During the 2007-8 ‘pilot’ phase, the number of Wales – Africa twinning links engaged has grown from 5 to nearly 85, of whom over 30 - including Hay – Timbuktu and the Wales Somaliland Link - are actively working towards attaining the (Welsh-developed) ‘UN Gold Star Communities Award’.
This growth in itself speaks volumes for how the modest support provided through Wales for Africa and WCVA has helped to ‘unleash the energies’ of communities throughout Wales – coupled with a now internationally-recognised award framework which provides a ‘roadmap’ for development of twinning links, and benchmarks quality and standards for joint community development projects... "recognising the best, to inspire the rest."
Amlwch in Anglesey and Pontypridd in Rhondda Cynon Taff, with their partner communities in Sankwia, Gambia and Mbale, Uganda, in August 2008 became the first twinning links in the world to attain this standard of excellence, through projects improving health and the lives of children both in Wales and in Africa – a very real and direct contribution from Wales towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
Having dispersed over two years £90k of community grants, and through provision of development support and advice, Gold Star is now facilitating many more twinning links to develop mutually beneficial projects working with children, health, the environment, livelihoods and social cohesion. This mutuality is critical – we are not seeking to propagate traditional ‘charitable giving’ or ‘twinning junket’ approaches, which can reinforce negative stereotypes - but to support ‘people to people’ twinning links that are focused on communities developing and learning together, with considerable and tangible benefits to both sides.
Gold Star has aroused considerable interest from other nations and regional governments – such as Flanders, Brittany and Norway, as well as closer to home, Scotland, Ireland and indeed England. Wales’ linking model is seen as a potentially transferable initiative which inspires individuals, strengthens community cohesion and identity and improves quality and impact of actions. It enables devolved governments / regional administrations to support effective, civil society driven grassroots action.
Gold Star links are raising Wales’ profile - and reputation for innovation, entrepreneurship and friendship - not only in Africa, but world-wide.
The greatest credit must go to the many thousands of inspired – and entirely voluntary - individuals, in constituencies across the nation, who are fast developing as Wales’ international ambassadors, entrepreneurs and visionaries. We hope Assembly Members will not only meet, but build a close working relationship in supporting these most dynamic and inspiring of constituents!
Download the Briefing for Assembly Members here.
Download a leaflet about Gold Star here