It’s hard to believe that my friend Jo Cox had been in Parliament for only a year when she was killed on June 16 at age 41. She had already made a huge impact championing the issues of refugees and Syria, and she would have had an amazing political career. I think she could have gone to the very top.
Before she was Labour Party MP for her hometown constituency, Batley and Spen, she was a policy head at Oxfam who made sure humanitarian aid was directed toward Darfur and the Democratic Republic of Congo. She also worked with the Maternal Mortality Campaign. When Jo picked up that issue, few organizations were campaigning on it, and people like Melinda Gates have credited her with making it a global issue. Her efforts helped lead to a big reduction in the number of mothers who have died during childbirth over the past decade.
I was director of policy at Oxfam when Jo joined, and I remember many, many meetings where people from different organizations would be strongly disagreeing and it would be Jo who’d bring them together. The way she tried to achieve change was to unite people across the political spectrum, and in a way, that is her greatest legacy. In Parliament, Jo was the spirit of the campaign to allow more child refugees into the U.K. as huge numbers came to Europe. After she mobilized people across all political divides, the government agreed to let in more unaccompanied children. She loved children, not just her own but everyone’s.
She was always trying to bring people together in her personal life too. She managed to get everyone from ministers to MPs and even the chair of a bank to make the journey to her annual summer-solstice party at her cottage on the Welsh-English border. We’d talk about the big issues, but we also laughed and danced in the remote countryside. She had this amazing zest for life.
Forsyth is deputy executive director of UNICEF and a former adviser to Prime Ministers Gordon Brown and Tony Blair
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