2020 Year of the Nurse Celebrating Nursing and Midwifery endorsed by WHO Executive Board

31 January 2019
Dr Tedros

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 “There is a unique opportunity to honour the nursing contribution to the health of our world in 2020”


Geneva, Switzerland; 31 January 2019 – The International Council of Nurses (ICN) and the Nursing Now campaign are delighted to support the endorsement by the World Health Organization Executive Board (WHO EB) to designate 2020 as the Year of the Nurse and Midwife. The recommendation was made yesterday evening in Geneva by Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO. The proposal will go to the World Health Assembly in May for its consideration.

Noting that 2020 will be the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, and recognising her contribution to health and humanity, Dr Tedros said that, “Nurses and midwives play such a vital role in delivering Health for All”. Click here to watch Dr Tedros’ speech.

Annette Kennedy, President of ICN, underlined, “This exciting proposal of the Year of the Nurse and Midwife in 2020 will go a long way to raising the profile of nursing and highlighting the importance of the need for more well-educated nurses, of investing in recruitment and retention strategies and of removing the barriers to the development of advanced nursing roles that are proving highly effective at expanding healthcare coverage.”

Lord Nigel Crisp, Co-Chair of the Nursing Now campaign said, “We warmly welcome the proposal from Dr Tedros and the Executive Board that 2020 be a year of global celebration for nurses and midwives. Nurses are at the heart of most health teams and by enhancing and promoting their role, countries across the world will improve health outcomes for all people.”

Delivering the ICN intervention at the WHO EB meeting Howard Catton, Director, Nursing, Policy and Programmes emphasised that “Next year there will be a unique opportunity to honour the nursing contribution to the health of our world by celebrating the bicentenary of the birth of Florence Nightingale”. Mr Catton outlined that “This celebration offers a platform to recognise past and present nurse leaders globally, raise the visibility of the nursing profession in policy dialogue and invest in the development and increased capacity of the nursing workforce. Nurses, who make up approximately half of the health workforce and who are intrinsically linked to the ability of countries to address health priorities and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, will turn the ambition of achieving health for all people into a reality,” he said.

The proposal was accepted by the members of the Executive Board at their 144th session. ICN took the opportunity to make an intervention at the WHO EB, urging Ministries of Health to proactively support the development of WHO’s State of the World’s Nursing Report and the active engagement of nursing leaders. ICN thanked WHO for the report that highlights the centrality of the health workforce to delivering WHO’s “triple billion” goals.

The WHO Executive Board this year are discussing several items of interest to nursing, including Universal Health Coverage, member state mechanism on substandard and falsified medical products, human resources for health and patient safety.

The main documents on the agenda for the 144th session of the WHO EB meeting can be found here.

ICN interventions at the 144th session of the WHO EB meeting can be accessed here.

ICN has been in official relations with the WHO since 1948 and has worked collaboratively on many projects of mutual interest over the years.

Note for Editors

The WHO Executive Board is composed of 34 technically qualified members elected for three-year terms. The annual Board meeting is held in January when the members agree upon the agenda for the World Health Assembly and the resolutions to be considered by the Health Assembly. A second shorter meeting takes place in May, as a follow-up to the Health Assembly. The main functions of the Board are to implement the decisions and policies of the Health Assembly and advise and generally to facilitate its work.

The International Council of Nurses (ICN) is a federation of more than 130 national nurses’ associations representing the millions of nurses worldwide. Operated by nurses and leading nursing internationally, ICN works to ensure quality care for all and sound health policies globally.

For further information please contact

Gyorgy Madarasz, Press Officer, International Council of Nurses, Tel: +41 22 908 01 16