Opening of WHA76, Dr Tedros’s address & ICN delegation briefing

22 May 2023


The 76th World Health Assembly (WHA76) opened yesterday with the theme WHO at 75: Saving lives, driving health for all. This year, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) will have a physical and a virtual delegation of more than 80 people at WHA76.

Today, ICN held a briefing meeting for its delegation to highlight the topics of interest to nursing and inform delegates of the activities for the week.

Dr Pamela Cipriano, ICN’s President, welcomed delegates and urged them to take a robust involvement in the proceedings of the Assembly. She reminded delegates of the important role of nurses in the achievement of Universal Health Coverage.

“Both at the international and national level, we have been talking about Universal Health Coverage and rebuilding and strengthening our health systems. Part of that is increasing the health workforce and making sure we are able to deliver more primary care. We have identified that as a major issue along with addressing the challenges to the scope of practice for nurses so that we can provide additional access to care and make sure we are optimizing our role.

'At the recent G7 Health Ministers meeting, ICN presented a joint statement with the Japanese Nursing Association to call for commitment to action to support nurses and healthcare workers worldwide in order to achieve UHC by 2030. Coming out of that meeting the Communique reinforced the statement of the UHC Action Agenda. One of the most important action items is the one to strengthen the health workforce. We are very proud of the work that we have been able to contribute to that.”

Dr Cipriano also mentioned the release of the ICN Charter for Change which presents ten policy actions that governments and employers must take if they are to create and sustain health care systems that are safe, affordable, accessible, responsive and resilient.

Erica Burton, ICN Nurse Consultant, and Hoi Shan Fokeladeh, ICN Senior Policy Advisor, briefed delegates on WHA76, the topics of importance and how to navigate the WHA76 website. They also presented the ICN Delegates’ Pack which briefs delegates on the agenda items of interest to nursing and contained ICN’s interventions:

  • Provisional agenda item 12: Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health (2016−2030)
  • Provisional agenda item 13.1: Universal Health Coverage: Reorienting health systems to primary health care as a resilient foundation for universal health coverage and preparations for a high-level meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on Universal Health Coverage
  • Provisional agenda item 13.2: Political declaration of the Third High-Level Meeting of the General Assembly on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases, and mental health – as part of the NCD Alliance
  • Provisional agenda item 13.5: Draft global strategy on infection prevention and control
  • Provisional agenda item 15.1: Strengthening WHO preparedness for and response to health emergencies – as part of the World Health Professions Alliance
  • Provisional agenda item 15.3: Global Health for Peace Initiative
  • Provisional agenda item 16.1: Well-being and health promotion

Howard Catton, ICN Chief Executive Officer, also thanked the delegates for taking part virtually and asked them to listen out for mentions of nurses or nursing within the debates.

“Those of us who are here in Geneva will be holding a series of bilateral meetings. The President will be meeting with Chief Nurses who are on government delegations, and we are going to be meeting with some of the other international organisations as well, so knowing what is said in those main sessions and the interventions made by countries with specific mention of nursing and midwifery allows us to follow that up in bilateral meetings.”

Mr Catton also said that ICN was taking part and contributing to a number of WHA side events covering strategically important issues such as NCDs, UHC and workforce issues which have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

These urgent issues were central themes of the speech by Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director General of the WHO, at the opening of WHA76 on 21 May:

“The end of COVID-19 as a global health emergency is not just the end of a bad dream from which we have woken. We simply cannot carry on as we did before. This is a moment to look behind us and remember the darkness of the tunnel and then to look forward and to move forward in the light of the many painful lessons it has taught us. Chief among those lessons is that we can only face shared threats with a shared response...recognising that our fates are interwoven. This is the moment for us to write a new chapter in global health history.”

Dr Tedros then gave his official address earlier today, noting that while COVID-19 is no longer considered a global health emergency, many of us continue to carry grief in our hearts and the pandemic has taken a heavy toll on mental health, particularly for the health workforce. He also noted the importance of addressing the global shortfall of health workers in order to meet UHC.

Dr Tedros encouraged Member States to respect the Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel, an issue which ICN has been vocal on, saying:

“We call on all countries to respect the Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel and in particular to protect the 55 countries on the recently updated Support and Safeguards list against international recruitment, which is draining those countries.

'We are also working hard to support countries to deliver lifelong training to continuously improve health worker competencies and quality of care. Just last month, we launched the Global 25 x 25 x 25 Campaign which aims to provide access to basic emergency training for 25% of nurses and midwives from 25 countries by the end of 2025.”

Dr Tedros’ full address can be read here.

Watch the Global 25 x 25 x 25 Campaign’s explanatory video here.

At the end of the briefing, Dr Cipriano reminded delegates of the special relations that ICN has had with WHO since its creation in 1948.

“We have been making interventions for the past 75 years...Things have changed a lot since our relationship started with the World Health Organization and as they celebrate their 75th year in existence, we have been an important part of that as well.”

ICN will also hold a Nurse Delegates Luncheon on Wednesday, 24 May to engage with all nurses present at WHA76 as part of their own country’s delegation. Dr Amelia Tuipulotu, WHO’s Chief Nurse, will also be present.

WHA76 is being held in Geneva, Switzerland, on 21–30 May 2023. Proceedings are webcast live here with simultaneous interpretation available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.

Download the communique here