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)*.

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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

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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).

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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:

Laws

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.

Budgets

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!).

Control

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: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/visiting/en/parlamentarium

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] http://www.vox.com/2015/7/2/8883129/greek-crisis-euro-explained-video [2] http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Unemployment_statistics [3] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/03/greece-corruption-alive-and-well [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 polazafradavis.co.uk

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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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 http://www.wcia.org.uk/volunteer

Volunteering helps Shoruk find peace

By Catherine Bony

On Wednesday evenings Shoruk can be found patrolling the streets of Riverside neighbourhood, clad in a tailor-made police uniform. If you take a closer look at her, you will see that a scarf frames her seventeen year old smiling face under the regular police helmet. If needed she can undertake first aid, or in any case, assist her senior colleagues.

She has been volunteering for a year in the police force and for a few years in other organisations. She loves it. “I feel peaceful when I do volunteering work”, she explains to the group of international volunteers who are listening to her testimony. She is not only committed to ensure that people’s safety and peace is maintained but she is also involved in raising money for the charity ‘Human Appeal’, which is a girls orphanage in Palestine. She has pledged to gather at least £10,000 for the charity.

The striking element of Shoruk’s story is the contrast between her engagement to promote peace and welfare to the Welsh people whilst a war is currently raging in her home country, Libya. She had left her home country seven years ago with her large family. They stayed in several different places: Czech Republic, Tunisia and America before eventually ending up in England. It was here that her brilliant father could pursue his PHD studies in electrical engineering.

So far, they have been denied the asylum that they have applied for, however, there is no doubt that they fully deserve recognition and will obtain it. Meanwhile, Shoruk remains as committed as ever but admits that she has not settled down entirely, for her heart still beats fast for her homeland!

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.  

Reflections on social work and peace

By Fernando Vespa

During my interview of a member of Women Connect First, the topic of social work attracted immediately my attention. This because during my work as trainee lawyer specializing in human rights law I’m always facing social and integration issues, that are obviously linked with the theme of peace and of living together in a community.

One WCF member, involved in local social activities organized by the Cardiff Council, told us that Social Work is first of all important for you as a person and as a human, because of her experiences of social work in the UK. This because if you are a social worker you will be called to help people in a lot of different ways, to develop your skills in listening and understanding and to appreciate the positive values linked to cultural diversity. She told us that be a social worker is also responsible work, because you will be involved in very sensitive and delicate personal stories, and confidentiality of all information will be strictly required.

You will be called to interact with many different types of people, all requiring different type of attention: homeless people, people with disabilities, victims of violence and abuse, older people, people with psychological problems, etc.
At the end, we made a brief comparison with the situation of social work in the other countries of origin of the members of WCF. We realised that in Europe there is a lot of public sector support for this kind of activity (e.g. from Cardiff Council). However in other countries the existence of the role of social worker is not to be taken for granted. The Arabic women told us that there is no such thing as social worker support in their countries, while the women from India and Pakistan told us that there was in theirs.

These different situations made us reflect on how the approach to social problems can change depending on country of origin, and a worldwide call for attention for people who needs help seems absolutely necessary. In this context the role of social worker will be very important to ensure that everyone could live together, and better, in 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.  

This is a story – A different story. This is Alice’s story.

By Linda Blankenburg

When Alice* was 29 years old she made a decision that was going to change her life. She decided to abandon her loved, always sunny home country Zimbabwe for cold, cloudy Cardiff, UK.

What does a woman from southern Africa want in the busy city of Cardiff? Alice left Zimbabwe because of religious and political persecution caused by President Robert Mugabe and his party the ZANU-PF. Mugabe has been ruling the country dictatorially leading it to an economic crisis.

But Alice didn’t only leave her country; she left her family, her friends and her dream job. Following two of her older brothers who were already living in Cardiff, she took the plane to the capital of Wales in order to start a new life. While reading this we have to keep in mind that the life we have here is completely different from life in other countries. Going out for a drink, walking alone on the streets at night – this is a luxury we might not appreciate enough. Nor do we value ever-present rights such as the freedom of religion or the right to vote.

14 years have passed since then and many things have changed. Not only did Alice get used to the (in her opinion) cold weather, but she also started appreciating life itself. Still, there are many difficulties to overcome: As for all asylum seekers, Alice had to apply for asylum in the UK. Though she was persecuted and leaving her country was the right decision, her asylum application has been rejected three times. At the moment she is waiting for a positive response from the responsible immigration authority.

Sometimes Alice is sad. She is sad because she misses her family and friends who are still in Zimbabwe. But she is also sad because she is not allowed to work or study here. In Zimbabwe she was working as an IT System Administrator – a job that suited her perfectly.

As she can’t work and therefore has a lot of free time, she started volunteering. Four days a week she helps in organizations such as Women Connect First in the heart of Cardiff. There she met many women who have been in similar life situations. Volunteering also helped her gain more confidence, and experience a loving and caring community. Although she hasn’t been to Zimbabwe since she came here, Zimbabwe will always remain her favourite country.

She would love to go back when the situation is better but right now it is still too dangerous. This is not the life she imagined and this is not the life she was dreaming of when she was a little child, nevertheless one can see that she is happy here. This is mainly due to the fact that she found peace here. She felt the peace she had been waiting for so long, the first moment she arrived at the airport.

Defining peace is a difficult question. Someone might find peace while doing yoga or just taking a bath and relaxing. But is this really the same peace other people feel? Alice’s definition of peace is being happy and content with what you have. For her peace is also connected to love and care. Alice definitely changed my perception of peace because I wasn’t aware of how lucky we are here. What is your definition of peace? Did this story change it?

*Name changed in order to keep privacy

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.  

Dreams, food, peace

By Alejandro de Miguel

Is it possible for the woman I met to follow her dreams? This question rumbled in my head while we were eating Farial’s feta pizza, an Italian-Middle East recipe, in a break of an activity in Woman Connect First as a part of the UNA exchange work camp 2016. Before eating I sneaked into the kitchen following a charming smell as mice followed the pied-piper and I saw her focused on her task putting a lot of effort into her cooking. After we all cleaned our plates she seemed really fulfilled, with satisfaction in her face, but I thought: Was it her life dream?

Farial grew up in Jordan, a small country in the Middle East. It is considered one of the safest places in the area and it is also famous because is really advanced in comparison to other countries nearby. However, she was brought up in a strict Muslim society and her life was decided from the very beginning. According to her: “there is no respect for woman in my country”. When she was young she aimed to be a journalist with a wish in her mind: ‘to give voice to women’s demands’. But, as a member of a sexist culture she was supposed to be married and so she did.
She started a new life with his husband and they had 4 sons.

Life brought them to Italy where they spent sixteen years. Europe was a radical change for her: ‘when I arrived to Europe I felt different, free’. Farial claimed that she was alone in a foreign country and she felt insecure but nonetheless she had to cook for all her family and be creative and diverse. Farial took advantage of her background in Jordan and her national cuisine and included some inspiration from Italian food. Even though she had never had cooking lessons she learned from the experience. Finally she found a new goal to fight for: her family.

After their Italian adventure, Farial’s family moved to Wales. She started to work as a chef in a restaurant. She cooked Middle East food such as falafel, hummus, cucumber-mint yogurt salad, etc. This period of her life was quite stressful because there were only two employees and a plenty of work regardless the fact that she had to take care of her children. At some point she decided to quit and do something different with her cooking skills.

Farial started to volunteer in a nursing home in Cardiff. She cooks Italian recipes for them and everyday she feels satisfied. She said ‘It’s not just about food, it’s about making people happy’. Farial found in cooking a way to make a difference.

Journalism and cooking are things apparently different, but in the way that Farial spoke about them, they are not so dissimilar. Both can be used to do something for others, so, in some ways, she did follow her dream, despite all the challenges she faced. Live is tough but Farial shows everyday that things can change when you put your heart into it.

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.