Welsh Youth Parliament

By: Niamh Mannion

Young people are often framed as disengaged from the political landscape. Today’s youth are painted as disillusioned from the political debates that will shape their future. However, 2018 looks set to challenge this stereotype with the founding of the Welsh Youth Parliament.

From 1999 to the present day

In 1999, following the establishment of the National Assembly for Wales, dedicated youth engagement services were founded. Since the millennium, youth engagement services have worked with thousands of Welsh children and young people. Youth services engaged young people in a range of topics. These ranged from political debates de-mystifying the inner workings of The Welsh Assembly.

In 2014, the National Assembly for Wales signed a youth engagement charter. The charter ensures that the voices of young people in Wales are listened to and positive change is made to causes they care about. Since the charter was signed, there were increased calls to found a Welsh Youth Parliament. In fact, Wales was the only European Nation without a youth parliament.

In October 2016 Assembly Members agreed to a Welsh Youth Parliament. 5000 young people in Wales were consulted concerning the future aim, membership and overall direction of the parliament.

What happens next?

2018 marks the start of The Welsh Youth Parliament. It’s a super exciting time to be a young person in Wales!

60 young people (aged 11-18) from all over Wales will be elected to sit in the youth parliament. Members of The Welsh Youth Parliament will identify, debate and bring awareness to issues that impact young people. And you could be one of them! You can apply to stand for the Welsh Youth Parliament from the 3rd September 2018 until the 30th September 2018. Find information on how to stand in youth parliament here: https://www.youthparliament.wales/stand/

You can also make your voice heard by voting! If your aged 11 to 18 and live or are educated in Wales, you can vote to elect members of your youth parliament. Voter registration is open from 28th May 2018 until 16th November 2018.  Find more information on registering to vote here: https://www.mi-nomination.com/wypregister/form/landingpageenglish

Elections for the Welsh Youth Parliament will be held from the 5th November 2018 until the 25th November 2018. The exciting election results will be announced at some point over December 2018!

Empowering Young People

The founding of The Welsh Youth Parliament is a fantastic moment for young people in Wales. Not only will Welsh Youth Parliament empower the voices of young people, it will empower democracy as a whole in Wales.

Welsh Youth Parliament will ensure that the voices of young people from around Wales and from a multitude of backgrounds will be heard. This new chapter also gives Wales an incredible opportunity to listen to the young people of today, who will shape the future of Wales.

The new youth parliament will be symbolic of improving the lives of young people, in turn improving their collective futures and Wales as a whole. Here at WCIA we applaud all future participants of The Welsh Youth Parliament and the positive change it will bring to the lives of young people in Wales.

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Volunteer Stories: From Amnesty International to Wales for Peace

Emily Blower is a Wales for Peace Volunteer and Amnesty International Member.  Originally from London, Emily is used to activism being quite visible and she is looking forward to uncovering what activism looks like in North Wales.

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The non-profit organisation, founded in 1961 by the London lawyer Peter Benenson. It was a reaction to two Portuguese students who were jailed for seven years for ‘illegally’ toasting to liberty. This news story, like many others, did not make headlines but it did provoke disdain within Benenson. Even worse was the fact that there were not any opportunities within the community to act on this emotion in attempt to make a change.

‘Open your newspaper any day of the week and you will find a story from somewhere of someone being imprisoned, tortured or executed because his opinions or religion are unacceptable to his government … The newspaper reader feels a sickening sense of impotence. Yet if these feelings of disgust could be united into common action, something effective could be done’

In founding Amnesty International (AI), Benenson has provided people with the chance to unite and act upon what was being previously pushed aside. Fifty years later and Amnesty International has developed into one of the world’s main organisations to battle against abuses of human rights.

There are many reasons why I became a member of Amnesty International, but the most significant factor is that Amnesty is completely separate from political and corporate sectors of work. This gives AI the ability to act without going through the government such as to put pressure upon international governments if they don’t abide by human rights. By having this freedom, AI have their own standards and policies that don’t alternate for any political or economic reason. They hold a clear set of goals and policies that won’t differ if an alternative party were in power or for financial gain. These are the reasons why I firstly became a member.

I re-joined AI due to the growing refugee crisis. I became aware of the extent of the growing refugee problem through an online source, however, I was shocked when there wasn’t any acknowledgment of this on the news and even worse, that this problem was being ignored by our own  UK Government. AI works closely with refugees. From this, I knew that AI was the right organisation as they portrayed the whole picture but there was also a discussion on how we can all unite to change this.

This is also why I am volunteering for Wales for Peace, there are many ordinary people within Wales who share this international solidarity. To discover the fundamental hidden stories of Wales in terms of international solidarity would create a rich history of ordinary people coming together to create something positive and changing. This is important as typically the hidden histories of ordinary people aren’t presented within the media because they are lacking a household name. However, their stories are important; as a united effort Wales has shown support to international topics to lead to a change.

Listed below are reasons why many people, such as myself, have become a member of Amnesty International.

1. Independent Organisation

AI is a non-governmental organisation that acts to end the abuse of human rights. They demand this through gaining justice, dignity and truth for those whom human rights have been breached. Amnesty International isn’t linked with any other organisation, this includes governments, religions and companies. This is good because it gives them more freedom to put pressure on governments, in terms of letters and protests, to stop restricting the rights of people without causing any political, economic or religious outcry. This is important as potential it could prevent the work of AI. Because they are an independent organisation, the criticism from leaders Idi Amin, Ayatollah combined with the Chinese Communist Party would cause enough of a stir for other organisations to stop Amnesty International. Successively through the past 50 years, Amnesty has for gained global political influence. Amnesty’s lobbying led to the UK government passing the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings in 2008, and more recently agreeing to make women’s rights in Afghanistan.

2. Long term Project with clear aim

Through not being linked to a corporate and governmental organisation they have complete independence to act accordingly to their policies, which is listed as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A core principle of Amnesty is a focus on prisoners of conscience. This is a person is detained for expressing any opinion that isn’t the same as the people in power. There are also another 5 main other objectives that Amnesty deals with the rights of women, children, minorities and indigenous rights, ending torture practices, the abolition of the death penalty, the rights of refugees and protection of human objectivity. By having these clear principles, they appeal almost universally and this gains a lot of support and awareness for Amnesty. This ultimately leads to making a difference, whether its just for one person or for a community they have been successful in the long run. Over the past several years they have achieved to secure an international Arms Trade Treaty in 2013, the International Criminal Court in 2002, and a global convention against torture in 1984. Amnesty International tackle difficult and complex issues that aren’t ‘quick wins’, year on year they campaigned for human rights in Burma and in the last 12 months of 2015 hundreds of political prisoners have been freed.

3. Evokes ordinary people worldwide to unite to make a change for the better of human development

By the creation of AI people can unite and express an act of international solitude. Through their 7 million memberships there are various roles within the organisation which enables all types of people to act as a way of international solidarity. There is a wide spectrum of AI supporters, varying from ordinary people to celebrities such as Eddie Izzard, Madonna to international Amnesty supporters such as Desmond Tutu and Malala Yousafzai to ordinary people, like me. However, who you are doesn’t matter when we can all strive together to stop future injustices from happening again.

With activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries, AI has been able to investigate, mobilise and change societies for better human development and security. Using their memberships and donations they have industrialised into the world’s largest pressure group allowing them to contact governments, organise protests and publicise human rights abuses in the media.

4. Campaign has proven to work

Amnesty is one of the world’s most influential, non-governmental organisations with a track record of success. Their campaigning work has been proved to be successfully through the use of their members

AI act in different ways. For instance, the form of protesting and petitioning. This has been proved to be effective. They successfully pressured Shell to pay out over Niger Delta oil spills in 2008 and 2009. After two years of pressure and letter writing of Amnesty supporters, Myanmar’s community leader Dr Tun Aung was released in January after being imprisoned for trying to calm down a crowd of riots in 2012. There has been various stories of successful campaigning from Amnesty which has caused significant changes to individuals worldwide.

5. Extensive research that is trust worthy

AI’s research is underpinned in the field but having first witnesses accounts and survivors testimonies with forensic data by using tools satellite images where possibly. They also cross check their research with other network resources and experts to make sure it is watertight. Their research is even valuable for external use, such as international bodies like the United Nations, media reporters and investigators as well as other campaigning and human right organisations. By having trust-worthy sources, people can start to grasp the truth behind these societies. This isn’t possible without AI as traditionally our mainstream medias tend to be biased and therefore they arguably showcase evidence in favour to their own belief such as the BBC and Gaza. Through AI, people can explore this watertight evidence and research and come to their own conclusions.

By being born in London, there are more open opportunities to protests which are publicly shown acts of international solidarity. They are traditionally broadcast throughout the online community and local newspapers This is normally where they gain their mass support.

Since moving to Bangor in North Wales, I have found that this type of action wasn’t as publicly displayed or spoke about among the community. This doesn’t mean that there wasn’t any act of international solidarity, it was just underrepresented and hidden from the community. Wales has had a long track history of supporting international countries by protesting or gathering support for the cause. Therefore, by complying Wales hidden histories of acts of international solidarity, it has allowed this rich history to be rediscovered and illustrated back to the community to inspire future generations. These hidden histories will be interviews from ordinary people in Wales and what they believe ‘international solidarity’ means to them personally and what acts of solidarity they have accomplished in the Welsh community. It is crucial to discover the hidden histories of ordinary people.

References:

Peter Benenson. (28 May. 2011) “The Forgotten Prisoners”. The Observer

 

Volunteers run successful Human Library Festival

By project volunteer Anna Ratkai

On 25 November over 250 people attended the Human Library Festival at the Temple of Peace, Cardiff organised by young volunteers from the Welsh Centre for International Affairs and refugee volunteers from Oasis Cardiff.

Eritrean coffee

Volunteer Osman’s Eritrean coffee draws a crowd

Attendees had the chance to explore all the interesting activities provided by organisations such as Stand up to Racism and The Welsh Refugee Council; listen to all the great musicians performing throughout the event; and try traditional dishes and sweets from around the world. So what is a Human Library Festival?

A Human Library is just like an ordinary library, however, in this case the books are replaced with people, who are happy to share their life stories with anyone interested. Our Human Library Festival featured books who had stories to tell about immigration and asylum-seeking in Wales, human rights issues and integration. For instance Amanda Morris talked about being a feminist who wears an Islamic headscarf; Paul Battenbbough chatted about what it is like to teach music in Oasis Refugee Center and Gareth Bonello explained how he has been campaigning for Human Rights through music.

The vibrant Library featured 12 Human Books who couldn’t have been any busier talking to the curious and engaged audiences

Engaging stories from human books

who left very positive feedback. A politics student from Cardiff University said he has learnt a lot about Human Rights and immigration related issues though these conversations, another attendee wrote this on the Library’s white board: “It was great to hear some inspirational stories. I must do more to support migrants and learn from them!”. It wasn’t only the audience that benefited from the event. The event was organised by young volunteers and asylum-seekers themselves, who enjoyed working together, building skills and becoming friends in the process.

The Human Library Festival also set up a Market Place in the stunning Marble Hall of the Temple of Peace. This Market Place hosted organizations who came along to represent their work as well as to engage the attendees in activities

Fantastic music at the event

related to integration and Human Rights. For instance, one such organization, People & Planet called the attention to the unjust distribution of economic benefits and their environmental costs in the world.

 

Food played a central role during the event – people had the chance to try different nations’ traditional dishes and sweets, while the Eritrean stall also gave the chance to explore coffee-making traditions and have a nice hot and refreshing traditionally prepared Eritrean cup of coffee! Sudanese curry, Turkish sweets, Omani dessert, Lebanese finger food and much more was served some of which was kindly donated by local City Road restaurants Deli Fuego, Al Wali, Saray and Mezze Luna.

BBC Radio Wales interviewed two volunteers of the project, listen to the interview here:

Celebrating Sudan at with Sudanese volunteers from Oasis

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09g655c (time code: 2:13:13 – 2:18:15).

Also, Journalism student Sagnik came along to the event and and was inspired to make this video.

Check out our Flickr account as well to see pictures of the event.

Many of the Human Books said they’d be more than happy to share their stories in the future, and many attendees inquired about the next Human Library event.

Thank you to People’s Postcode Trust, entirely funded by players of People’s Postcode Lottery for funding the event.

Eisteddfod | Ynys Mon | 2017

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Gan Mared Jones

Mi roeddwn yn gwirfoddoli yn yr Eisteddfod ym Môn 2017 am dri diwrnod o fewn y Babell Heddwch. Yn fy amser yno, roeddwn yn ffocysu yn bennaf ar hanes cudd/hanes pobl arferol, a chysylltu hynny gyda’r rhyfel byd cyntaf oherwydd bod yr Eisteddfod yma yn dathlu 100 mlynedd ers cadeirio Hedd Wyn. Er hynny, gwnaethom ni gymryd ongl wahanol ohono, sef ffocysu ar hanes merched yn ystod y rhyfel, a gofyn y cwestiwn os oedd y rhyfel wedi cyfrannu at gydraddoldeb rhwng marched a dynion. I wneud hyn, gefais y dasg i grwydro o gwmpas y maes i chwilota am bobl a bysa yn fodlon rhoi ei barn bersonol nhw am y mater. Gwnes I ymweld rhai o’r pabelli a bysa efalle yn cynnwys pobl gyda barn ddiddorol am y mater, e.e.. pabell ffeministiaeth, LGBT, pabelli brifysgolion a.y.b.. Cefais ymateb llwyddiannus iawn, a gwnes i lwyddo i gael cyfweliad gyda thua saith person, pob un ohonyn nhw gydag atebion a barn ddiddorol i’w rhoi ymlaen.

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Gwnes i ddysgu llawer am yr hanes wrth wneud y dasg yma, ond yn bennaf gwnes i ddysgu llawer o sgiliau cymdeithasol, ac roedd hynny yn rhywbeth roeddwn angen yn rheolaidd yn ystod fy amser yn yr Eisteddfod.Roedd llawer o adegau ble roedd oedolion neu blant yn dod i mewn i’r babell, ac yn gofyn cwestiynau am y sefydliad, yn ogystal â chwestiynau’r am yr hanes roeddwn yn ffocysu arno, yn ogystal a holi am y wahanol gyfleoedd oedd ar gael gyda Chymry Dros Heddwch, e.e.. trawsgrifio enwau o’r cofnodion o’r milwyr o’r gorffennol. Gwnes I hefyd wneud ambell i dasg fwy syml, e.e.. helpu gyda gweithgareddau plant, helpu gwneud y stondin edrych yn daclus ac apelgar, gwasgaru pamffledi a.y.b.. Gwnes I ffeindio amser i wneud ychydig o drawsgrifio fy hun hefyd. Roedd hyn yn dasg ddiddorol, a hefyd yn helpu fi i ddod i arfer gyda’r wefan, felly os bysa unrhyw un o’r ymwelwyr yn cymryd diddordeb ynddo, baswn i yn medru dangos iddynt sut i wneud y trawsgrifio, a bysa hynny wedyn yn hwb iddyn nhw barhau gyda’r dasg yn amser ei hunain.

At the National Eisteddfod, Mared discovered some interesting peace stories involving the role of women in the war. As a Wales for Peace volunteer, Mared also introduced people to the project and the website as well as helping to run the stall in the Peace tent.   

 

 

 

 

Volunteer Voices: Anna Ratkai

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I am a student at Cardiff University and I was on a summer placement with the WCIA for 5 weeks. Throughout my placement I picked up multiple valuable skills, met numerous interesting people, and got involved in the organizing of a very fascinating project.

The atmosphere of the office was warm and welcoming, and the team was genuinely very keen on getting to know about me and about my interests. They also gave me ideas about where to volunteer and intern next to reach my future career goals. I found that I could easily make friends here, as all the other volunteers shared my interests and ambitions to help the ones in need, and learn more about international affairs. So altogether, the mood couldn’t have been any better.  But what did I actually do?

First, I started to work on a ‘Hidden History’ project. A Hidden History can be any topic that is not a mainstream object of history and is related to Wales and International Affairs. A Hidden History project can develop your research skills whilst it can also give you interviewing, writing, recording, or even video editing experience.

Later on I also had the chance to contribute to the blog of the WCIA by writing a post on a topic that is close to my heart – biodiversity loss. While writing this blog I learnt a lot about how Wales is contributing to biodiversity protection, and I discovered many volunteering opportunities for myself for the future if I were to engage in nature conservation activities.

The most interesting part however of my placement was being a part of the team that organizes the WCIA’s Human Library Festival. Organising such an important event gave me communication, time-management and coordination skills, while also giving me the opportunity to work alongside with refugees and get to know more about them as individuals and about their stories. I value this experience and I really hope the event will be a great success!

If you are interested in International Affairs, would like to gain valuable skills and get to know people who work in this field, the WCIA is the perfect place to volunteer and intern at!

You can find more information about volunteering with the WCIA here

Volunteer Voices

This month’s WCIA volunteers are Olivia Richards and Rhiannon Jones. Read their stories below. 

Olivia Richards

I am a Year 12 student, who is currently studying A-levels at an all Welsh school. After considering various courses, I have come to the conclusion that I would like to study Law at university therefore, work experience is necessary to help me develop numerous skills. One of my teachers recommended that I contact the WCIA for work experience. I am so glad I did as it has given me an insight of the life as a employee.

Outside of school, I enjoy performing. I attend a drama club every Tuesday where we prepare for showcases. Currently, I am preparing to play the role of Velma in Hairspray.

There are many things I have learnt during my time with the WCIA. One of which would be how to research certain topics and condense the information to make it suitable for blogs and social media posts, by following certain guidelines. I have also learnt how to use a certain online software which helped me create a timeline for the Urdd’s goodwill messages.

During my time of creating the timeline, I had to overcome a few struggles, such as learning how to use the software correctly. One of my favourite things to do was create a poster to represent the theme of ‘Hidden Histories’. I chose to base mine on refugees such as Michael Marks who was one of the two co-founders of Marks & Spencer. Another activity I had to do was analyse data from surveys that had been filled in, by using the software ‘Excel’. Fortunately, I study ICT as an A-level therefore this wasn’t much of a struggle.

The staff were very friendly and they all welcomed me with open arms.

Rhiannon Jones

Currently, I am in my first year of Sixth Form at Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Llangynwyd. There, I am studying Welsh, Art and Psychology. I am hoping to study Welsh at university because I’m very interested in the language and our culture and am aiming to become a translator. I approached the WCIA for a week’s work experience as I am interested in issues such as women’s rights and peace and wanted to know how I could make a difference.

During the week, I contributed to the WCIA Voices blog as well as creating an interactive timeline of the Urdd Messages of Peace and Goodwill broadcasted over the years. This was very relevant to me as I have been a member of the Urdd since I was young and was fascinated to see how the members have been spreading these messages and how they’ve changed over the years.

I improved my analytical skills whilst handling questionnaire data. Personally, the hardest part of the week was raising awareness of global issues through creating social media posts. Creating informative and concise posts was challenging but I also learnt a lot about different issues whilst researching.

I was most surprised by the hidden history project and Olivia and I decided to make our own that looks on refugees. We focused on Joseph Mailin, who brought fish and chips to Britain and Michael Marks, one half of Marks & Spencer – people who I would not have thought to be refugees!

I’m very glad that I decided to come to WCIA for a week because I learnt a lot about the world and how everyone has something to contribute. The staff were friendly and I felt very welcomed.

If you are interested in volunteering with the WCIA- you can find out more here.   

Volunteering with the WCIA

By Mailys

Being a masters student in international relations and geopolitics and having spent one year studying in North Wales in 2016, the Welsh Centre for International Affairs (WCIA) was the perfect place to do my internship. For three months, I have been given many projects to work on such as:

  • Global Steps project — a project in collaboration with Erasmus + which aims at providing evidence of the skills and competencies developed through volunteering experience in order to facilitate access to quality employment using those skills.
  • Wales for Peace school workshops —I visited Welsh schools in order to run creative workshops and helping pupils to cover their Hidden History.

I also had the chance to attend several events such as Wales as a Nation of Sanctuary conference and Africa Day. Nation of Sanctuary conference was a coalition of charities, debating what and how to improve the lives of refugees and asylum seekers in Wales. The idea being pushed forward was to make Wales as a Nation of Sanctuary status, with an emphasis on creating a welcoming safe space for all. Such things as ‘welcoming’ or improving living conditions etc may seem small but a change in attitude and perceptions can create huge differences.

I am so glad for my experience at the WCIA. As a student, I have always been told how international institutions are important for national and international cooperation, to maintain peace. However, when at university, it seems like we are only taught about the United Nations, the OECD and other famous and massive institutions. But no-one seems to be emphasising smaller organisations that have an actual impact on these issues at a local level — like the WCIA. This is why my involvement in the WCIA has been a significant experience for me as it taught me a lot about how charities work and about the impact they can make on social, political and global issues and the extent that Wales is contributing to a greater global community and a fairer nation. To me, creating a change seems difficult by only working at an international level. However, by changing the focus to smaller everyday activities of interactions, at a local level first is what matters and what can work on the long run.

In the WCIA offices, the friendliness of everyone has been amazing. It was  also interesting to see how passionate people are on local and international subjects, on politics… Besides, I figured out there are always new ideas, skills, projects and events to be learnt, to work on and improve.

I am currently applying for my second year of masters emphasising on ‘peace studies’ and I think the internship will be an asset for my upcoming year and my future, especially when I consider the idea and objectives of the WCIA that everyone contributing to a fair and peaceful world.

After this three month internship, I have acquired several skills which improved my way of working, thinking and interacting with other. I also feel more confident about how to implement change, have an impact, talk about global issue and taking initiative than I was before the internship. The knowledge and skills I gained during my time volunteering are extremely useful and the range of opportunities I was offered in the WCIA was great.

If you are interested in finding out more about volunteering opportunities with the WCIA, click here.