The WCIA’s history is closely linked with the history of the building we occupy: the Temple of Peace and Health in Cardiff’s civic centre.
For further information about the Temple itself, please see the dedicated website at www.templeofpeaceandhealth.com.
The Temple was opened on 23 November 1938 by Mrs Minnie James of Dowlais, who had lost 3 sons in the First World War and represented the war-bereaved mothers of Wales. Lord Davies of Llandinam provided £60,000 towards the £72,000 cost, with £12,000 coming from the King Edward VII Welsh National Memorial Association, which Lord Davies had founded in 1912 with the aim of eliminating tuberculosis in Wales.
Unfortunately, Lord Davies, after a ceremonial x-ray in one of the fleet of vans he had provided to carry out mass radiography against TB, was found to be suffering from a terminal disease and he died on 16 June 1944.
Lord Davies built the Temple of Peace and Health not only as the home of the King Edward VII Association, but also to provide a focal point and symbol for Welsh people’s concern for international peace. It therefore became the home of the League of Nations Union (LNU), a voluntary organisation which supported the League’s work to preserve peace worldwide.
The LNU was widely supported, though financially vulnerable; and its successor after the Second World War, the United Nations Association (UNA) Wales, fared no better. Supporters of the work at the Temple of Peace were concerned that something had to be done, as UNA Wales was short on members and money. It had difficulty in providing the leadership needed for Wales’ response to major campaigns, such as International Co-operation Year in 1965 and International Human Rights Year in 1968. The idea came about to form a ‘Welsh Centre for International Affairs’ (WCIA).
In 1968 a Western Mail editorial commented that this idea was “exciting and interesting” and would “encourage Welshmen to look beyond the confines of Wales and Britain to extend their knowledge and understanding of the rest of the world”. In 1970 a proposal to form the WCIA was formally adopted by the Committee set up by the then Secretary of State for Wales, George Thomas MP (later Viscount Tonypandy), to mark the 25th anniversary of the UN. The organisations on that 25th anniversary committee – the Welsh Office, local authorities, the University of Wales and colleges of education, MPs, trade unionists, industrialists, the churches, political parties the media and voluntary organisations – became the WCIA’s Standing Conference, thereby also extending the range of organisations associated with the Temple of Peace.
The WCIA was officially opened on 11 October 1973 by Lady Tweedsmuir, Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Hywel Francis, MP for Aberavon, once said in the House of Commons:
“The Welsh Centre for International Affairs… has for decades played a vital role. Its quiet, educational voice of tolerance and reason needs to be listened to and valued in Wales and beyond. It deserves our full support and we should be proud of its work.”