Bringing the message of the Flemish Peace Institute to Wales

IssueApril 2010
News by Lotte Reimer

Nelly Maes, president of the Flemish Peace Institute, spoke at the David Davies Memorial Institute (DDMI) in Aberystwyth on 24 February to an audience of students and local people.

Her talk was part of a visit to Wales in support of calls for a Wales Peace Institute. On 23 February, Maes and Tomas Baum, director of the Flemish Peace Institute, gave evidence to the national assembly in support of a 1,500 name petition urging the creation of such an institute.

In Aberystwyth, professor Nicholas Wheeler welcomed Maes, expressing the DDMI’s commitment to a Wales Peace Institute. He thanked Aberystwyth Peace and Justice Network for their part in the campaign for the Institute.

Maes began by explaining the role of the Flemish Peace Institute as an advisor to the Flemish parliament. The institute’s tasks are research, advisory and information services.

It operates under a board with representatives from universities, industry, trade unions, the peace movement and the “political families” from left and right. A secretariat guarantees the quality of the research and Maes emphasised that: “The quality of the research will define the importance of the Institute. It is imperative that the Institute is independent.”

Peace in society research has covered a multitude of issues such as the meaning of peace, peace education in schools and different forms of remembrance. Maes mentioned that the Flanders peace monument said “No more war” while the French tended to be monuments to the glory of the soldiers who had died.

She went on to say that better-informed people are less inclined to resort to violence and this was an important issue both domestically, nationally and internationally. Hence the quality of education was vital. While the army can be rolled out at short notice, prevention of war and violence is much more multi-stranded, so a set of procedures are needed, and these must be based on well-researched information.

Maes felt that Wales had its own specific requirements for a peace institute. This was seconded by Jill Evans, chair of CND Cymru, who mentioned the need for assessment of the Welsh assembly government’s work towards peace and sustainability, and research into creating alternatives to military employment.

Maes believed that it was important to convince the Welsh assembly that a Wales Peace Institute is the “best they can do at the lowest cost”. She referred to the cost of in-house research advisors compared with outsourcing research to a recognised and well respected Peace Institute and noted that the Flanders Institute was not only unquestionably independent but also cheap in comparison with government advisors. She concluded by emphasising the importance small nations can play in peace issues internationally.

Before departing for the next leg of her speaking tour in Bangor, Nelly Maes took the time to pay her respects to the family of Hedd Wyn. The Eisteddfod-winning poet from Trawsfynyd died in Flanders in the First World War and is commemorated there with a slate plaque.

Topics: Europe, Culture
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