A few weeks ago I was reading about the worsening situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Unrest and conflict in this country has resulted in the death, abuse and rape of many innocent civilians. I decided to send an e-mail to my MP, Vince Cable, urging him to encourage the government to ensure they take all necessary steps to secure a long-lasting, sustainable peace for the people of that huge nation, and that humanitarian support is ready in the event that the situation worsens in the east of the country.
Within a week of sending the e-mail, I had a letter back from Dr Cable saying that he'd written to both the International Development Secretary and Foreign Secretary with the concerns I was expressing. After a further week I had a letter back from the Department for International Development. In the UK, we have significant opportunities we have to engage with those who make and shape important decisions, through our constituent MPs, and others.
Whether it's writing a letter to your MP, sending them an e-mail, or arranging to meet with them to discuss an issue at one of their surgeries - we should all make the most of these opportunities to let our views be heard, to express our opinions (be they ones of agreement or disagreement), and to ask questions. It's very easy to be sceptical about politics, about what influence we have with these communications - but they are opportunities that many people across the world would love to have. I also sincerely believe that they are opportunities that have and can genuinely influence mindsets, votes and ultimately policy.
It's not just our local MPs we can engage with, you can also contact Government Ministers and Departments, All-Party Parliamentary Groups, MEPs and Devolved Administrations (in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland). You can find most relevant e-mails, and contact details on the internet using a search engine such as Google or this site is also very helpful!