Sarah Champion MP: I have seen the impact UK international development aid can have – I will fight to protect this
My success in parliament is due to forensically analysing a problem and working cross-party – I will take the exact same approach as chair of the International Development Committee, writes Sarah Champion
As a parliamentarian, I have devoted much of my energy toward campaigning locally and internationally on human rights, ending violence against women and girls, improving child protection, preventing disease and ending poverty. My work as an MP aligns with the overarching aims of DfID; to build a safer, healthier and more prosperous world for people in developing countries and the UK. I am keen to be elected as chair of the International Development Committee to unite my passions and experience, enabling me to hold the Government to account on this crucial area.
Before becoming an MP, I was CEO of a Children’s Hospice and for 12 years before that, CEO of an arts organisation that worked internationally, often with the British Council. I know how to chair, to manage and to scrutinise. I have also seen from the inside how DfID funding changes lives. If elected chair, I would work with committee members to focus attention locally and globally on developing areas of concern. I would use my position to scrutinise the department, hold the Government to account and maintaining oversight of providers.
To date, I have been successful in Parliament because I forensically analyse a problem and work in a cross-party way to find, and implement, a solution. I will take the exact same approach as chair of the International Development Committee.
Since being elected in 2012, I have travelled to a number of countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Caribbean to see exactly how aid is delivered, and have witnessed first-hand how properly funded, well managed projects can transform lives. In Jamaica I met with young men, former drug gang members, who were being taught how to raise chickens and tropical fish as micro-businesses. Their pride in making their own money to support their families was palpable. In Uganda, I was brought to tears as I witnessed how UK funding had dramatically reduced child mortality through our immunisation programme. Further to that, the mothers were also offered contraception giving them control over their own reproduction.
My experiences have also led me to question how our money is being invested. I had the pleasure of visiting a small DfID funded community organisation in Mozambique that trained children orphaned by the AIDS epidemic to have careers as mechanics and seamstresses. A decision to change policy and only fund large scale, apparently more accountable charities, directly threatened its survival. While I believe the large international charities are doing a fantastic job, I am mindful of the scandals of sexual exploitation and coercive control. Therefore, I would also want to make sure providers are transparent and accountable in their delivery.
The British people are by nature charitable humanitarians. While there is always debate surrounding the UK’s commitment of 0.7% funding to Foreign Aid, I am in no doubt that for moral, humanitarian, security and soft diplomacy reasons our investment is justified, and I will actively defend that position if elected as chair of the International Development Committee.
Sarah Champion is Labour MP for Rotherham