Tribute to Jo Cox: A passionate campaigner for justice and a better world

by 17th Jun 2016
Tribute to Jo Cox: A passionate campaigner for justice and a better world

CARE staff in the UK and across the world are devastated at the news of the murder of Jo Cox (formerly Jo Leadbeater).

Jo was a mother, wife, and daughter. Our thoughts are first and foremost with her husband Brendan, their two children, and her whole family.

Many CARE staff had the opportunity to work with Jo, during her time at Oxfam, when she was Sarah Brown’s advisor championing maternal health rights on the Maternal Mortality Campaign, and since 2015 in her role as a Member of Parliament. She was an inspirational colleague and a great campaigner for the rights of people whom she would never know, but whom she valued just like family and friends.

I first met Jo when we were both working in Brussels, in 2001, at the start of our careers. She was working for Glenys Kinnock who was a Member of the European Parliament’s Development Committee. I was representing the British Government in the EU Council of Ministers working party on development co-operation. We were supposed to be on opposite sides of the separation of powers. But we were definitely both on the side of justice for the world’s poorest and we were both from Yorkshire. So we soon became friends.

Four years later, in 2005, Jo was head of policy and advocacy for Oxfam in the UK. Many staff across CARE knew and worked with her at this time. I was working in 10 Downing Street on the Gleneagles G8 Summit on Africa and Climate Change. Once again, on opposite sides, but allies in a bigger cause.

This was the year of Make Poverty History, and the year when all of the major political parties committed that Britain would fulfil the longstanding UN target to provide 0.7% of national income to support the world’s most vulnerable people. In 2013, that commitment was achieved and in 2015, the UK Parliament passed a bill enshrining that promise in law. Just last week, that law was emphatically reaffirmed in Parliament. Jo played an important role in ensuring that Britain would lead the world in standing up for justice.

Charities working for the world’s poorest were delighted when she was elected as a UK Member of Parliament (for Batley and Spen) in 2015. All of us are devastated by her death. As Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Syria in the current Parliament, Jo once again stood up to support and defend the most vulnerable people in the world – in this case children fleeing war and chemical weapons. She was in regular touch with colleagues at CARE about Syria, and once again she reached out across divides, ensuring that Syrian people were given a voice and a hearing during the recent London Conference on Syria.

She was a wonderful, warm and funny friend. She was an equally strong, passionate and inspiring campaigner for a better world. A world where people do not live on £1 a day. A world where women are not 50 times more likely to die in childbirth in Africa than in Britain. And above all, a world of peace, not violence.

As a person, she was working for a better world, and as an MP she was also working for a better Britain – less divided, more harmonious, more peaceful. So, so wrong, therefore, that her death was so violent. In a statement following her death, her husband Brendan Cox, a former director at Save the Children, called on us all to “unite to fight against the hatred that killed her”.

In a life lived with a passion for justice, Jo Cox achieved much but had ambition to achieve so much more. All people can honour her life by joining and continuing to work to achieve the goals we share with her, to support the people in the world that she worked so hard to help.

Jo will always be remembered and missed, by those who shared her passion for justice, and for life.

Laurie Lee

I joined CARE in August 2014, because I believe strongly in our focus on economic development, gender equality and people holding governments accountable. My focus at CARE is on ensuring we have the best people to do the job we do, to support our teams on the ground in over 70 developing countries, and to ensure we continuously improve our ability to monitor the impact of our work, and learn how to do it even better.  

Prior to CARE I worked for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for seven years, advising them on development policy issues in Europe and Africa. Before that I worked for the British government. I managed British development programmes in South Africa and Afghanistan. He worked in 10 Downing Street to prepare the G8 Gleneagles Summit on Africa in 2005. And I ran the DFID Trade Policy Unit until 2008.

One good thing I've read

One of CARE’s goals is to help the 2 billion people – including 1.1 billion women – without access to financial services, to get them. This great and easy book, Portfolios of the poor: How the world's poor live on $2 a day, by Daryl Collins, Jonathan Morduch, Stuart Rutherford and Orlanda Ruthven, explains why there’s no such thing as living 'hand to mouth'. The poorer you are, the more you need financial management tools.


Twitter: @lauriejlee