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Meet Political Adviser Melanie Ward...

22 September 2010

My job is to influence the UK government and parliament to gain support for Christian Aid's policies, campaigns and ideas. The aim is to get the government to do what we are asking, whether on long-term campaigns such as climate change and tax transparency, or on issues related to individual countries such as dropping Haiti's debt in the aftermath of the earthquake or stopping a new war from happening in Sudan.

This involves lots of different activities, such as:

  • meeting with government ministers, advisers and MPs;

  • supporting Loretta Minghella, our Director, in meetings with Secretaries of State, party leaders and the Prime Minister;

  • getting MPs to raise our issues in parliamentary debates, in the inquiries of parliamentary committees, and to table parliamentary questions;

  • and working with other development agencies where we share a common agenda. 

Of course, the actions that our supporters take are massively important in putting pressure on politicians and showing that there is public support for the action that Christian Aid is calling for.

It's really important that we don't let politicians get swept up in the Westminster 'bubble', and so talking to them about the experiences of our partners on the ground is incredibly important. We always need to help them to make the link between the details of policy decisions that they make in their offices in Whitehall and the impacts that these have on poor people in the poorest countries across the world. 

Sometimes this means telling them about examples of Christian Aid's work and sometimes it means taking representatives from partner organisations to meet with them. Sometimes (although not as often as I would like) it means taking politicians on overseas visits to see Christian Aid's work for themselves - such as when I took Greg Clark MP, then Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change to Bangladesh to meet some of our partners and see, for the first time, the devastating impact that climate change is already having on the lives of poor people there. Such visits really help to bring policy issues alive and help persuade politicians to take action and bring about change.

As you can imagine, I spend a lot of time in Westminster and Whitehall. Understanding the big political debates and issues of the day, and what these mean for Christian Aid, is an important part of my job.  It's been a very busy year with the general election where, thanks to you, we successfully influenced some of the policies in the parties' manifestos and we made sure that thousands of the parliamentary candidates heard about Christian Aid’s concerns. 

The new coalition government definitely has a different tone when it comes to development issues, and one of the things that they have done is to launch a whole series of reviews at the Department for International Development (DFID) and how they do things. Christian Aid has been making our voice heard in these reviews, and we are also feeding in to a whole range of inquiries launched by the House of Commons International Development Select Committee - the group of MPs which scrutinises the work of DFID and of the government's impact on international development. 

Because Christian Aid does not only work on 'traditional' development issues but also on the areas that cause poverty in the first place, we have an interest in the work of lots of government departments, not only DFID. These include the Treasury, the Department for Energy and Climate Change, the Foreign Office, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and of the course the work of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Prime Minister. This certainly keeps us busy!

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 About the author

Melanie Ward

Melanie Ward is Christian Aid's senior UK political adviser