Global nurses unite

Kai Tiaki Oct 2017 cover
First published in Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand, October 2017. Re-posted with permission.

A NEW chapter is about to be written in the story of NZNO. Next month, we will take our seat at the annual meeting of Global Nurses United (GNU) for the first time. NZNO will be represented at the meeting – in late November in Quebec, Canada – by kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku and me.

GNU was formed in 2013. Its founding meeting was hosted by National Nurses United (NNU), the largest union and professional organisation for nurses in the United States (US).

Nursing leaders from 14 countries in the Americas, Africa, Asia-Pacific and Europe came together around a four-point declaration, expressing shared commitment to safe staffing and universal health care, and opposition to the harmful effects of climate change, inequality, health cuts, privatisation and other neoliberal policies.

Since 2013, GNU has expanded to encompass nursing unions from 20 countries. NZNO joined this global network last year. Belonging to GNU complements our relationships with the world’s professional nursing associations, maintained through the International Council of Nurses.

This year’s GNU meeting is hosted by the Fédération Interprofessionnelle de la Santé du Québec (FIQ), a union grouping covering 66,000 nurses, respiratory therapists and clinical perfusionists across Canada’s French-speaking province.

Even flying economy class, international meetings can use up a lot of NZNO members’ money. But for this trip, the FIQ has signalled NZNO’s valued role within GNU, by offering to cover all our accommodation costs.

The benefits to NZNO members of participation in GNU were highlighted at our annual conference last month by guest speaker and NNU co-president Jean Ross.

Jean Ross02
NNU Co-President Jean Ross was a guest speaker at the NZNO Conference last month.

The world is more interconnected than ever, Ross said. Problems and solutions for nurses are now global. Protecting health-care workers and patients from new epidemics like Ebola takes international cooperation, she pointed out (see also, ‘Advocating for patients and communities’, p11).

Emerging health problems related to climate change must also be tackled globally. Multinational corporations are increasingly influencing our health system – including through the expanding telehealth and e-health sectors. Public-private partnerships, with global giants like Serco running our hospitals, could be the next frontier. These challenges, too, call for a coordinated global response.

Jean Ross32
A message of international nursing cooperation was delivered by NNU Co-President Jean Ross.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) is a case in point. It was US pharmaceutical companies who pushed the intellectual property provisions which would protect profits, but limit access to life-saving treatments for New Zealanders. And long before President Donald Trump finally pulled the US out of the deal, it was campaigning by NNU which helped to undermine congressional support and delay negotiations.

Kerri Nuku and I head to Canada to strengthen such international efforts, and to lay the groundwork for ongoing working relationships between GNU and NZNO staff. In doing so, we are responding to Ross’s vision.

“Our imperative”, she told conference delegates, “is to build the kind of global solidarity that can go toe-to-toe with the global financiers and the corporations that want to profit off people’s illnesses and, instead, create a different kind of globalisation.

“The collective power of nurses can create a new kind of world – a world of compassion and community and caring.” •

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