We describe RESULTS as a movement of active citizens exercising their personal and political power for change. What does this mean in reality? The RESULTS National Conference (11-13 June) – my first – answered this question pretty conclusively. It was an inspiring, challenging and exhausting three days spent with our grassroots campaigners, people who are not only keen to change the world for the better, but are actually out there doing it, sharing their concerns about global poverty with their MPs, the media, and anyone who has the power to influence the way the world works.
Kirsty McNeill, Director of Policy, Advocacy and Campaigns at Save the Children, our keynote speaker, set out the big challenges, and the big geopolitical shifts which will affect how we, as a group of active citizens exercising their personal and political power for change, go about our work. Challenges such as the shift of power from global North to global South; the need to gain public support for international development; gridlock in the UN Security Council over conflicts such as Syria; and the future of multilateralism and human rights. All massive challenges which impinge on and set the backdrop for the work of all international NGOs, including RESULTS.
Kirsty reminded us of the changes that we’ve already seen. For example, since 1990, working together as a global community, we have cut in half the amount of children who die before the age of 5. This remarkable change has happened as a result of politics – so we need to be optimists where politics is concerned, engaging positively with politicians, and, in her words, “helping them to be the best they can be”.
The tragic death this week of Jo Cox, MP and international development advocate, showed us the importance of being positive about politics. In her maiden speech in Parliament in 2015, Jo said:
“We are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us”.
This week, aid agencies and politicians are among those not just mourning her loss, but celebrating her vision of a world in which we have #MoreInCommon with people around the world than that which divides us. RESULTS campaigners bring this sentiment to life in their advocacy work, and nowhere better was this illustrated than at our Advocacy Day, in which campaigners met with MPs and with officials from a number of teams at the Department for international Development, impressing them (and me!) with their knowledge and passion, demonstrating that there is public support for the vital work they do.
And when politicians debated the future of our International Development Act (0.7% bill), on Monday 13th, RESULTS was there. Many RESULTS campaigners asked their MPs to attend the debate to say why they were #ProudOfAid, and many did, some even meeting them on the day in Parliament. Needless to say, we were humbled to hear MP after MP speak up in favour of the life-saving achievements of our UK international development efforts.
This is what being optimistic about politics means, and I’m proud to play a role in helping RESULTS campaigners to work together with decision-makers in a positive way, achieving real change in the lives of people living in poverty.