As a Welshman who worked in the United Nations headquarters in Geneva I often wondered when Wales would become an independent nation and finally take its place in the global family of nations.
Geneva is home to over fifty embassies and consulates dotted around the edges of the Palais des Nation, an Art Deco Palace where since the end of the second world war, the international community has gathered to debate the most pressing issues facing mankind.
There is an unwritten rule about power in Geneva. The closer you are to the UN, the more influence you could possibly exert on geopolitics. The Delegation of the European Union was just a short walk away while the Russian and Chinese Mission’s stand imposingly across the road from the Pregny Gate where delegates and visitors flash their badges and walk through the turnstiles inside the Palais. But there was one member who despite its privilege position in international affairs decided to move further away.
The Permanent Mission of the United Kingdom and Great Britain could be found on the corner of a quiet interchange beside a petrol station. A foreign office official in London had made the decision to relocate the representation further away from the UN and WTO in an effort to keep costs down. It was a fitting choice of policy under a Prime Minister who had campaigned for the UK to leave Europe, all in exchange for a chance to reignite the flame of British Empire.
The recent merger of the Department for International Development (DfID) with the Foreign Office further undermines Britain’s standing in the world, not that it cares much, and has serious consequences for goals aimed toward ending child poverty and empowering women and girls who are denied their sexual and reproductive health rights.
Joseph Nye describes soft power as ‘the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payments. It arises from the attractiveness of a country’s culture, political ideals, and policies.’
Wales has enshrined key UN Conventions into law such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child and led a ground-breaking approach to sustainable development. We deserve more opportunities to share policy and practice with the rest of the world.
Our story would resonate with many different parts of the globe. Like most Western societies, we are progressive in our civil and political rights but we are also deeply committed to the preservation of social and cultural rights. We understand the loss of language and natural resources, the right self-determination and nation of sanctuary.
Small countries have an important role to play in the United Nations. Iceland has been a strong voice in the Human Rights Council in Geneva leading statements and resolutions condemning Saudi Arabia and the Philippines. Luxembourg dedicates it’s time and resources to the prevention of children in armed conflict while Liechtenstein’s presence in New York has contributed to work on accountability, the International Criminal Court, and the UN Security Council restraint of veto for atrocity crimes.
As a UN member state Wales would have the opportunity to increase its soft power and influence, and project its cultural, economic and political reach. A Welsh Foreign ministry and a Welsh Foreign Minister who is interested and willing to react quickly to unfolding global events, and to be bold and confident could quickly establish a strong brand as a progressive forward-looking nation.
Not only would UN membership give Wales an enhanced presence on the international stage, it would also give Welsh citizens an opportunity to work in in the UN and the wider development sector. The United Nations runs a program for young professionals, The Junior Professional in Delegation program opens doors to international UN organisations dedicated to labour rights, migration, and refugees. Belgium, Germany, France, Denmark participate in the network while the UK currently does not.
Imagine the scene. The UN General Assembly has launched its annual in session in New York. Crowds demonstrate on the street outside the gates as the motorcades of world leaders passing by. This session is special for some reason – there is a new nation at the table.
Inside the assembly hall, a Welsh leader walks up to the lectern and addresses the leaders of the world. He outlines a vision for a new, fairer society, that embraces its collective responsibility to eradicate poverty, to stand up to injustice and use its newfound independence to propel its citizens and society into the future.