Peace Stories’. They tell these stories through blogs, videos and presentations. Take a look at their stories:

What does peace mean to different people?

This video and presentation show what the concept of peace means to the international and local volunteers, including their definitions of the word. What’s interesting is that many of their answers are similar, despite their different backgrounds. A unity and like-mindedness seems to have emerged from the groups sharing, listening and experiencing one anthers’ stories.

Personal stories of the local volunteers

These are the international volunteers’ perspectives on the stories they were told by the local women volunteers, often stories of seeking peace and refuge away from their countries of origin. They take you step-by-step through the journeys of some of the women and explain how they found peace .

Peace builders and heroes

These accounts illustrate how some of the local volunteers and organisations have played a significant part in helping to establish peace in their local communities.

*Wales for Peace is a WCIA project funded by HLF seeking to answer the question how has Wales contributed to peace in the 100 years since the First World War. UNA Exchange is an international volunteer exchange organisation. WCF is an organisation based in Riverside, Cardiff, which seeks to empower Black & Minority Ethnic women in Cardiff and South East Wales by offering a range of services and training in order to improve livelihoods and employability.

Share your peace story with Wales for Peace so it adds to the Peace Map of Wales

From war to Olympic glory, the Refugee Olympic Team are competing for tolerance


By Fflur Jones

“We were the only four who knew how to swim. I had one hand with the rope attached to the boat as I moved my two legs and one arm. It was three and half hours in cold water.” This is 18-year old Syrian refugee Yusra Mardini explaining how her Olympic sport of swimming, saved her life whilst crossing the freezing Aegean Sea as she pushed a sinking dinghy to sanctuary saving 20 other lives.

Among the 200+ countries and territories competing in the Olympic Games in Rio, Mardini’s team stands out: Refugee Olympic Team (or ROT). The International Olympic Committee announced in March the creation of this team, the first of this kind, made up of 10 members who fled from 4 different countries: South Sudan, Ethiopia, Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The IOC’s open minded decision to include these athletes in these games comes at a period when refugees have been breaking records and not Olympic ones. Today, according to the UNHCR 63.5 million people have been displaced by conflict and persecution with 15 million refugees worldwide. 60% of these refugees come from 5 specific countries: Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan.

Each member’s road to Rio has been an uphill battle from the start, having to flee persecution whilst at the same time completing the gruelling training needed to secure a spot at the Olympic Games. Yet in the face of rising anti-immigration and xenophobic feelings in many developed countries can this team really change attitudes towards refugees and asylum seekers?

Anti-immigration and racist sentiments have been growing in parts of Europe and the United States. Last year a renovated shelter destined for asylum seekers in the town of Vorra in Germany was subject to an arson attack, and many eastern European countries have used tear gas to prevent groups of refugees from crossing their borders. Time and time again we have heard the growing concerns over the mass of asylum seekers “flooding” the UK. In reality, refugees represent 0.19% of the UK’s population, whilst in Lebanon, a country 23 times smaller, 1 in 5 people are refugees. But despite these relatively low numbers, some British citizens still feel threatened by a mass influx of refugees, with the National Police Chiefs’ Council reporting significant increases in hate crimes nationwide since the Brexit vote. On the other side of the pond, Donald Trump’s angry rhetoric on Muslim communities and immigrants is also spreading like wildfire. This toxic mix of anger, hate and xenophobia has seemed to dominate recent headlines. But the Refugee Olympic team are hoping to challenge people’s views and opinions on the millions of refugees worldwide at this year’s Olympics.

IOC president Thomas Bach said that “By welcoming the team of Refugee Olympic Athletes to the Olympic Games Rio 2016, [he wants] to send a message of hope for all refugees in our world. Having no national team to belong to, having no flag to march behind, having no national anthem to be played, these refugee athletes will be welcomed to the Olympic Games with the Olympic flag and with the Olympic Anthem.”

This message has been embraced by all the team’s members; Popole Misenga, a ROT member from Congo (Judo) said that the team were “fighting for all the refugees in the world”.

Mardini, when asked if her experience of pushing the dinghy was traumatic responded with her trademark positivity: “Not at all. I remember that, without swimming, I would never be alive maybe because of the story of this boat. It’s a positive memory for me.” Very few Olympians can claim that their sport has saved their life.

She’s also stood up in defense of the refugees across the world saying that she “want[s] [Olympic fans] to think that refugees are normal humans that had to leave their homelands. Not because they wanted to, not because they wanted to be refugees or run away or have drama in their lives. They had to leave. To get a new life. Get a better life”.

Hers is not the only story of survival in the team. James Chiengjiek fled South Sudan at age 13 to avoid being forced into service as a child solider. Popole Misenga’s mother was murdered when he was a child in Democratic Republic of Congo; Yonas Kinde feared for his life in Ethiopia and eventually fled to Luxembourg. Each of member of the team bring their own story, their own culture and their own message to these Olympics. As Yusra Mardini said:  “We don’t have the same language. We’re all from different countries. But the Olympic flag united us together, and now we are representing 60 million [people] around the world. We want to show everyone that we can do anything. Good athletes. Good people.”

The Refugee Olympic Team are not only the flag bearers for millions of refugees across the world but are also carrying a message of hope and tolerance at a time when it is so desperately needed.

North Wales Women’s Peace March 1926

Stephen Thomas
Volunteer – Wales for Peace
Peace March

Following the horrors and destruction of the First World War (1914-1918) many women around the globe became activists in the campaign for arms reduction and for the end of war as a means of settling international disputes. Across Britain a variety of women’s groups came together to organise a peace pilgrimage to London for a mass demonstration in Hyde Park on 19 June 1926. In north Wales, under the leadership of two tireless peace activists, Mrs Gladys Thoday and Mrs Silyn Roberts, a procession of peacemakers travelled for five days through the towns and villages of north Wales to reach Chester. Eventually 28 north Wales’ pilgrims joined the 10,000 women at the Hyde Park demonstration.

World War 1 unleashed unimaginable levels of death and destruction across the whole planet. Millions of people, both military and civilian, were killed or suffered serious injury – estimates for casualties run from 30 million upwards, but the true number will never be known. From Britain alone over 723,000 service personnel were killed in the conflict and over a million more were seriously injured. The war had destroyed the lives of so many young men on the battlefield that by 1921, there were one million more women in Britain than men, aged between 20 and 39. It meant that many women were unable to find partners in life or have children and raise a family. The impact of the war on Britain was devastating both socially and economically.
As early as 1915 there were organisations of women around the world calling for mediation between governments to end the war. By 1919 the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) had become a permanent committee with a headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. The League called for international disarmament and an end to economic imperialism, supporting the US /France Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, as the basis for creating a peaceful world order.
The women of Britain were very much involved in these quests for peace, freedom and equality. (Remember, in Britain, it was only in 1918 that all males over the age of 21 finally won the right to vote. And it wasn’t until 1928, and the Equal Franchise Act, that the same rights were applied to women over 21 for the very first time). In light of this struggle to have their voice heard, under the slogan ‘Law not War’, a variety of women’s groups from across Britain came together in 1926 – as wives, widows, mothers, sisters and friends – to organise a huge peace pilgrimage to London.
The women peacemakers of north Wales began their march in May 1926 with a meeting in the village of Penygroes, just south of Caernarfon. As was reported at the time “To the first meeting at Penygroes in South Carnarvonshire on May 27th came five streams of pilgrims winding their many blue flags down the hill-sides, and over 2000 persons were gathered in the little market square from villages far up in the hills.”
The pilgrimage continued across the towns and villages of north Wales for five days until, some 150 miles later, they reached Chester. At the time, a newspaper reported “There were on the main route 15 meetings and 16 processions besides many meetings on side routes…Through the villages the pilgrims in six cars and charabancs went along the Caernarvon Road, and at one place after another they found crowds across the road which insisted on speakers getting out and addressing them from the steps of the local war memorial… Everywhere they were welcomed, everywhere there was interest and enthusiasm, never once was there a single hand raised against the resolution.”
Without modern ‘social media’ to help, it was a great enterprise to spread the news of the pilgrimage to all the remote villages and hamlets of north Wales in the 1920s. They would rely largely on newspapers and post to carry their message. But it all needed effective organisation and for this the north Wales pilgrimage can be thankful for Mrs Mary Gladys Thoday from Llanfairfechan.
Mrs Thoday (nee Sykes) was born in Chester in 1884. She was a botanist having studied at Girton College Cambridge, which had been established as the first Cambridge college to admit women in 1869. In 1910 she married at Wrexham David Thoday, who later became Professor of Botany at Bangor University. Gladys was an intelligent and determined woman of her time and became a tireless activist for the abolition of war. She wrote in 1926 “We realise that the great success of the pilgrimage is due to the many helpers who in every place had done their part because they believe that it is full time that REASON shall take the place of FORCE and arbitration be tried first in every international dispute before there is resort to WAR.”
Among the 28 north Wales pilgrims who finally took part in the peace demonstration in Hyde Park on 19 June 1926 were Mrs Thoday and Mrs Silyn Roberts. These two women addressed the crowd of 10,000 that day in central London – Mrs Roberts spoke in the Welsh language. Following the peace pilgrimage these two women later became the English speaking and Welsh speaking secretaries of the North Wales Women’s Peace Council (NWWPC).

In 1928, under the professional guidance of Mrs Thoday and Mrs Roberts, the voice of women in north Wales was linked to other parts of Britain and the wider international peace movement when the NWWPC became affiliated to the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Although the North Wales Women’s Peace March had ended, a Welsh women’s voice had been added to the international call for disarmament and world peace. Their actions played a part in the eventual signing by 62 nations of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, an agreement in 1928 which hoped to outlaw war between nations and prevent another World War.

What kind of Europe do we want?

By Stephen Thomas

As the intensity of the European Union ‘in/out’ referendum debate increases across the UK, I had the opportunity to visit the European Parliament in Brussels this month for the first time.

MEPs make decisions that impact upon the lives of 500 million citizens in this very room

MEPs make decisions that impact upon the lives of 500 million citizens in this very room

I was invited with a group to visit and explore the institution by the European Free Alliance (EFA), a grouping of elected Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from stateless nations, regions and minorities. In the 2014-2019 parliamentary term EFA MEPs have been elected from Catalonia, Galicia, Latvia, Scotland, Valencia, Wales and the Basque Country. Within the Parliament, MEPs work in political groups. EFA members have formed a common alliance in the European Parliament with the Green Parties since 1999.

The European Parliament

The largest of the several political groupings within the Parliament are the European People’s Party [Christian Democrats] (EPP) and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D).  With a total Parliament of 751 seats the EPP currently hold 219 and the S&D 191. EFA have 50.

Each MEP is chosen by an electorate from each of the 28 member countries of the European Union, representing a constituency of over 500 million people. Seats are also distributed, by and large, according to a Member State’s population. Germany, the largest country in population terms, has 96 MEPs whilst the smallest states of Estonia, Cyprus, Luxembourg and Malta have 6 MEPs each. Of the larger Member States after Germany, France has 74 MEPs and the UK and Italy 73 MEPs each.

As such the European Parliament is the only directly elected body in the EU and plays a key role in electing the President of the European Commission. It shares power over the EU budget and legislation with the Council of the European Union.

Council of the European Union

The Council represents the governments of the individual Member States. The Presidency of the Council is shared by the Member States on a six-month rotating basis. For the six months to December 2015 the Presidency is held by Luxembourg. The Presidency is responsible for driving forward the Council’s work on EU legislation, ensuring the continuity of the EU agenda, orderly legislative processes and cooperation among member states. To do this, the Presidency has to act as an honest and neutral broker.

The European Commission

Another major EU institution is the European Commission, the executive body. The Commission is responsible for proposing and implementing EU laws, monitoring the treaties and the day-to-day running of the EU. It represents the interests of the EU as a whole (not the interests of individual countries).

A new team of 28 Commissioners (one from each EU Member State) is appointed every five years. The politically important post is that of President of the Commission.

The candidate for President is proposed to the European Parliament by the European Council who decide on candidates by qualified majority, taking into account the elections to the European Parliament. The Commission President is then elected by the European Parliament by a majority of its component members (which corresponds to at least 376 out of 751 votes).

Following this election, the President-elect selects the 27 other members of the Commission, on the basis of the suggestions made by Member States. The final list of Commissioners-designate has then to be agreed between the President-elect and the Council. The Commission as a whole needs the Parliament’s consent. Prior to this, Commissioners-designate are assessed by the European Parliament committees.

The current Commission’s term of office runs until 31 October 2019. Its President is Jean-Claude Juncker.

Justice, Financial Management & Banking

The Court of Justice; The Court of Auditors and The European Central Bank are the other influential institutions that make up the European Union.

In defence of Liberty and Democracy?

The European Parliament is a unique example of multinational and multilingual democracy at work. The elected members (MEPs) engage in public debates and play a crucial role in shaping the policy of the EU. The principal areas of their work include the following:


The Parliament decides jointly with the Council of the European Union on laws that affect the daily lives of all EU’s citizens. These include topics such as freedom of travel, food safety and consumer protection, the environment and most sectors of the economy. Member States still have a veto right in areas such as taxation and foreign affairs/defence. Some areas require the Council to obtain the European Parliament’s assent before making a decision.


Budgetary powers are the key prerogative of every Parliament — whoever allocates the funds has the power to set political priorities. At EU level, this power is shared between the Parliament and the Council. Together they adopt a multi-annual financial framework every 7 years, and scrutinise and approve the annual budget for the next year, as well as the spending from the previous year. The EU’s multi-annual budget 2014-2020 is €960 billion (yes, billion!).


The European Parliament monitors the correct use of EU funds. The results of parliamentary elections are taken into account in the nomination of the President of the European Commission, but Parliament also has to elect the President and approve the appointment of the Commission and can force it to resign. Commissioners are often asked to defend their policies before the Parliament, and the president of the European Council and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy regularly appear in Parliament to brief the MEPs and answer their questions.

Over the last couple of years, Parliament has considerably increased the discussions it holds with all leading decision-makers involved with the euro in a bid to shed more light on the way monetary decisions are being taken. In this sense, the Parliament has become one of the only forums acting to improve the transparency of the governance of the euro area.

European Union – why?

Out of the ruins of 1945, there grew an idea amongst Statesmen that, in fostering economic cooperation between countries rather than pursuing imperial and nationalistic rivalries, the risk of another appalling conflict between major sovereign states in Europe would be reduced.  Cooperation based on free trade in several key resource areas (coal, steel and iron ore) was its starting point in a hope that it would build a peaceful and prosperous future for all the peoples of Europe. To a large extent this idea has worked and Europe, indeed the world, has avoided horrors on the scale of the 20th Century’s two world wars.

Few believe however that nirvana has been created with the growth and development of European integration, far from it. The last 70 years since 1945 has continued to witness global tragedies, wars, famine, death and destruction on an appalling human scale. Walking around the European Parliament’s Visitors’ Centre brings these events very much to the mind in a poignant, interactive virtual trip through Europe, its history and its impact on the peoples of the world.

Meeting some MEPs and hearing their ‘stories’ left me feeling that the Parliament does contain elected representatives with strong ideals and a real belief in the concepts of fairness, justice and effective democratic government. They didn’t believe the current European institutions were by any means perfect but were seen rather as a continuing ‘work in progress’ that had evolved far beyond their origins as the European Coal & Steel Community of 1952.  Institutions that continue to engage people and politicians of many persuasions, nationalities and languages in debate, for a peaceful common cause. Controversial topics such as TTIP (the transatlantic trade and investment partnership with the United States); the impact of austerity policies resulting from the 2008 Global Financial Crisis and the democratic predicament raised by the events in Greece pose real challenges for the European Union and its future.

Achieving fairness and justice while maintaining our liberty and freedom is never easy, particularly in our 21st Century multi-layered system of government. It can appear confusing, difficult to understand and sometimes repellent. Yet, as individuals we each carry a responsibility to defend our hard-earned democratic rights and take every opportunity to stand peaceably against the forces of regression who will work to undermine them. An essential first step, surely, is to find out more about how our democracy really works and how we can support it. This has, perhaps, never been more important than right here, and right now.

Learn more about the European Parliament, and the EU in general, here:

Between hope and coercion: Greece’s support for the EU and the unforeseen Consequences of the Euro

Pola Zafra-Davis The Greek referendum of 2015 has been watched eagerly by the world. But essentially critiques of fiscal responsibility to Greece’s future transcend mere economic analysis. The real question is if Greece’s present debacle stems from an ill-guided hope when first entering the European project or if its bailouts are a result of political coercion into an ill-suited currency many decades’ ago. The economic issues and answers to be provided are both explicit and implicit. Explicitly, the referendum vote was on whether Greece should accept the latest in bailout packages from Brussels. This would entail budget cuts and another round of austerity. Implicitly, many media reports murmur that the consequences of the referendum are around Greece’s political standing in the EU and its economic fate of staying or leaving the Euro and the Eurozone. One report is that in anticipation of a “no” vote on consenting to the new bailout terms, the EU will proactively take away Greece’s membership of the euro. Economic analyses of the euro and how Greece was doomed are commonplace on the internet. Essentially, the argument is that the Euro as a single currency relies on a widely varied economies [1]. The economies that make up the EU include the powerhouses such as Germany with an unemployment rate of 5% compared to Greece’s 2015 unemployment rate of around 27%[2]. The inflexibility of a single currency basically impairs a weak state like Greece to be in control of inflation and the purchasing power of its population. The rationale for the Euro is that while countries with a lot of the currency exhibit high stability and low inflation, those that need to earn more (such as Greece with the austerity packages) would actually benefit form a less strong Euro via external international investment through the now cheaper currency.But when investment is low and there is low confidence in an economic system known for its tax evasion (Source) and corrupt finance system[3] as is the case of Greece, the benefits of the euro are lost. Questions of fairness have become apparent. Is Greece being irresponsible or is the EU being unfair? Is the EU under the control of Brussels and/or Germany in its influence and is this influence earned? Is Greece responsible for its own economic destiny and did it have a choice in joining the euro (no)? To help us spectators get to the roots of these questions is to get to the heart of the motives of development of the eurozone. This includes roots of the 1970s economic monetary system (EMS) up to Greece’s 1999 adoption of the euro. The story of the creation and adoption of the euro by non-great power states should be seen as a historically-based experience between political hope and coercion. One that is in a sense European as well as Greek. Hope in a sense that the EMU and the Euro was a European project that promised integration and an increased voice for smaller states as well as much needed regional aide. Coercion in the way that economic terms were agreed upon without immediate consultation for the bargain of immediate, and not future, Greek economic and political entitlements. Hope: Economic Monetary Union and Political Integration Economic crises in the geographic area of the eurozone isn’t new. What is new is Greece’s popular response holding political clout as the EU continues to search for a cohesive identity. This may be due to the history of the EU and Economic Monetary Union (EMU) being a discussion outside of the purview of a majority of its members in a show of high politics. In response to the collapse of the Bretton Woods System due to unstable exchange rates, the 1979 EMS formed the European Currency Union (ECU) as a means to combat inflation. In times where one country may fall too behind or one country would advance too far, a divergence indicator was implemented. The divergence indicator allowed supranational authorities to practice diversified intervention policies. The structure of ECU, while convergent in a sense that it included a multitude of currencies to calculate its value, it was not wholly integrated. The EMS has acknowledged that Germany formed an anchor to the system under the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM). All currencies were to be pegged with a fixed exchange rate from the Deutsche-Mark in order to import the Bundesbank’s low-inflation successes[4].  The nature of ERM strengthened domestic political actors to further control their domestic economies with anti-inflationary policies. Yet domestic control of economies was not enough to stem the tide of crisis. The ERM crises of 1992-1993 was a result of political externalities rather than purely economic mismanagement or market-reading-errors. This was indicative of an increased sense of interdependence between economic and political integration. The push for the euro came after the fall of the Berlin Wall and was proposed by Francois Mitterand as a means of deepening German economic integration into Europe[5]. The purpose of EMS to EMU was to cut off domination of the Bundesbank in other states’ economic policies in favor of a more collective sovereignty in steering European wide economic policy. France in wishing to secure political integration in the future, made a proposal during the Intergovernmental Conference that the final Stage III of the Delors plan was to begin in 1999 and Germany would be unable to opt out. This combined the political motivation of EMU with the economic guidance of German low-inflation. As a testament to political factors in determining the structure of the EMU, it was accepted that it would have to satisfy German concerns, meaning that the European Central Bank (ECB) in structure would have to resemble the Bundesbank. The ECB would acquire protection from political interference and concentrating on price stability[6]. The actual imposition of the ECB signaled the coming of true EMU, especially since it would have a single currency to work with. The creation of EMU was economically motivated due to the simplicity of demands as a mode of Regional Integration. Yet, the European project is political in nature since its days of the Economic Coal and Steel Community where the belief of economic integration was a key feature to bringing a lasting peace upon Europe following the devastation of the world wars. EMS and EMU were therefore hopeful in their initial ends despite their high politics means of keeping smaller states out of the bargaining table. Coercion: Political and Economic Bandwagoning for Survival At the time of Greece joining the EU, Greece was experiencing a period of political instability in between 1981-1989. This was paired with a deep economic failure that resulted in the EU Commission President, Jacques Delors to express that Greece’s problems were becoming a serious cause for concern on the development to EMU [7]. Greece entered the EU during the second wave of enlargements in 1981. When the Euro was adopted, Greece along with Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy, saw their interest rates immediately drop. Every state that was in the EU by 1999 were obliged to join, except the UK and Denmark whom had special exemptions.  Yet since 1984, Greece’s stance has been pro-European despite their economic difficulties. Greece has viewed the EU as a forum where different discussions and ideas can be brought together[8]. This had led to Greece adopting a pro-European stance on most issues except foreign policy. After its membership into the EU, immediately Greece gained a financial flow from the Community budget topping almost 5% of its GDP[9]. Politically, gains were also felt as its political bargaining power increased and it acquired a regional voice. But in the context of the late-1980s EMU, Greece was and was politically weak and economically dependent[10]. There were thus in no position to make any suggestions to the process. Greece’s acquiescence to the process was based on avoiding isolation as a result of EMU, the allowance of negotiating a cohesion fund for poorer regions and hopes to gain influence in other matters such as foreign policy[11]. Considering how the EU was designed, it is of no surprise that present media analyses of the Greek Referendum have become hairy with Germany’s participation as key. The ECB was designed through political negotiations and entails elements of the Bundesbank being adopted. A sense of betrayal is then evident as for a small state, Greece has been in favor of the European project despite the economic integration difficulties that befell the country during the early years of its admission into the European club. It is an instance of “buying the whole cow” when Greece was not part of the initial EMU talks but rather a state trying to prove its worth to gain membership amidst political and economic turmoil in the 1980s. A Barometer of a Generation Yes and No votes have been cast along generational lines. Those that consent to the package are willing to weather out the storm and delay inevitable economic collapse. Contrast members of the ‘No’ camp who are young voters that feel that they have nothing to lose, are risk taking, and are aware that they will remain as the true consequences of their choices unfold in the next coming decades. However, the hindsight of historical experience may not be what is needed in the latest round of EU financial packages. What is being experienced now in Greece is similar to what Europe has experienced in its long hard road to EMU amidst crisis after crisis from the collapse of the Bretton Woods System tied to the US. Only this time, Greece contents with a block of countries rather than a united country (like the US) that stands at a precipice on if it acts as one voice, or follows on the voice of the “powerful” countries. What we must remember is that the EU and the development of the Eurozone especially was a Franco-German project with considerations of the role of Europe, and not its individual member states, on the world stage. This mismatch in history between scenarios and priorities showcases the problems that occur when Greece and any small country finds itself as part of a unique case that fits unwell with recent history and experience of the EU. The start of Maastricht in 1992 and later EMU in 1999 was a signal that in order to function at an equal level, it was necessary for Europe to take part in political integration with the convergence of state infrastructures not only in cooperation but the recognition of a new supranational entity, the ECB. Experience in the flaws of the ERM further spurned decisions towards a supranational EMU to better coordinate and spread stabilizing economies than relying on exchange rates in the hands of individual state governments. The rise of the euro is a story laced with hope but tempered by the weight of political compromises towards Germany. It is thus not surprising that Greece’s “no camp”, in a globalized economy, is feeling tethered to a plan not of their own making. [1] [2] [3] [4] Artis, Mike and Bladen-Hovell, Robin “European Monetary Union” in Artis, Mike and Nikson, Frederick ed.s The Economics of European Union: Policy and Analysis 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001)  Pg 299 [5] Apel, Emmanual “European Monetary Integration 1958-2002” (London: Routeledge, 1997) Introduction: An Ever Closer Union, Pg. 15 [6] Verdun, Amy, “The Institutional Design of EMU: A Democratic Deficit?” Journal of Public Policy, 18, 2, 1998, Pg 112 [7] Featherstone, Kevin. “Greece and EMU: Between external empowerment and domestic vulnerability.” JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies 41.5 (2003): 923-940. [8] Hanf, K., & Soetendorp, B. (Eds.). (2014). Adapting to European integration: small states and the European Union. Routledge. Pg.94 [9] Plaskovitis, I. (1994). EC regional policy in Greece: ten years of structural funds intervention. P. Kazakos and PC Ioakimidis, IEF Working Paper, (9). [10] Op. Cit. Featherstone Pg. 925 [11] Ibid.

Pola Zafra-Davis recently received her PhD in International Politics from Aberystwyth University and is based in Aberystwyth, Wales. She currently teaches core modules at University College London’s European Social and Political Studies Department. She can be reached via twitter @PolaZafraDavis or her personal website

UK defence policy – under any political party – risks being penny wise and pound foolish

Iwan Benneyworth

For a brief time before the General Election campaign commenced, it seemed that UK defence policy was quietly making its way up the news agenda. What was generally regarded as a lower tier issue crowded out by more pressing concerns such as health, education and the economy, started to gain traction, which will tend to happen when you have Russian nuclear bombers buzzing our airspace.

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A Personal Reflection on Loss and Connection post-Brexit

Wendy Tapper, Bridgend

It seems deeply ironic and, to many of us, achingly sad that we are willing to turn away from our European neighbours just as we commemorate the centenary of the battles of the Somme, Mametz Wood, and all our shared experience of the horrors of war. At such times I remember being told stories about my great uncle – the baby of his family, the only boy in a houseful of big sisters – who was interned in a German prisoner-of-war camp in northern France towards the end of the Great War. After the Armistice of 1918, his family waited in vain for his return and neither the British military authorities nor his old comrades could account for his disappearance. At length they, a south Wales miner’s family, wrote to the German authorities for help and got a courteous and kind response. Their boy had been one of thousands of victims of the influenza epidemic that rolled across the devastated continent and he had died in the camp.

Our great uncle remained vivid in our family memory; we have picture postcards he sent home from France and my mother, who died just a few years ago, would recall her childhood adoration of a lively and indulgent young uncle. Decades later a relative traced his grave – not in one of the great memorial sites but in the communal cemetery of a small French town. There, records show that allied soldiers of several nationalities were buried alongside German soldiers, Chinese labourers, and a solitary Russian. They had all suffered and died far from home and the people who loved them.

Now, a century after the carnage of the Somme, my family – like so many others – reflects a more peaceful Europe, a more inter-connected world. We have spun outwards from that Welsh mining village. I have French and German grandchildren and through their heritage I connect with families whose memories are of living under tyranny and foreign occupation. The stories of my new, wider family include: migration to escape poverty and discrimination; the experience of living in caves and foraging for food in Italy as one of the most terrible battles of World War II raged overhead; flight across Germany in 1945 ahead of the advancing Soviet army; and the desperate journey of ‘boat people’ from communist China. They are all our family, our people; their histories have melded with ours to become our common story.

Greenham Common; a significant protest seldom acknowledged

By Lydia Edwards

Greenham Common could have been an insignificant point in Berkshire if it were not for the Greenham Common Women’s peace camp that was established in 1981 to protest against nuclear weapons being sited at the RAF base.

Source: Welling, C. (2016). Towing friends Greenham Common. [online] Available at: [Accessed 21 Jul. 2016].

Source: Welling, C. (2016). Towing friends Greenham Common. [online] Available at: [Accessed 21 Jul. 2016].

In 1979, NATO decided the airbase located on the common was to be used as the site for the deployment of American cruise missiles, the missiles would arrive at Greenham in 1983. However even before the arrival of the nuclear weapons a remarkable protest had gathered with the notorious women’s peace camp at its center.

The camps origins began in a march organized from Cardiff to Greenham Common under the banner of “Women for Life on Earth”[1]. The march left Cardiff on the 27th of August 1981 and arrived at Greenham on the 5th of September. The original 36 women, 4 men and 3 children were there to protest on the arrival of American cruise missiles[2]. Upon arrival, the protesters decided that four women should chain themselves to the fence of Greenham and subsequently the press would be notified. Later on, the women wrote a letter to the base commander. The commander replied to this by stating “As far as I’m concerned, you can stay here for as long as you like”. This statement is one he would regret[3].

By the end of the week the women took part in chaining action on a rota basis, more and more women became a part of the movement and a peace camp came into fruition – by November it was firmly established and by March 1982, it became a women’s only peace protest.

The support for Greenham women became widespread. Many women across Britain became members of Greenham support groups. The camp also attracted women from other countries and inspired the development of further women’s peace camps “at least thirty on three continents by 1983”[4]. The slogan “Greenham Women Everywhere” formed a wider web of protest across Britain and beyond.

It accumulated further support throughout 1982 when Newbury Council were determined to evict the women from the common along with a series of activities by Greenham Women which ultimately led to arrests, court cases and prison sentences for some[5]. These activities included the first blockade of the base by 250 women in March, a symbolic die-in at the London stock exchange in June. A die-in is a type of protest whereby participants pretend to be dead. Furthermore there was an occupation inside the base in August as well as an encirclement of the base. This was known to many as “embrace the base”[6].

Many of the characteristic features of the campaign were taking shape during 1982. Women were learning techniques of passive resistance and how to plan and execute large actions within the principles of non-hierarchical organisation. They were challenging the legal framework and court procedures in ways reminiscent of the Suffragettes. It is argued that up to 50,000 women engaged with the camp by December 1983[7].

One of the women that engaged in the protests over the years was called Helen Thomas, who came from Newcastle Emlyn, Carmarthenshire. A woman who was inspired by the women of Greenham Common paid the ultimate price for peace. According to the sources, Helen went to the peace camp at the beginning of 1989 when the camp had a decline in media interest and they were short of women who wanted to be involved. Her mother once wrote to her asking her to come home, get a decent job and be involved at Greenham part-time. However, Helen was determined and argued that “peace and justice was not a part-time job”[8].

This decision was to be a significant and ill-fated. Helen was hit by a police car on August 5th, 1989 which proved to be fatal. Helen was 22 when she passed away, she was only at the camp for two months prior to the accident. Her death was ruled to be an accident although it is still contested by Helens family and friends who argue the verdict is questionable as standard procedures were not followed[9].

Source: Dicken, Paul. "Wales, Greenham Common And Occupy | Hiraeth". N.p., 2011. Web. 19 July 2016.

Source: Dicken, Paul. “Wales, Greenham Common And Occupy | Hiraeth”. N.p., 2011. Web. 19 July 2016.

Wales for Peace have a commemorative plaque for Helen, located within the garden of peace behind the Temple of Peace and Health in Cardiff and is available for the public to visit.

Although Greenham Common has been disbanded, and it seems we live in a society that seems to have more violence as time passes, the fight for peace continues. Helen Thomas along with the other women of Greenham played an active role in moving the struggle onward.

[1] Liddington, J. (1989) The Long Road to Greenham: Feminism and anti-militarism in Britain since 1820. United Kingdom: Trafalgar Square.

[2] Shaw, M (1993) “Women in Protest and Beyond: Greenham Common and Mining Support Groups.” PhD Thesis. Durham University. Print.

[3] Harford, B and Hopkins (1984) S. Greenham Common. London: Women’s Press. Print.

[4] We Are Ordinary Women (1985) Seattle: Seal Press. Print.

[5] Liddington, J. (1989) The Long Road to Greenham: Feminism and anti-militarism in Britain since 1820. United Kingdom: Trafalgar Square.

[6] Roseneil, Sasha. Common Women, Uncommon Practices. London: Cassell, 2000. Print.

[7] Harford, Barbara and Sarah Hopkins. Greenham Common. London: Women’s Press, 1984. Print.

[8] “The Woman Who Paid The Ultimate Price For Peace”. walesonline. N.p., 2011. Web. 13 July 2016.

[9] “Greenham Common Campaigner Helen Thomas Honoured | Women’s Views On News”. N.p., 2016. Web. 19 July 2016.

Mametz Wood; A Legacy

By Lydia Edwards

Over eight million men were killed in the conflict of the First World War and 37 million wounded, nowhere was the slaughter more extreme than on Somme in 1916. One of the battles that has left a legacy within conflict was Mametz Wood.

The battle of Somme itself was between 1 July and 18 November 1916 on both sides of the upper reaches of the River Somme in France. It was the largest battle of the First World War on the Western Front and over one million men died[1]. Mametz wood was, indeed, the largest wood on the Somme Battlefront[2]. It was the objective of the 38th (Welsh) Division during the First Battle of Somme.

The aim was to seize the forest leading to a takeover of the German front within a few hours. But that’s not what happened. Although the Welsh succeeded the intended hours turned into 5 days of battle, between the 7th of July 1916 and 12th of July, which led to many dead or injured. Certainly, it was a sight where 46 officers and 556 other ranks were killed along with a total number of 3993 casualties[3]. These casualties came from the 20,000 volunteers who came together to fight for the Division. It is regarded as a momentous and gory battle fought by Welsh soldiers during the First World War.

Robert Graves, who fought in the battle, and is since a poet, wrote:

“It was full of dead Prussian Guards, big men, and dead Royal Welch Fusiliers and South Wales Borderers, little men. Not a single tree in the wood remained unbroken.”[4]

The Legacy of Mametz is something quite striking and significant. The Battle still resonates today with many families and veterans, and people who were not alive at the time of the battle are now drawn to it. The legacy of Mametz Wood on Wales is as important as the battle itself. In the words of Robin Barlow (2014) “The Name of Mametz Wood, perhaps like those of Aberfan or Senghenydd, is embedded deep in the Welsh psyche, immediately conjuring up images of the needless loss of life, bravery, chaos and self-sacrifice[5]

Lloyd George was enthusiastic to mark what he saw as the primary achievement of the Welsh battalion he had placed together. He commissioned the Welsh artist Christopher Williams to paint a huge work. The Charge of the Welsh Division at Mametz Wood, to commemorate the battle. It hung in 10 Downing Street and later was donated to the National Museum of Wales.

In Owen Sheers’ poem ‘Mametz Wood’ this is also emphasised in the first lines of the poem in the words “For years afterword”[6]. Another who has used creativity to emphasise the horror of Mametz Wood is David Jones, a soldier who fought at Mametz Wood, who wrote the epic poem “In Parenthesis” in 1937. The poem has recently been turned into an opera by Iain Bell which has recently been performed by The Welsh National Opera and performances have happened across Britain. In Parenthesis beautifully emphasises the morning after the first day of battle, in which over 400 Welshmen died. David Jones writes “But how intolerable bright the morning is where we who are alive and remain, walk lifted up, carried forward by an effective word.[7]

In 1987 the battle of Mametz was once again in focus when the 38th Welsh Division Memorial at Mametz Wood was erected. The Welsh Government contributed a significant amount of funds to establish the Monument of the battle in France.

Indeed, when one utters the words of “Mametz Wood” one imagines scenes of bloodshed, fortitude and the deceased. The National Museum of Wales is currently holding an exhibition on the battle named “’War’ Hell!’ The Battle of Mametz Wood in Art” as 2016 marks the centenary of the Battle. It is on display until the 4th of September 2016 and admission is free.

[1] Hirst, A. (2016) Battle of the Somme was probably worst ever military disaster. Available at: (Accessed: 5 August 2016).

[2] Carradice, Phil (2010) “The Battle of Mametz Wood”. Wales. Web. 19 July 2016.

[3] [3] Carradice, Phil (2010) “The Battle of Mametz Wood”. Wales. Web. 19 July 2016.

[4] Poet Robert Graves on Mametz wood (2014) Available at: (Accessed: 29 July 2016).

[5]Administrator, w. (2012). Welsh History Month: Mametz Wood. [online] wales online. Available at: [Accessed 21 Jul. 2016].

[6] Sheers, O. (2005). Skirrid Hill. Bridgend: Seren.

[7] Jones, D. (1937) In Parenthesis.

Jenan’s story

By Zuzana Nevolová

Jenan has been living in Cardiff for ten years now. Being half British, half Iraqi, she has never had problems speaking both Arabic and English. But even though Arabic is – quite understandably – much closer to her heart since she has lived in Iraq most of her life, she feels very privileged to live in Cardiff. Many members of her family are forced to stay in the isolated city of Mosul, which is currently held by the so called Islamic state.

And so, despite being very much fluent in the English language, Jenan likes to speak with most of the family in her mother tongue, Arabic. Completely normal, isn’t it? But then her neighbour abused her for speaking Arabic in her own house!

A lady living just next door to Jenan’s house repeatedly demanded Jenan, and even her visitors to only speak English. Without any further explanation she shouted at Jenan and her little grandchildren when they were playing Arabic word games on Jenan’s porch. The neighbour said that as UK citizens, they should only speak English and basically tried to forbid them to speak another language on their own property.

This happened many times, and the neighbour made it clear that she resents the idea of being neighbours with an Iraqi.

Until then, Jenan had never had someone complain about the culture of her origin in Cardiff. She considers the people of Cardiff to be lovely and her neighbourhood to be exceptionally friendly. But as an exception to prove the rule, one of her neighbours did not share this friendly attitude.

The acts of intolerance coming from the neighbour have made Jenan feel unsafe. Unsafe to speak the language in her own home, unsafe in her own skin.

The repeated insults and utterly absurd demands forced Jenan to approach the hate-crime department of the Cardiff police. The officers reacted extremely quickly, inspected the situation and talked to the people who were involved. Despite the limited resolution possibilities, the police have gone out of their way to help and to prevent other incidents from happening not only by making a record of the incidents, but by repeatedly checking on the situation at Jenan’s house though phone-calls and general reassurance.

In fact, even the positive response from Jenan’s other neighbours was heart-warming and overwhelming supportive. Many of the residents expressed their consternation, brought Jenan and her family flowers to reassure her and a few of them even started studying Arabic with Jenan!

And therefore, thanks to her Cardiff community, Jenan feels supported and trusts that the police don’t overlook such incidents.

Because they shouldn’t ever be overlooked or underestimated.


This blog was written as part of a UNA Exchange / Wales for Peace project: A group of international volunteers from across Europe spent two weeks volunteering with a group of women  from Women Connect First based in Riverside, Cardiff. As they volunteered together, they shared peace stories.  

Cardiff, a Place for Peace

By Belén Diez

As a volunteer working on the Wales for Peace Project, my main goal is to convey to readers the personal story of on the women refugees living in Cardiff. For the past few days I have spent a great amount of time with women from a wide range of nationalities (Algeria, Libya, Zimbabwe…), all of whom have something in common: they ran away from violence in their native countries and they all have found in Cardiff a place where the have built their homes in peace.

As a personal choice I decided to tell the story of a Syrian woman. In contrast to all the stories about fear, pain and sadness that we hear in the media everyday, I want to convey a story of hope, respect and understanding.

Interviewing the protagonist of my story has not been easy at all, I still wonder why she feels shame because what has happened is not her fault but, in any case, I can understand that her story is not easy to tell. Finally, she agreed to tell her story through one of her friends that I had the chance to meet in the non profitable organization Woman Connect First.

Lets call her Irene because Irene, in its original Greek language, means peace and peace is what this story is about.

Aged 32, Irene came to the United Kingdom three years ago running away from the horror and panic of the Syrian Civil War. Its more than 2,370 miles of fear, fear for what you have left behind but also fear about what awaits for you in your new destination but also of expectation and hope: nothing can be worse that facing the war every day.

Her first residence was in London, but she couldn’t find a home there. Some episodes of racism and the high cost of living made London a hostile place for her, so she decided to move to Wales. In Cardiff Irene has found a place where she can live in peace. Indeed, most refugees I met highlight that Cardiff citizens have a high sense of tolerance.

Just a few months after moving to Cardiff, Irene was hired as a teacher in an Arabic school as well as a babysitter. With her work she can afford the cost of the rent of her apartment and support her family. However, what she most likes in Cardiff is its open-minded people, always willing to integrate, regardless of nationality, language, religion or skin colour. Here kindness is the only response to diversity.

“Do you think that the local Government is working hard in improving and promoting the integration of refugees?” her answer is absolutely positive, pointing out that legislation on rights and the creation of a budget for rental assistance are the main paths used in order to support real integration.

The last question of the interview is whether she prefers to live in Cardiff or in Syria and the answer comes out from her mouth clearly and unhesitatingly: Syria is my home, it is where I grew up and is where my family and my memories remain, “Coming back to Syria would be a miracle.” Meanwhile, Cardiff gives her a place to live in peace, to enjoy the feeling of being part of a community. In her own words: “here, I have rights”.

From my personal view, the greatest achievement is that local citizens feel proud to live in an environment of diversity and multiculturalism; this ensures respect, understanding and peace.

This blog was written as part of a UNA Exchange / Wales for Peace project: A group of international volunteers from across Europe spent two weeks volunteering with a group of women  from Women Connect First based in Riverside, Cardiff. As they volunteered together, they shared peace stories.  

Fflur’s work experience

By Fflur Jones

I volunteered with WCIA for a week and half in July, hoping to learn more about charities and organisations working in the field of international relations and politics. I was not disappointed. Even though I was only in the office for 4 days, I was given a varied range of activities from posting on the WCIA’s social media to evaluating ChangeMakers packs for teachers. I was introduced to the concept of the charity’s “voice”, the one which I had to write Facebook and Twitter posts with, and shown how to collate data the Wales for Peace team had collected during various events.

These activities enabled me to understand the goal of the charity and the means through which they achieve it. Indeed, it was gratifying to be of some use and to contribute to the team’s work instead of being a spare part lying around. It was also interesting to work in conjunction with other projects and charities sharing the corridor and to meet new people from all sorts of backgrounds.

I was also extremely fortunate to be able to attend the National Eisteddfod with the Wales for Peace and Hub Africa projects. These trips not only provided a break from the office work but also introduced me to the direct relations the charity has with the public. Working to introduce others to the projects in such a unique festival-like atmosphere proved challenging, but we quickly figured that drawing for children brought in the parents! The whole team was very welcoming and made me feel very much at home both in the office and in the Eisteddfod tent. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed my time there and by how quickly the time flew. When I first contacted them I was just hoping for something to talk about on my personal statement, I walk away with a whole package of new skills and an insight into the field I hope to work in.

Find out about volunteering at the WCIA at