#Temple80 – A month celebrating Wales’ Peacemakers and movements

Through November 2018, the Welsh Centre for International Affairs organised an ambitious programme of events to mark the 80th Anniversary of the opening of Wales’ Temple of Peace on Nov 23rd 1938, as well as #WW100 – the centenary of the Armistice of 11th Nov 1918, and beginning of the post-WW1 “Peace Process” that shaped global relations over the century since.

WCIA delivered over 43 events with a wide range of partners, each exploring an area of Wales’ ‘Peace Heritage’, and the work of Temple organisations past, present and future – as well as showcasing through the Wales for Peace Exhibition the work of volunteers and communities who have contributed to the Wales for Peace programme between 2014-18. This blog aims to draw together links and resources from all these activities, as they become available.

Voices of 1938 – Clippings Projection 

Voices of Temple80 – Film

Temple80 November Programme of Events (scroll down for recordings / outputs)

View full programme of events – English; Welsh; Eventbrite

View Temple80 Exhibition Guide – English; Welsh

Listen to ‘Assemble’, composed for Temple80 / WW100 by Iffy Iwobi and Jon Berry

Temple80 Anniversary Evening

Centrepiece of Temple80 was the Gala evening on 23rd November, attended by about 230 people and including:

Self-Guided Tours of the Temple of Peace, and Temple80 / Wales for Peace exhibition.

‘A New Mecca’ Performance in partnership with Dr. Emma West, Uni of Birmingham and British Academy; Being Human Festival; Gentle Radical Arts Collective; and 50 volunteers and participants from diverse community groups. View ‘A New Mecca for today’ Being Human Festival blog by Dr Emma West.

– Communal Rededication of the Hall of Nations (back to its original 1938 title, as discovered from the archives)

– Food, Drink and Fireworks

– Launch of ‘Voices of Temple80’ Documentary Film by Tracy Pallant / Amy Peckham / Valley & Vale Community Arts

– WCIA VIPs Reception and alumni reunion, with Cutting of a ‘Rainbow Cake’

Peace Garden 30th Anniversary

On Saturday 24th, this was followed by a #PeaceGarden30 Rededication and Family Fun Day, in which WCIA brought together UNA Exchange international volunteers and alumni and Garden of Peace Founder Robert Davies, with children from Roath Park Primary School

Together they unveiled 2 new colourful mosaics (created by international volunteers) on a new archway entrance in the Peace Garden; buried a Time Capsule in the Garden, to be opened in 50 years time; and unveiled a plaque on one of WCIA’s meeting rooms in honour of Robert Davies, and all international youth volunteers inspired by him from 1973 to today.

#Temple80 ‘Wales for Peace’ Exhibition

The Exhibition accompanying Temple80 sought to draw together the story of the Temple, with Wales’ peace heritage of the last 100 years – including hidden histories gathered by community groups and volunteers 2014-18 – along with responses from young people, schools and artists.

View Temple80 Exhibition Guide – English; Welsh

Artists in Residence showcased a range of responses for visitors to delve deeper into the Temple’s stories:

  •    Jon Berry, Temple80 Artist in Residence composed a series of musical installations responding to the Temple spaces & heritage; and also collaborated with musician Iffy Iwobi to produce and perform ‘Assemble’, a 8 minute musical tribute for the BME Remembrance Service.
  •    Ness Owen, collection of 5 poems responding  to heritage materials in exhibition;
  •    Will Salter, ‘Guiding Hand’ alternative tour of the Temple encouraging deeper spatial appreciation;
  •    Hazel Elstone, crafted multicoloured wreath of red, white, black and purple Remembrance poppies
  •    Lee Karen Stow, with her ‘Women War & Peace’ photography display;
  •    Tracy Pallant & Amy Peckham, with their community films including Temple80 Rap by BME artist Jon Chase.

Recordings / Outputs from Temple80 Events

Event Photo(s) Video(s) Audio(s)
Exhibition – throughout November Flickr Album;

Building the Exhibition

Self-Guided Tour with Craig Owen  
Exhibition Launch and ‘Temple of Memories’ Round Table Flickr Album FACEBOOK LIVE BROADCAST – ‘Temple of Memories’  
BAME Remembrance Service, 2nd Nov Flickr Album   ASSEMBLE – by Iffy Iwobi & Jon Berry
International Development, 5th Nov      
Schools Conference, 6TH Nov Flickr Album    
War, Peace & the Environment, 6th Nov Article    
Temple Tours   Exhibition Walkthrough  
Turning the Pages – every day through Nov Soldiers Stories FACEBOOK LIVE BROADCAST – Turning of the Pages Thoughts from the Crypt
Story of the Book of Remembrance, 9th Nov Flickr Album FACEBOOK LIVE BROADCAST – Story of the Book 1 and 2 Story of the Book of Remembrance
Armistice Day Services, 11th Nov Flickr Album    
Campaigning for Change, 13th Nov   FACEBOOK LIVE BROADCAST – CAMPAIGNING FOR CHANGE Campaigning for Change
Refugees & Sanctuary, 16th Nov   FACEBOOK LIVE BROADCAST – REFUGEES & SANCTUARY  
Peace Education, 20th Nov   FACEBOOK LIVE BROADCAST – PEACE EDUCATION  
Legacy of WW100, 21st Nov Flickr Album   Legacy of WW100 Audio
Women War & Peace, 22nd Nov   FACEBOOK LIVE – LEE STOW WOMEN WAR & PEACE

FACEBOOK LIVE – WELSH WOMEN & PEACE

FACEBOOK LIVE – 1980S ANTI NUCLEAR CAMPAIGNERS

Women War & Peace x 6
Peace Garden Rededication & Family Fun Day, 24th Nov Flickr Album Peace Garden Rededication + Robert Davies  

Media Coverage

A New Mecca for Today? Being Human Festival Blog by Dr. Emma West, British Academy

‘We Will Remember Them’ – BBC Documentary by Huw Edwards (Temple of Peace features in about 5 minutes of content, with Dr Emma West and Dr Alison Fell)

How Wales’ most Tragic Mother spread Peace and Hope – Western Mail / Wales Online

Cardiff’s Temple of Peace opens its doors to celebrate 80th birthday – University of Birmingham article

War Mothers as Peace Builders – University of Birmingham

Remembrance Weekend at Temple of Peace – The Cardiffian

Temple of Peace turns 80 – The Cardiffian

Social Media Archives

Twitter Feed & Media: https://twitter.com/walesforpeace?lang=en

Youtube Videos Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0G2l7QV_yPDU4RHB8hEEPg?view_as=subscriber

Soundcloud Event Recordings: https://soundcloud.com/walesforpeace

Flickr Photo Albums: https://www.flickr.com/photos/129767871@N03/albums

People’s Collection Wales archive collections: https://www.peoplescollection.wales/user/8498/author/8498/content_type/collection/sort/date

Facebook Community Page: https://www.facebook.com/pg/walesforpeace/posts

 

 

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#WW100 Weekend – The Story of Wales’ Book of Remembrance

Visit and search Wales’ Book of Remembrance online at www.BookofRemembrance.Wales / www.LlyfryCofio.Cymru  

Wales’ Temple of Peace and Health, home of the Welsh Centre for International Affairs and the HLF-funded ‘Wales for Peace’ project, was built as the nation’s memorial to the fallen of World War One – a memorial that would inspire future generations to learn from the conflicts of the past, to chart Wales’ role in the world, and to work towards peace.

100 years ago this weekend, the world said ‘Never Again’ to conflict, as the Armistice Bells tolled on 4 years that had wiped out a generation.  A nation in agony of grief and mourning braced to rebuild, and to build a better world.

CaernarfonPoppies4-1200x900 Red White WfP Poppies

100 years later, the red poppies of military remembrance – as well as the white poppies for peace, black poppies for BME communities, and purple poppies for animals lost in war – all mark the minute’s silence at 11am on 11.11, poppies for people of all perspectives.

But on #WW100, our poppies of all colours also remember those who have fallen and been left behind by a century of conflicts since – WW2, Spain, Korea, Colonial Wars, the Cold War, Vietnam, Falklands, Gulf, Balkans, War on Terror, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria… What has the world really learned from Remembrance? To glorify war… or to prevent it?

Davies Family of Llandinam

The Davies Family of Llandinam

Differing attitudes to confronting conflict are not new. Through WW1, the Davies family of Llandinam in Powys would have had dinner table debates that represented the cross-section of society. Grandchildren of the Welsh industrialist David Davies:

Book of Remembrance Cover

Creation of the Book of Remembrance

In the early 1920s, as families grappled with the Aftermath of WW1 and their loss, memorials sprang up Wales-wide. A Welsh National War Memorial was proposed for Alexandra Gardens in Cathays Park. The 35-40,000 names of Wales’ fallen were to be inscribed in a beautiful Book – Wales’ WW1 Book of Remembrance – that would become a work of art, a national treasure and a place of pilgrimage.

Screenshot 2018-11-10 at 17.59.26 Screenshot 2018-11-10 at 17.59.43

The Book is the work of world-renowned calligrapher Graily Hewitt, working closely it is thought with the Davies sisters and their Gregynog Press artists. A great nationwide effort was made to gather the names of the fallen; and a team of women in Midhurst, Sussex worked over several years to complete the Book.

The Davies sisters and the Gregynog Press had a mission to create books of high art and beauty. Bound in Moroccan Leather, with Indian Ink and Gold Leaf on pages of Vellum, the fine illumination techniques were a revival of Mediaeval skills.

View Flickr Album of the Book of Remembrance in the Temple of Peace

Screenshot 2018-11-10 at 18.11.30 1917 Caernarfon RfP Book of Remembrance Hedd Wyn - Ellis Evans closeup 1

“this Book of Souls, reposed upon a stone of French Marble, encased in Belgian Bronze, illuminated individually, painstakingly by hand in Indian Ink and the finest Gold Leaf upon handcrafted Vellum… bound in a volume of Moroccan Leather, entombed in a sanctuary of Portland Stone and Greek collonades. It seemed as if the whole Empire were as one in the creation of this memorial to those whose loss must live forever.” 

1928_Welsh_National_War_Memorial Screenshot 2018-11-10 at 18.16.05

The 1,205 pages of 35,000 names were completed in March 1928; and the Book was signed, on 12 June 1928, by Edward Prince of Wales – the future King Edward VIII – on a page emblazoned ‘Er Cof’ – In Memory. It was formally unveiled to the public on 11.11, 1928 – the 10th Anniversary of the Armistice – at the opening of Wales’ National War Memorial in Alexandra Gardens, Cardiff. For the first decade, the Book was held at the National Museum of Wales. But its creation had inspired a greater mission.

Wales’ Peacebuilding movements had been particularly active through the 1920s on the international stage. Lord David Davies had a vision that Wales should lead the world in the realisation of Peace, enshrined in bricks and mortar – by building the first in what was hoped would be a string of ‘Temple’s of Peace’ around the world.

1930 Temple proposed cross-sections

A Temple of Peace

Leading architects were invited to design a building that would both hold the Book of Remembrance, and inspire future generations – and in 1929, Cardiff architect Percy Thomas was commissioned to design Wales’ Temple of Peace, on land given by Cardiff Corporation. After a slow start during the Great Depression, in 1934 Lord Davies gave £60,000 of his own money to get the project off the ground.

1937 Foundation stone ceremony 1938 Temple from Cathays Park.jpg

In April 1937, the Foundation Stone was laid to great ceremony in Cathays Park, Cardiff, by Lord Halifax – one of the leading ‘peace politicians’ of the time. But the late 1930s were troubled times; the post-WW1 ‘Peace Reparations’ that had crippled Germany, had led Hitler to power – and Lord Halifax, working hard to avoid war at all costs, would go down in history as an ‘appeaser’ (although this is a perhaps unfair and simplistic view of his peace building attempts). But even as the Temple was under construction, sandbags and bomb shelters were being constructed on the streets either side.

“A New Mecca – the Opening of Wales’ Temple of Peace and Health” Blog Piece by Dr. Emma West for the ‘Being Human Festival’.

Screenshot 2018-11-10 at 18.54.14 1938 Crowds for Opening of Temple of Peace

In Nov 1938, the Temple of Peace was opened by ‘Mother of Wales’ Minnie James from Dowlais, Merthyr Tydfil, who had lost 3 sons in WW1 – representing the bereaved mothers of Wales. She was accompanied by representatives of mothers from across Britain and the Empire, identified through the British Legion and local Press campaigns. The Temple sought to champion equality from the outset – although the opening ceremony was very much ‘of its time’, as the women were not able to write their own speeches.

The inclement weather of the opening day, and the umbrellas of the massive crowds assembled to watch, were a poignant reminder that storm clouds loomed over Europe. It would be only months later that WW2 finally broke out.

View Video of Press Cuttings from the 1938 Opening of Wales’ Temple of Peace

Screenshot 2018-11-08 at 17.37.27 Screenshot 2018-11-08 at 17.55.18.png

“We will Remember Them” by BBC’s Huw Edwards, Nov 2018, features 3 minutes on the Temple of Peace and Book of Remembrance (from 38.30)

A Place of Pilgrimage

Despite the outbreak of war, the Temple of Peace became a place of pilgrimage for people from all over Wales. In an era when travelling to France, Belgium or even further afield was beyond the reach of most working people, community groups and schools Wales-wide would organise ‘pilgrimages’ to visit the Book of Remembrance. These visits were often promoted extensively in local newspapers.

Screenshot 2018-11-10 at 19.50.03.png The Crypt in 1938

At 11am every morning, a page of the Book would be turned – the names announced in the press the week beforehand, so that relatives could come to witness the ceremony as their loved ones were spotlighted. Visitors would take part in a beautiful, solemn yet forward looking Service of Remembrance, compiled by the Davies Sisters of Gregynog – and would sign a visitors book pledging their allegiance to pursuit of peace.

After WW2 another generation of Welsh men and women had fallen; and a WW2 Book of Remembrance was commissioned. Though intended to reside alongside the WW1 Book, for reasons lost to history it has remained hidden from view and access within the archives of the National Museum of Wales. As recent as 1993, architectural plans were drawn up to adapt the Hall of the Temple of Peace to display both books side by side. But to date, they have never been united, and this remains an aspiration of the Welsh Centre for International Affairs (WCIA) to this day.

As the survivors of the WW1 generation grew older – and as overseas travel has become easier – visitors to the Book of Remembrance grew lesser over the years. The Book, and the Temple, has been visited by such luminaries as Peres de Cuellar, Secretary General of the United Nations, in 1984; and Desmond Tutu in 2012. But by 2014, it seemed the Book of Remembrance had been largely… forgotten?

Wales for Peace Exhibition Title Panel A1 Landscape

Remembering for Peace – 2014-18

In 2014, WCIA alongside 10 national partners developed the ‘Wales for Peace’ project, funded by HLF and supported by Cymru’s Cofio / Wales Remembers, which aimed to mark the centenary of WW1 by exploring one big question:

“How, in the 100 years since WW1, had the people of Wales contributed to the search for peace?” 

As guardians of the Temple of Peace, WCIA’s project started with making the Book of Remembrance accessible again to the public. The aim was to create a travelling exhibition – uniting the Book for the first time with the communities Wales-wide from whom its 35,000 names originated; and to digitise the book, so it could be accessible online to future generations.

Screenshot 2018-11-10 at 18.55.45.png

Transcription of the book was launched on Remembrance Day 2015 with an event at the Senedd, Cardiff Bay, where Assembly Members were invited to view the book and transcribe the first names. A nationwide call was launched for volunteers, schools and community groups to participate in a ‘Digital act of Remembrance’.

Local workshops, from Snowdonia to Swansea, enabled people to be part of ‘making history’. Schools developed ‘hidden histories’ projects discovering the stories behind the names, an experience that proved deeply moving for many as they connected to people long forgotten.

Screenshot 2018-11-10 at 18.55.38.png

Exhibition Tour

The Remembering for Peace Exhibition was launched in the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth in January 2016. It has travelled onwards to:

At each exhibition venue, local partners have worked with community groups to draw out diverse local stories, so every exhibition has been different. A Schools Curriculum Pack, ‘Remembering for Peace’ is available on Hwb, and a Hidden Histories Guide for Volunteer Groups has been widely used beyond the Wales for Peace project.

Screenshot 2018-11-10 at 15.51.16

The Book of Remembrance Online

For Remembrance Day 2017, WCIA and the National Library of Wales were delighted to unveil the completed digital Book of Remembrance and search functionality online at www.BookofRemembrance.Wales / www.LlyfryCofio.cymru.

This is not only a hugely symbolic act of remembrance in itself, but a great credit to over 350 volunteers who contributed towards transcribing the Book to make it accessible for future generations. Their outstanding contribution was recognised when the National Library was bestowed the prestigious Archives Volunteering Award for 2016.

A curious discovery from the digitising process has been the question of ‘how many died’? Most history references – including about the creation of the Book of Remembrance – quote 35,000 as being the number of men and women of Wales who fell in WW1. But just under 40,000 names (39,917) emerged from the transcription data – which suggests Wales’ losses may have been even greater than previously thought.

Soldiers Stories

The undoubted power of the Book of Remembrance is that behind every beautifully illuminated, gilded name, lies a life story – from the famous, to the ordinary, to the comparatively unknown.

Screenshot 2018-11-10 at 18.55.23.png

Hedd Wyn (Ellis Humphrey Evans), Welsh poet and peace icon, who died in Passchendaele just days before attaining the crown of the National Eisteddfod. His prize, forever known as the ‘Black Chair’ and his home farm, Yr Ysgwrn, now a place of pilgrimage in Snowdonia for people learning about WW1, Welsh culture and Peace building. His nephew, Gerald Williams, has kept the doors open and Hedd Wyn’s memory alive, and planted the last poppy at Caernarfon Castle for the opening of the 14-18NOW Weeping Window art work in October 2016.

Screenshot 2018-11-10 at 18.55.10.pngAlfred Thomas from St David’s was serving in the Merchant Navy when his ship, the S S Memnon, was torpedoed. 100 years later, his granddaughter, Gwenno Watkin, was one of the National Library volunteers transcribing the Book of Remembrance when she suddenly came face to face with his name – and went on to discover more about his loss in WW1.

Screenshot 2018-11-10 at 18.54.57.pngJean Roberts, Eva Davies, Margaret Evans and Jennie Williams were all nurses with the Queen Mary’s Auxiliary Corps, who died serving in the field hospitals of France and Belgium. The story of women, war and peace has traditionally been overlooked among ranks of male soldiers – but their stories inspired creation of the Women, War and Peace exhibition, and Women’s Archive Wales’ ‘Women of WW1’ project.

The Beersheba Graves. Eli Lichtenstein is a volunteer in North Wales who grew up in Israel. He was astonished to realise that he recognised many names in the Book of Remembrance from growing up as a child, and discovered that many of the men who fell in the Battle of Beersheba, in former British Palestine, were Royal Welsh Fusiliers from the Llandudno & Bangor area. Read Eli’s Blog Story.

Screenshot 2018-11-10 at 18.54.47.pngDavid Louis Clemetson served with the Pembroke Yeomanry, and is one of many Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Welsh people, as well as those across Britain’s former empire, who lost their lives in WW1. In 2018, for WW100 the Temple of Peace hosted a BME Remembrance Service where the Welsh Government for the first time recognised the sacrifices and losses of Wales’ BME communities in successive British wars.

Screenshot 2018-11-10 at 18.54.39.pngEveryone has a personal story; and Head of Wales for Peace Craig Owen was moved both to discover his own great grandfather, Ally Price’s story, and following a visit to his memorial in Tyne Cot, Belgium, created a short film for his family as he found out more about the ‘man behind the name’ from Radnor, Tredegar and Herefordshire.

Screenshot 2018-11-10 at 18.54.31.png

David James from Merthyr Tydfil, who worked in the drawing office at Dowlais Colliery, served with the Welsh Guards until he was killed in action in October 1916. His two brothers also died from WW1 war injuries, as well as two sisters from cholera. Their mother, Minnie James, was chosen to open Wales’ Temple of Peace & Health in Cardiff in 1938 in their memory.

Video – Minnie James opens the Temple of Peace in 1938.

For the WW100 Armistice weekend, the Temple of Peace remembers all those who fell in the ‘war that was to end war’ – and all those who survived, and gave their all to build peace in the years that followed. Their mission remains as relevant today as ever.

Listen to more:

Explore the Book of Remembrance for yourself:

Book of Remembrance Flyer Cover.png  Book of Remembrance Online

Community Action: The Legacy of Grenfell a year on

By Niamh Mannion

The of 14th June 2018, marked the first anniversary of the Grenfell Tower Fire, in which 72 people lost their lives. The abject horror that encapsulates the tragedy is unquantifiable. But through the tragedy, community spirit prevailed. The local community of North Kensington immediately sprang into action. Sports halls and community centres were opened for donations. Mosques and Churches opened their doors to provide solace and comfort to survivors and the bereaved. It was the community of North Kensington which provided refuge from the horror which had just engulfed their neighbourhood. Donations of the most basic essentials were given freely and openly to survivors in their hour of need.

However, it was not only the initial aftermath which generated the outpouring of charity. In the weeks and months following the fire, traumatised survivors and members of the local community needed vital support. Children and Adults alike were in dire need of mental support. A leading psychiatrist went as far to say the mental health response to Grenfell was the biggest of its kind in Europe. Charities encouraged survivors and members of the local community to seek mental health support. Children were encouraged to explore their trauma through art therapy. Legal assistance was also offered to aid survivors in their fight forward for justice.

In the same month as Grenfell, June 2017, Portugal experienced deadly wildfires. On the 17th June 2017, four wildfires erupted within minutes of each other. 66 people lost their lives. As with Grenfell, it was community action which provided practical aid to wildfire survivors. Moreover, community action also facilitated a campaign demanding improved fire regulation measures.

As we look back on the year post Grenfell, it is the tireless and passionate community action of North Kensington which has proven genuinely inspiring. The mountains of charitable donations, volunteer workers and silent vigils became the iconic images of the disaster. Community cohesion has in part alleviated the suffering of the impacted community and ensured the fight for justice continues. It is important to recognise the power of community action. All individuals have the potential to make a positive difference in their local community, in Wales and internationally.

Environmental concerns at the 2018 World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting

By Ana Alexandrescu

There is no secret that the environment is increasingly gaining center stage in matters of global security.   The Global Risk Report shows that of the top five risks to the world, four of which  are environmental issues. This sounds alarming, but it is not hard to believe given the events we witnessed over the course of last year or the predictions that environmental agencies make for the future.

Global Risks Report

The World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting took place earlier this year in Davos and environmental concerns were not absent. The agenda spanned from the protection of elephants and clean energy transition to the reinventing of waste as a resource and geospatial technology’s impact on our planet. Here are some of the most important things to be taken away from the event:

  • The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the Global Risks Report, enforcing the idea that climate change is the biggest threat to civilization and calling to action;
  • the feeling that previous leaders have failed and that the next three years are a time for decision makers to redeem themselves were a young climate campaigner’s message;
  • French president Emmanuel Macron declared that coal-fired power stations in France will be shut down in the next few years and climate change will be one of his pillars for economic reform.
  • Other participants from different groups announced the actions they would take to combat climate change, including insurance companies divesting from coal projects.

On a similar but more local note in regard to divesting, if you live in Cardiff or the surroundings you might be aware there is a campaign aimed at making Cardiff University divest from fossil fuel companies as currently some of its endowment fund is invested in these. Many students and student led societies have been vocal in supporting this campaign and this March will see the University’s final decision on the matter. It is hoped to see a shift towards renewable energy sources and an accelerated fight against climate change and environmental degradation.

Going back to Davos and environmental friendly memorable moments, the American delegation argued that Donald Trump is an “only man in this parade” against action on climate change and that 40% of the US economy, represented by 15 member states of the US Climate Alliance, continues to be committed to the Paris Agreement. In regards to  the oceans, The Friends of Ocean Action partnership was launched, a global action reuniting experts and leaders working towards the protection of oceans in order to meet the Sustainable Development Goal 14 on oceans.

Overall, there is a universal feeling that we are at a critical point in addressing and solving environmental challenges and time is quite pressing. This year more than ever sees hope lying with the leaders and their decisions and further steps.

References:

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/01/5-things-we-learned-about-the-environment-in-davos-2018

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/01/the-davos-2018-environment-agenda-online-what-you-need-to-know/

 

Moving forward from the Oxfam scandal

By Hannah Westwell

RAF C17 Lands in Nepal with Vital UK Aid

A DFID staff member supervises the unloading of UK Aid from an aircaft in Kathmundu, Nepal on the 29 April 2015.  Images By Sgt Neil Bryden RAF

Over the past weeks a number of allegations have been raised in the international aid sector. Oxfam remains at the centre of the scandal, with accusations that senior staff hired prostitutes while working overseas and that the charity helped cover it up. The issue, it seems, was not a stand-alone occurrence, with reports of sexual abuse in Haiti in 2011 and Chad in 2006, demonstrating a much deeper problem. Médicins Sans Frontières, Save the Children and the UN all came under fire for similar reasons, being asked to explain the reasons for the repatriation of a number of workers and other claims of inappropriate behaviour.

Of course, the public’s response to the scandal was not small. In the immediate aftermath of these revelations, celebrity ambassadors of Oxfam- Minnie Driver and Desmond Tutu- stepped down and thousands of regular donators cancelled their donations. There was a lot of anger at the situation in which workers had severely abused their power, not just because of the nature and hypocrisy of the abuse but because so much of Oxfam’s income is from the government and public funds.

As the media now reflects on the Oxfam situation and the state of the foreign aid sector more generally, it seems there are two main threads of thought emerging.

Firstly, there is a call to action so that this kind of thing cannot happen in the future. In an article in the Financial Times, Michael Skapinker argues “Oxfam shows we must stop giving NGOs a free pass”. Whilst the ultimate aim of charities is to benefit others, they too are businesses who have to manage their staff and their public image. One of their largest streams of income is public donations, in which thousands of individuals place their trust in an organisation which they believe are doing good. In order to rebuild this trust, Oxfam and other organisations must take action to reassure supporters that there are procedures in place to prevent future misconduct.

Secondly, there is a warning that this issue doesn’t lead to those people that NGOs help missing out. William Hague, writing for The Telegraph, suggests that “The Oxfam scandal should not lead us into the blunder of cutting aid”. There are fears that not only will donations drop but that the scandal will be used politically to reduce the UK aid budget. This fear is shared by Oxfam celebrity ambassador Simon Pegg, who, when questioned about continuing to work with the charity, said “Oxfam is an organisation which helps countless people. I think it would be wrong to hold the entire organisation to account for the actions of a few people, I worry about the people that are going to suffer if everybody abandons this charity”. Ultimately, by giving less money to the charity, or charities generally, people in great need will suffer and we cannot allow this to happen.

Safeguarding needs to become a higher priority within charities working with vulnerable people.

Whilst these two arguments have repeatedly been presented separately, at times in opposition to each other, it seems to me that there is nothing to stop both happening in order to move forward. It is important that we make steps intentionally as the sector tries to learn from and move on from this scandal. We must build a culture where this behaviour isn’t tolerated, but beyond that stricter rules should be put in place which require charities to report cases of misconduct. Safeguarding needs to become a higher priority within charities working with vulnerable people.

There have also been ideas of ways the sector could prevent past offenders getting another job in the sector for instance by having a global register of aid workers. At the same time, we need to continue to give money to those who need it. We may use this time to evaluate who we are giving money to, holding these organisations accountable in making these changes, but in order to ensure the lives of many aren’t affected by the actions of a few, we must continue to give. Overall, the events of the past few weeks have demonstrated the serious need for change in the international aid sector but should also be used as a learning experience so that individuals pay closer attention to the way in which their money is used and in ensuring power is not abused.

Key issues for the UN Climate Change Conference 2017

Flood.jpg

The UN Climate Change Conference takes place on 6-17th November in Bonn, Germany and will be presided over by the Government of Fiji.

The location of the conference, the Fiji Islands, are among a number of nations around the world that are at risk of flooding as a result of higher sea levels, due to climate change. But what are the some of the issues that will be discussed at COP23 Fiji?

Flooding of low-lying islands

A rise in global temperatures results in the melting of glaciers, which contribute to sea level rise. This means low lying islands around the world are at high risk of flooding, with many inhabitants of these islands being required to migrate to higher ground, for good.

One report, written by the Environmental Research Letters journal studied the impacts of sea level rise on the Solomon Islands in the Pacific Ocean. The report found that:

‘at least eleven islands across the northern Solomon Islands have either totally disappeared over recent decades or are currently experiencing severe erosion.’

This has a profound impact on the welfare of local inhabitants. According to an IPCC report, the risk of flooding has brought ‘social problems of economic insecurity, inadequate water supplies, and lower health standards.’ As a result, local inhabitants have had to relocate either to higher ground, or leave the islands completely. The impacts of forced migration are wide ranging: it can cause psychological stress and trauma, cause the separation of families, and can result in migrants losing their traditional culture in favour of adopting their host country’s culture. This can leave them feeling marginalised and alone.

The inequality of climate change

According to a study by Oxfam, findings indicate that “the poorest half of the global population is responsible for only 10 percent of total global emissions while nearly 50 percent can be attributed to the wealthiest 10 percent.”

This inequality is mostly out of a difference in lifestyles: the wealthier a person gets, the more the quality of their lifestyles improve. Moreover, the presence of large scale industrial centres in richer countries enhances their part in contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.

It is important that the UN COP23 address the rising inequalities of climate change, which can have generational impacts.

The United States’ Position on Climate Change

Following the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, the United States’ position on climate change has changed, with many questioning the nation’s commitment to fighting the issue.

This issue was further intensified following the US’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Change Agreement, which sets targets for nations to lower their carbon dioxide emissions. As the United States is the second biggest global contributor to carbon dioxide emissions, the issue of addressing its role in fighting climate change is imperative.

In the journal Nature, Thomas Stocker, former co-chair of climate science for the IPCC, stated that “Trump’s decision to ignore scientific facts of climate disruption and the high risks of climate-change impacts is irresponsible not only towards his own people but to all people and life on this planet.”

Overall, as climate change continues to bring varying impacts to regions all around the world, it is hoped that this year’s Climate Change Conference will shed light on some of the issues faced, and allow the space for different countries to devise strategies on how best to respond to them.

“Don’t be mistaken on climate: there is no plan B because there is no planet B.” Macron

By Joy Wood

International agreements regarding climate change have always proved difficult to execute. The Kyoto protocol of 1997 was the first step on the way to meaningful cooperation between states in regards to  climate change. Despite its good intentions, the Kyoto protocol did not get George W. Bush to ratify the treaty, and developing countries such as India and China were not required to participate.

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The Paris Agreement of 2015 however, saw huge steps in the right direction. The agreement was signed by all states, other than war-torn Syria and Nicaragua, who argued that the Paris agreement was not strong enough in the fight against carbon emissions.

At the start of June 2017, President Trump withdrew the United States  from the agreement. He argued that the withdrawal was to protect Americans from a deal which would be detrimental to the American economy. He stated that despite the withdrawal from the agreement, he would enter discussions about changing the agreement, or drafting a new one. However, other members of the G20 such as the newly elected President of France, Emmanuel Macron, said that there was no chance of a regeneration of the climate accord.

So, what does this mean for international cooperation on a whole? Well, the US withdrawal is proving to be a slippery slope. Why should one country do more than another? Why should the US not cooperate? This argument has recently been demonstrated by the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who reported to the G20 that his country may be less inclined to ratify the Paris Agreement in the wake of the US decision. International cooperation is difficult.

Ultimately, the huge ratification of the accord can only be positive for the climate and for international relations. Despite the US’s decision to leave, there is still hope that the agreement will make a huge difference in tackling carbon emissions and is a great step forward in international relations.

Regardless of international agreements, making a difference on a smaller scale is still something we should strive for. We can all do more to make environmentally informed decisions.  In my opinion, climate change needs to be tackled on different scales. International agreements are important, but the role of the British government, Welsh  Assembly, right down to local councils and individuals is ultimately hugely important. Despairing at the inability of politicians to agree is not productive, trying to improve in small steps is something we do not need an international agreement to achieve.

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