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ICM Council--midwives from across the world united by their ideals and convictions: Kathy Herschderfer, ICM Secretary General, describes the work leading up to Council 2005, and the experience of seeing in action 'this incredible organisation'.

Papers and preparation

In the months preceding the 27th Triennial Congress in Brisbane, a large part of the ICM Headquarters' workload, and mine, consisted of preparing for the Council meeting. It was a challenge for all of us. At that time, my knowledge of Council was from stories and the experiences of others as I had never previously attended a Council meeting. I was reassured by some that my experience with meetings of the Board of Management and Executive Committee was sufficient preparation for the Council. Others, however, warned me that I was about to experience something I had never experienced before.

Looking back, I can agree with both statements and I would like to take this opportunity to share my experience, as this last Council meeting under the English ICM constitution has paved the way for the new ICM governance structure under Dutch law and has given us a strong message to carry into the future.

The huge amount of paperwork involved with ICM Council is necessary, as it is the only way--at the moment--for the delegates to be informed of the issues at hand and the motions and recommendations that are put to them. The agenda of the four-day meeting was long and challenging, with 32 topic areas for discussion. The delegates received more than 80 background documents in English, French or Spanish. Not all papers were finished in time to be sent prior to the meeting, and the staff appreciate greatly the patience and understanding of our Member Associations and delegates who took this all in their stride.

A 'global midwifery conscience'

The strength of a Confederation is that each member is equally responsible for the well-being of the organisation. It was clear in Brisbane that the delegates, from more than 60 ICM Member Associations, took their responsibility seriously and came to Council prepared to work on what they considered to be very pressing and significant issues. It was also inevitable that, within this large group of midwives with diverse backgrounds and cultures, there would not necessarily be agreement in the priority topics to be brought to discussion and difference in opinions about specific subjects would become apparent. IM editor Elizabeth Duff described this eloquently in an article she wrote recently about the ICM Council; 'Difference and debate: no aggression, no sarcasm', the words being taken from an actual comment made by one of the observers.

Some of the discussions during Council were certainly heated, and the issues were presented and debated passionately. But the speakers were always shown respect, and overall there was a desire by all to reach consensus and agreement. Again, this confirmed my observations that, despite national and regional interests, there is a genuine global midwifery conscience. We are all united in the desire to promote the midwifery model of care as the 'first choice' for childbearing women and their families.

This certainly was apparent during the discussions, debate and resolution regarding the ICM/FIGO/WHO Joint Statement, 'Making pregnancy safer: the critical role of the skilled attendant'. It was understood that this global statement is important, in light of the monitoring being carried out to measure progress of the UN Millennium Goal number 5 (the reduction of maternal mortality by three-quarters by 2015). It was also evident that the impact of this statement could be beneficial to the midwifery profession in some countries, while in others it might pose a threat. The resolution to this dilemma was the reaffirmation of the global statement while at the same time the adoption of a strong ICM policy statement, 'Midwife as first choice of healthcare professional for childbearing women'. This course of events demonstrated that ICM can represent the global needs of the midwifery profession while not compromising on the individual needs of Member Associations.

Our new Director, Judi Brown, referred to this in the last issue of IM when she wrote that she 'admired greatly the willingness and good spirit of the Council members to engage in and place their energies into global strategies for the greater good, when ... for some their own local needs are so pressing'. She also recognised that a clear mandate was given by Council to the Board and reaffirms that the Board will take a 'well defined consultative approach to the work of the Confederation'.

We have summarised the most important messages received from Council:

* Review ICM's formal partnerships and relationships with a view to developing criteria for selecting partnerships as well as on keeping ICM focused as the strong voice of international midwifery on the world stage

* Review and strengthen the ICM global goals in line with the direction from Council

* Strengthen midwifery internationally based on consultation and participation with member associations following our own mission and strategic direction with a focus on regional issues

* Strengthen midwifery internationally by establishing a database of good midwifery practice that can assist midwives at country level

* Encourage member associations to take a greater role in the work of the ICM

* Continue with the financial recovery plan already implemented within the ICM and consider the implementation of new fund raising initiatives, commercial relationships and membership recruitment

A true Confederation

The Council meeting made me acutely aware that this incredible organisation is a true Confederation, made up of individual associations with their own issues and needs, who are at the same time committed to their profession and to the 'philosophy and model of midwifery care' (see p56 of this issue). As I have written before, the strength of the Confederation is related to the strength of the individual members and it is our responsibility to support each other.

Our chosen representatives, the new Board, are charged with the governance of the Confederation following the mandate given by the Council in Brisbane. Judi Brown has spoken about 'a very precious commodity called confidence'. I have seen Council's vote of confidence to the ICM Board in supporting measures aimed towards strengthening the Confederation. I am confident that the new Board, supported by our Member Associations and with the full back-up from headquarters, will lead ICM effectively, enabling the Confederation to remain a strong unified voice representing midwives, midwifery and childbearing women and their families.

1. Duff E. Difference and debate: no aggression, no sarcasm. MIDIRS Midwifery Digest 2005; 15: 330-331.
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Author:Herschderfer, Kathy
Publication:International Midwifery
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 1, 2005
Previous Article:Midwives vote for revised 'Definition of the Midwife'.
Next Article:ICM Membership Survey.

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