Cynefin y Werin calls it a day

IssueSeptember 2013
News by Kelvin Mason

In July, the management group decided to wind up Cynefin y Werin (CyW), the all-Wales network promoting international peace, social justice, human rights and equality. After a successful period initially, CyW’s level of activity has diminished substantially in recent years.

Up until Spring 2006, the network held regular dayschools for activists. In 2007, the network set its priority as ‘championing a vision for civil society in Wales, with a view to moving towards a Civic Forum for Wales like in Scotland’.

Three themes

There were three main strands of activity: freedom of information; opposing the St Athan military academy; and establishing a Peace Institute for Wales.
CyW produced a report on citizen engagement which was adapted into a 2007 submission to the All Wales Convention on the national assembly’s future. In the same year, CyW published its ‘Non-Violence Training Handbook for Wales’.

In 2009, CyW held a Conscientious Objectors Day and International Day of Peace event in Cardiff. A campaign workshop on ‘Wales and the aerospace industry – the threat within’ was held in Aberystwyth, also in 2009, focusing particularly on drone warfare and the RAF testing base at Aberporth.

The campaign against St Athan was marked by the production of an information booklet, demonstrations, petitions, online actions, and participation in the public inquiry in January-February 2010. CyW’s efforts doubtless contributed to the new coalition government’s decision to cancel St Athan.

Also in 2009, CyW sponsored meetings about an Academi Heddwch (Wales Peace Institute), launching an initiative which unfortunately resulted in an abortive proposal to the National Assembly’s Petitions Committee. In October 2012, CyW organised meetings to revive interest in the Peace Institute, ultimately funding a 2013 conference in Aberystwyth; a steering group was established and the project continues.

Over the years, CyW has funded nine groups who received grants of up to £500: Aberystwyth Peace and Justice Network; Arfon Peace and Justice Group, BANG (European Youth Network for Nuclear Disarmament); Bangor and Anglesey Peace and Justice Group; Cardiff and District United Nations Association branch; Cardiff World Development Movement; Churches Together Cardiff; CND Cymru (Faslane action); and PAWB (People Against Wylfa B). Grants made amounted to £3,550.

Final grants

Winding up CyW, the management group decided to utilise the network’s remaining funds in line with its founding purpose of supporting peace campaigning activities in Wales.

Some grants were duly made to various endeavours, including the 2013 Street Choirs Festival in Aberystwyth. The Academi Heddwch/Peace Institute Steering Group received £5,000 towards its registration as a charitable body.

The winding up of CyW was not without controversy, with questions raised about the democratic legitimacy of the management group’s decision-making process.

That said, while wishing for more inclusive consultation, those network activists who expressed an opinion broadly supported the management group. Ben Gregory, a peace and justice activist who was formerly active in CyW, commented: ‘People were also voting with their feet, with non-attendance of network meetings. Also, eight years, 2001 – 2009, isn’t bad for the life of a network, which by definition is going to be more transient than a formally constituted body.’

Co-ordinating networks and managing funds does present challenges which social movements generally seem ill-prepared to meet.

There are valuable lessons to be learned from the history of CyW, and indeed other networks in Wales and elsewhere which have struggled with this form of organising, particularly where there can be ongoing legal and financial responsibilities.

Topics: Activism
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