Lack of targets will make it difficult to tell if the Welsh international strategy is working

(Title Image: Welsh Government, Crown Copyright)

Yesterday afternoon, AMs debated the External Affairs Committee’s report on the Welsh international strategy (one of the few committee reports I haven’t summarised – pdf).

“Frustrating” there are only three targets

Chair of the Committee, David Rees AM (Lab, Aberavon), expressed the Committee’s broader concerns that the number of targets to which progress can be measured was limited to just three.

“Frustratingly, the strategy contains only three measurable targets. To remind Members what these targets are: to raise Wales’s profile internationally by ensuring 500,000 connections internationally over the next five years….to grow the contribution made by exports to the economy by 5%, though we’re not sure over what period of time that covers; and to plant 15 million trees in Uganda by 2025.”
– Chair of the External Affairs Committee, David Rees AM

He also expressed disappointment that the Welsh Government rejected the Committee’s recommendation that there had to be a way to work across government departments – such as the creation of a Cabinet sub-committee. He urged the Minister to reconsider.

David Melding AM (Con, South Wales Central) was pleased by the focus on developing ties with the Welsh diaspora, saying there was “a lot of goodwill out there”. He also called for more to be made of Welsh history and culture, citing several examples of where Wales has either shaped development in Europe at various points in history or has a unique selling point.

Huw Irranca-Davies AM (Lab, Ogmore) later used the example of Llangeinor’s Richard Price who was the inspiration behind the French and American revolutions.

Dr Dai Lloyd AM (Plaid, South Wales West) thought there was a need to develop connections with smaller nations and stateless nations with a more natural connection with Wales – such as the Basque Country, Catalonia, Brittany, Slovenia and New Zealand etc.

Shadow External Affairs Minister, Darren Millar AM (Con, Clwyd West), brought up sports diplomacy and the successes there for Wales at the 2019 Rugby World Cup – calling for more to be done to being a major sporting event to Wales. Meanwhile, Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn) could say a lot about the weaknesses in the strategy, but at least it was happening; though this had to be only a “beginning of the journey”.

International relations have “never been more important”

International Affairs & Welsh Language Minister, Eluned Morgan (Lab, Mid & West Wales), promised to keep the committee in the loop on future developments in order for them to continually monitor progress.

There was no more important time to develop an international strategy in light of Brexit. Many of the Committee’s recommendations were taken forward and Wales is already on track to meet some of the targets – particularly Ugandan tree planting. A memorandum of understanding has also been signed with the Basque Country.

Work with the diaspora, however, will take some time:

“I recognise, on diaspora, there’s a huge amount of work to do. There are a lot of actors in this space already, as many people have said, and part of what we need to do is how do we get these people to work together. This is Wales, after all – we like to fall out with each other….So, today, I’ve been meeting with a group of people we’ve commissioned to provide a platform where all of these organisations can be working and co-operating.”
– International Affairs & Welsh Language Minister, Eluned Morgan

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