LONDON — British politicians have elected a new chair to head Parliament’s international development watchdog.
Sarah Champion, Labour Member of Parliament for Rotherham, will begin her role leading the cross-party International Development Committee when the rest of its members are chosen in the coming days.
She beat three other Labour candidates to take the influential post after the party was allocated the chairmanship. They included Kate Osamor, former shadow secretary of state for international development, who led the Labour Party’s radical new development strategy focused on reducing inequality as well as poverty.
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Osamor had won the support of some key figures, including the Conservative Party’s highly-respected former development secretary Andrew Mitchell and foreign affairs select committee chair Tom Tugendhat.
But in the end, Champion secured 297 of the 586 votes, a safe victory over shadow defense secretary Nia Griffith, who came second with 171 votes, Osamor, who ended up with 56 votes, and Yasmin Qureshi, who took 51.
“Thank you so much to all the MPs who voted to elect me ... I’m hugely grateful,” Champion wrote on Twitter after the results were announced. “Let the scrutiny begin!”
The committee will scrutinize the Department for International Development and U.K. aid as it enters a new era, with an increased focus on the role of trade and prosperity.
Champion has pledged to defend the U.K.’s commitment to spending 0.7.% of national income on official development assistance. “I am in no doubt that for moral, humanitarian, security and soft diplomacy reasons our investment is justified,” she wrote in Parliament’s magazine The House this week.
The article implied that she would advocate for aid funding to support smaller, grassroots organizations, alongside larger international NGOs. She also said she was “mindful of the scandals of sexual exploitation and coercive control” at some large NGOs and wanted to “make sure providers are transparent and accountable in their delivery.”
Reacting to the news, the International Rescue Committee U.K.’s Executive Director, Laura Kyrke-Smith, wrote in a statement: “The International Rescue Committee would like to congratulate Sarah Champion and Tom Tugendhat on being appointed Chairs of the International Development and Foreign Affairs Select Committees, respectively.
“They arrive in their posts at a critical time. More people have been forced to flee their homes than any time since the Second World War. The needs of people caught up in crisis and insecurity are at an all-time high.
“As the UK determines its future role in the world, we hope these Committees will together ensure that the Government focuses on upholding international humanitarian law and ending the Age of Impunity that has come to characterize modern conflict.”
Prior to entering politics in 2012, Champion led a children’s hospice and an international arts organization.
She replaces former IDC chair and Labour MP Stephen Twigg, who stood down last year.