Jo Cox will be remembered for her tenacity and passion for humanitarian aid in some of the world’s most violent crisis zones and for championing the importance of trade in the developing world. Before becoming an MP, Cox was a prominent activist for global development through trade, dedicated to improving the lives of some of the most vulnerable and poor communities around the globe.
From her early aid career in Brussels, Cox’s rise to head of global policy at Oxfam saw her negotiating for changes in trade law and regulations, improving industry conditions for farmers and the accessibility of essential medicines to HIV/Aids sufferers against challenging odds in poor and isolated areas.
Emily Jones, a former colleague and now associate professor of public policy at University of Oxford paid tribute to her this week. “She was passionate, and her agenda was straightforward – there is injustice in this world and we need to sort it. She had a sense of urgency but also respect for others.”
Going against the grain at a time when foreign aid largely took on traditional forms of unfocused monetary aid and the delivery of food provisions, Cox was a strong believer in the importance of enabling developing countries to establish their own trade capacities, stable infrastructure and diverse economies. Her work in the face of the many barriers to change, surrounded by the all too cynical world of politics is testament to her resolve and optimism. The tide is now turning on how we target international development and foreign aid is now taking shape in the lifting of trade barriers to help stimulate sustainable, home-grown economies and industry.
“She had a capacity to continue to be horrified by things, when other people would just start to think, ‘It’s a bad world and these things happen’ and be a bit more cynical about it,” said Kate Norgrove, another past colleague who now works for WaterAid.
In more recent years in her work as an MP, Cox played a prominent role in conflict zones from Afghanistan to Gaza, Darfur and Syria, with a specific focus on the protection of extremely vulnerable civilians. Mrs. Cox was a key force in calls for the UK enforcement of a no-fly zone in Syria and also in persuading the government to accept 3000 Syrian children into the country.
Further to this she was firmly committed to improving the lives of women globally, having spent years campaigning for women in the workplace and to improve maternal mortality. Indeed, research by the World Bank has shown that improving gender equality has a wide ranging impact on international development. Higher school attendance amongst girls and women, and lower teen pregnancies with reduced maternal and infant mortality leads to greater participation in labour forces and higher wages for both women and girls.
The past 50 years have indeed shown a vast improvement in the pace of both sustainable trade economies and gender equality in the developing world helped by Jo Cox and her tireless effort for good, however much work remains to be done and we should continue in her honour.