Boosting Pacific representation at ICN

KT photo July 2017
Some of the New Zealand nurses who attended the ICN congress in Barcelona flank ICN chief executive Frances Hughes (centre right, in white) and NZ’s chief nursing officer Jane O’Malley (centre left). NZNO president Grant Brookes is on the far left and chief executive Memo Musa is third from left.

NZNO successfully promoted better representation for Pacific nations at ICN.

By NZNO president Grant Brookes

Last month, NZNO chief executive Memo Musa, kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku and I travelled to Barcelona for a series of meetings held under the auspices of the International Council of Nurses (ICN).

From May 27–June 1 we took part in the 2017 ICN Congress, along with close to 20 other New Zealand nurses. For the three days prior, we represented New Zealand nursing at the ICN Council of National Representatives (CNR).

Founded in 1899, ICN articulates the voice of nursing to the World Health Organization and other global institutions. NZNO has been a member since 1912.

CNR is ICN’s biennial decision-making forum. There, the 135 member organisations from 133 countries are able to debate and vote on the way forward.

Unlike previous meetings, there were no other national nursing associations (NNAs) from the South Pacific attending. So it was up to NZNO, along with the Australian College of Nursing and the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, to bring a Pacific nursing voice to the world stage.

Among the votes at CNR was an election to fill four vacancies on ICN’s 14-member governing board.

ICN elections are conducted regionally. New Zealand is part of area seven, which covers the Asia-Pacific region. Nuku was standing for election to the single vacant seat on the board for this area.

But the smaller countries of the Pacific have long struggled to get our nursing voice heard at the top table. Area seven board members are usually elected from the large NNAs of North Asia. In Barcelona, the seat was won by Wu Ying, the candidate from China.

So, when a separate vote on redrawing the boundaries of the voting areas to match those of the World Health Organization, placing New Zealand in a new Western Pacific Region, NZNO moved an amendment to create a South Pacific sub-region within that.

“There is a large group of NNAs from the South Pacific who share commonalities of language, culture, nursing education, regulatory and legal frameworks and health system organisation. And yet this large group of NNAs has been largely excluded from representation,” I said, when introducing the motion. It was seconded by the Australian College of Nursing.

In 2016, the ICN board and president had considered the possibility of establishing sub-regions, but decided against. With support from Australia, CNR voted by a margin of three to one to overturn that decision and support NZNO’s amendment.

CNR also heard an update from ICN chief executive Frances Hughes about her transformation agenda, aimed at modernising the 118 -year-old organisation.

Plans include decentralising ICN away from its Geneva headquarters to provide a greater regional presence, revamping ICN’s communications and digital services (including a new international platform for online professional development) and stronger governance and financial management.

NZNO has expressed concerns over recent years about ICN governance and financial sustainability. In Barcelona, Musa was unexpectedly invited to present a training session on good governance to the incoming ICN board, under newly-elected president Annette Kennedy.

As part of its push to decentralise, ICN wants expressions of interest in hosting a series of regional forums from 2018. At last year’s NZNO annual general meeting, delegates, by a show of hands, expressed support for hosting such a forum in New Zealand. NZNO is now in the early stages of planning a possible ICN forum. •

Related coverage:

‘Facing up to global challenges’

‘In the footsteps of nursing heroines’

First published in Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand, July 2017. Reposted with permission.


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