Yesterday afternoon Jo Cox was shot and killed after a meeting in her constituency. While her constituents and Britain have lost a devoted and hard-working lawmaker, the world has lost a campaigner for justice and equality.
Last year Cox, a self-proclaimed “proud Yorkshire lass” was among a new cadre of Labour MPs elected into Parliament on an impressive mandate from her fellow constituents. She was known for her principled beliefs and her ability to command respect from across the House of Commons, often a rare quality for MPs.
Tributes have poured in from politicians as well as the public. While Jeremy Corbyn, Labour Party leader, applauded how “Jo was dedicated to getting us to live up to our promises to support the developing world and strengthen human rights,” Cox was described by former Secretary of State for International Development and Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell, as a “five-foot bundle of Yorkshire grit and determination absolutely committed to helping other people.” Mitchell and Cox had previously worked together to call for a stop to the war in Syria.
Cox’s career in politics followed many years as an aid worker and then charity campaigner, which started in 2002. She worked with the U.K.’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, and internationally, where she campaigned on issues including maternal mortality. Cox also worked with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The Freedom Fund, a charity dedicated to ending modern slavery.
In 2012, she was appointed strategy consultant for Save the Children, where her husband, Brendan, is currently the director of policy and advocacy. In a tribute to his wife, Brendan Cox stated that “Jo believed in a better world, and she fought for it every day of her life with an energy, and a zest for life that would exhaust most people.”
In a BBC article with her former colleague Ed Cairns, Oxfam’s senior policy adviser, Cox was praised as being “the greatest person I ever met at combining a humanitarian passion with political nous.”
It was this ability that convinced others to persuade her pursue a career in politics. During her maiden speech in Parliament, Cox called upon her internationalist values to champion multiculturalism, tolerance and the values of immigration in her community, stating that “we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”
In a tribute to Cox, Corbyn stated that she had “brought those values and principles with her when she became an MP,” stating that Parliament had “lost a great star.”
Cox used her position at Save the Children to fight ardently and passionately for the rights of Syrian child refugees up until her death yesterday, giving an impassioned speech in Parliament in May about the plight of refugees in Aleppo. In her speech, she called on Britain and the world to provide air drops to the desperate people of the city, stating that “sometimes all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
Cox often spoke about her experiences in the humanitarian sector, especially speaking about women and girls abused during the War in Darfur and also about Uganda where she was with “child soldiers who have been given a Kalashnikov and kill members of their own family.”
Her experience in such situations gave her strong political currency when talking about refugee and humanitarian issues. Her time in Afghanistan was spent talking to elders who were “world weary of a lack of sustained attention from their own government and from the international community to stop problems early.”
Drawing on her experience, Cox concluded, “if you ignore a problem, it gets worse.”
As tributes pour in, it is clear that the U.K. and the world have lost a stalwart advocate of internationalism, cooperation and, ultimately, humanity. Her ability to command respect from both sides of the House of Commons and from diverse members of society will be truly missed, especially during a debate on refugees, which continues to be polluted by divisive politics and inflamed by anti-immigration sentiment.