Heddwch ar Waith

IssueJune - July 2024
Young Peace Ambassadors for Wales visit the Raoul Wallenberg memorial stone in Alexandra Gardens, Cardiff, during a two-day training with the Welsh Centre for International Affairs (WCIA), July 2022. PHOTO: WCIA
Feature by Sam Bannon

In mid 2023, Cymdeithas y Cymod (CyC, the Fellowship of Reconciliation in Cymru) and CND Cymru (CND C, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in Cymru), worked in partnership with other leading peace organisations to create Heddwch ar Waith (HarW), Peace Action Wales, a campaign network. The project received funding from the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust last summer.

HarW was established as a forum for the peace movement in Cymru, enabling groups to collaborate with one another, as well as to connect with other related campaigns, such as the anti-nuclear groups, People Against Wylfa B (PAWB) and the Society for the Prevention of Everlasting Nuclear Destruction (CADNO), and environmental groups like Climate Cymru and Extinction Rebellion, as well as peace education groups, such as the Peace Schools Scheme, hosted by the Welsh Centre for International Affairs.

By creating a nation with peace at its heart, people can be empowered to change the direction of our economy, our education system and our culture towards a more sustainable and secure future.

The purpose of HarW is to increase our capacity to campaign for peace and justice and to bring to fruition the desire of a nation that puts people and community before profit and greed for power.

As well as playing a practical role within the peace movement in Cymru, HarW has four distinct objectives, with working groups dedicated to each.

  • To map the extent of militarism in Wales and to update the research of the last 15 years; to inform the people of Wales.
  • To find ways of spreading information about nonviolence so that is accessible to the general public, understood by elected members and aimed in particular at younger people – to engage and support their active involvement as ‘Young Peacemakers’.
  • To build a lobbying network that will create, at local authority, Senedd, and Westminster level, support for the Peace Action Wales programme.
  • To work towards Wales becoming a Nation for Peace, with Peace Ambassadors in local authorities alongside the current programme of Armed Forces Champions.

Drawing a map

Little spoken about, Cymru is a highly militarised nation. HarW will be charting:

  • Land area committed to militarism. The MoD owns 23,300 ha (57,500 acres) of land in Cymru, used by 25 military bases. Sennybridge Training Area (formerly known as Mynydd Epynt) accounts for just over half of this area.
  • Activity taken at these sites in our name. For example, at ParcAberporth, where Elbit Systems tests its drones across a ‘Danger Area’ of some 6,500 square kilometres (2,500 square miles) of Cardigan Bay. This is the only airspace in Europe where drones operate in a segregated flying zone.
  • Infiltration of militarism into our public institutions. For example, 74 percent of state secondary schools in Wales are visited by the army an average of four times per year. The figure is higher in deprived areas and areas of high unemployment.
  • Military spending. Wales contributes eight percent of the overall military budget.
  • The military industrial complex, its influence on our governments and its geographical distribution. There are 90 companies supporting the military in Wales and, in 2023, the UK government spent £20.3bn on defence contracts. In January, the Westminster government offered Elbit Systems a new contract for weapons production, bringing the total amount of taxpayers’ money they have received in the past 10 years to £355mn.
  • The threat of a return of civil nuclear power to Cymru, and how this directly ties with the military (particularly pertinent today). On 6 March, the Westminster government announced plans to purchase the Wylfa site for £160mn, with an aim to develop it for Small Modular Reactors. The nuclear weapons program depends on civil nuclear due to its need for a constant supply of tritium gas, which has a half-life of only 12.33 years. Tritium is a byproduct of nuclear power generation and is used to ‘boost’ the yields of thermonuclear warheads.
  • Carbon emissions of the military. Unlike any other sector, the military are exempt from carbon reporting and emissions targets, despite contributing as much as six percent of our total emissions – higher even than civil aviation, and the equivalent of six million UK cars.
  • The human cost of militarism (not limited to deaths, but the extent of mental and physical injuries incurred during service, and lack of support provided afterwards).
  • The impact of low-flying aircraft on both people and livestock. 85 percent of land in Wales is designated as a low-flying area. Low-flying manoeuvres cause huge levels of noise pollution; what are the effects of constant exposure?
  • The unethical investments by our public institutions. For example, the £356,000 that Aberystwyth University has invested in seven companies complicit in the ongoing genocide in Palestine, as highlighted by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC). Airbus and BAE Systems account for £200,000 of this. Bangor, Cardiff and Swansea universities were also identified by PSC as having unethical investments.
  • Finally, military infrastructure for the AUKUS alliance, specifically the new DARC programme at Brawdy. DARC stands for Deep Space Advanced Radar Capability, and this will form a pillar of the alliance’s space strategy. Far from being defensive in nature, DARC represents a huge escalation in the arms race, not only increasing the likelihood of conflict, but putting Cymru on the front line.

Nation of Peace

Going forward, we can eagerly anticipate the publication of Wales as a Nation of Peace from Academi Heddwch Cymru, Wales’ first ‘peace institute’ – and one among a global family of research institutes bringing together the best academic minds and expertise to build a better world through peace-rooted approaches to global challenges.

At this stage, we can only speculate as to what the document may contain, although it’s expected that some of the subject areas above will be addressed, using up-to-date primary research findings.

Not only can we expect this report to scrutinise militarism in Cymru, but it will likely also offer socially-productive solutions that will embed peace-building into the delivery of the goals in The Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015.

Bringing all of this together, HarW will produce an interactive map, showing how shockingly widespread militarism is throughout Cymru, as well as contrasting this with the abundance of positive alternatives.

It will show how, through the creation of community enterprises, communities can keep money, jobs and young people in their areas, resulting in healthy, resilient and green communities in spite of the savage cuts seen over the past 10 years.

“74 percent of state secondary schools in Wales are visited by the army an average of four times per year”

Furthermore, we hope to cultivate discussions within the Senedd on what it means for Cymru to become a Nation of Peace, as well as organising public meetings to debate how industries in Wales can transition away from contributing towards the production of weapons and towards industries that will contribute to the health and wellbeing of the nation.

Working alongside the New Lucas Plan and the Arms Conversion Defence and Diversification group, the interests of workers will be at the forefront of these debates.

Military industry personnel are highly-skilled science, engineering and technology workers, and are usually funded by the taxpayer. Can we not transfer these skills into socially-useful enterprises that are good for people and planet?

We hope that political representatives within the Senedd and local authorities will become protagonists for Wales adopting a Peace Nation status, that will set policy agendas for the coming years and challenge existing militarism and contribute towards a peaceful and sustainable future.

And, finally, HarW will aim to establish Peace Ambassadors within as many local authorities as possible. The role of a Peace Ambassador is to promote human rights, dignity, equality and respect of diversity through education, advocacy and other nonviolent actions through projects at the local and international level, specifically targeted at young people.

We hope Peace Ambassadors will be a positive voice, advocating for greener, fairer and more prosperous local communities.

It is clear, now more than ever, that in Cymru and throughout the world, we must mobilise our whole economies away from the perpetuation of a cycle of extreme violence, and towards achieving a Just Transition to Net Zero.

Only by eradicating militarism and imperialism can we reach this, and that is what Heddwch ar Waith sets out to achieve.

Topics: Anti-militarism
See more of: Wales