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THE INTERNATIONAL Council of Nurses (ICN) is a worldwide collective of nursing organisations from 120 member countries. From its collective strength, it provides support to enable nursing to contribute more fully to improvements in health and to address barriers preventing this. ICN purports to provide voice and visibility where these are weak or absent. New Zealand nurses Sally Shaw and Trevor Warr, with their respective ICN projects Leadership for Change and Leadership for Negotiation, are working to this end.

ICN membership is costly and it is not unreasonable to question the benefits. NZNO's experience at the recent ICN conference in Geneva (see p22) offers an important perspective, not always clear when we ask the question "what's in it for us?" This perspective considers what NZNO might have to offer ICN. Some examples are offered to illuminate this perspective.

The opening paper at a workshop on safe staffing resounded with issues very familiar to New Zealand. While developed countries lamented the global nursing shortages and debated remedial approaches, many countries talked of deficits in nursing services New Zealand nurses could not begin to imagine. This situation served to remind us how off the mark, for many in the audience, the Australian Royal College of Nursing presentation was and sadly highlighted the gaps between the "haves" and "have-nots". A workshop on immigration reported the impossible position of sub-Saharan African countries which, despite the introduction of ethical standards for immigration in the United Kingdom, experienced unethical recruitment practices from those countries. One country lost nine of its ten nursing tutors to a recruitment agency in the same month, leaving a school of nursing bereft of resources.

Those from New Zealand observed a narrow view at ICN, based on dominant discourses, and that communication was handicapped by this view. New Zealand has a contribution to the international arena, one seeded in the Treaty Of Waitangi that has forced us to face up to issues of power. NZNO has some choices to make in relation to its position, choices that have to be congruent with its internal philosophy and in line with financial possibilities. We need to acknowledge our potential contribution, identify like-minded countries and people around the world, and employ a collective approach that is our national hallmark to apply political pressure for cultural change at ICN.

NZNO needs to choose between being part of the status quo that may inadvertently reinforce dependencies and oppression; withdrawal from ICN; or staying and being part of a political activism to shape an ICN that is responsive to member countries' needs. If NZNO or ICN fails in this regard, our positions are in danger of becoming irrelevant to many of the world's nursing communities.
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Title Annotation:letters
Author:O'Malley, Jane
Publication:Kai Tiaki: Nursing New Zealand
Date:Aug 1, 2003
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