ICN celebrates World Health Organization's 75th anniversary

6 April 2023

On 7 April 75 years ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) was founded “to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable – so everyone, everywhere can attain the highest level of health”1 .

As one of the first seven nongovernmental organisations to be accepted into official relations with WHO, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) has worked with WHO for the past 75 years to improve nursing’s contribution to global public health.

Marking the occasion ICN President, Dr Pamela Cipriano said:

“ICN and WHO have formed a special relationship over the past 75 years and we congratulate WHO and its current Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus for the incredible work the organisation has achieved since its establishment in 1948. ICN has had the privilege of representing the nursing voice at WHO and has been present at every World Health Assembly since 1949. Today, we work closely with WHO on several committees and taskforces. We hold biennial Triad meetings in collaboration with WHO and the International Confederation of Midwives, and we are currently working together to produce education modules on a variety of topics. We look forward to continued collaboration with Dr Tedros, Chief Nurse Dr Amelia Latu Afuhaamango Tuipulotu and the WHO Regional Offices and Collaborating Centres across the globe.

As the specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for international public health, a strong relationship with WHO is vital to ensure the nursing voice is heard at the highest levels. ICN is proud to have had a strong relationship with WHO for 75 years and we look forward to many more. WHO has had a strong presence at ICN Congresses for many years and our 2023 Congress in Montreal will bring the opportunity for Congress delegates to hear from WHO experts in person as we learn how we can put the Global Strategic Directions for Nursing and Midwifery into action.

On this World Health Day, ICN sends our congratulations to WHO for its tremendous success in improving the health of millions of people across the world.”

Since 1948, ICN and WHO have built nursing capacity in education, regulation, practice and leadership; contributed to the development of policies, particularly in relation to occupational health, safe practice and workplaces; and actively participated in specific public health programmes. As well, ICN and WHO have worked together on technical committees, participated in several strategic fora and developed the first State of the World’s Nursing report and the Global Strategic Directions for Nursing and Midwifery 2021-2025.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, ICN and WHO worked closely together to advocate for the protection of the nursing workforce, for vaccine equity and the collection of data on healthcare worker infections and deaths.

In 2021, Dr Tedros presented ICN President, Annette Kennedy with the prestigious Director General’s Health Leaders Award for Outstanding Leadership in Global Health.

ICN and WHO Timeline:

  • • 1948: ICN entered into official relations with WHO; ICN and WHO begin their collaboration by working together to rebuild European nursing schools and assist with development of nursing legislation in post-war Europe
  • 1951: From 1951 to1954, ICN and WHO collaborate on nursing education and develop An International List of Advanced Programmes in Nursing Education, and How to Survey a School of Nursing
  • 1954: World Health Day theme is The Nurse, Pioneer of Health
  • 1965: ICN and WHO collaborate to publish the World Directory of Post Basic and Post Graduate Schools of Nursing
  • 1973: WHO supports ICN to ensure that nursing salaries and conditions of work get on the 1976 ILO agenda
  • 1977: ICN and WHO collaborate to ensure the adoption of ILO Nursing Personnel Convention No.149 and Recommendation 157
  • 1979: Joint ICN/WHO workshop, The Role of Nursing in Primary Health Care, Nairobi, Kenya
  • 1984: ICN and WHO publish Nurses and Physicians of Tomorrow, a survey of professional roles as the basis for education programmes
  • 1986: ICN, WHO and UNICERF collaborate for International Nurses Day: Universal Child Immunization by 1990
  • 1987: ICN and WHO release a Joint Declaration on HIV/AIDS and collaborate on the International Nurses Day campaign Health in the Workplace
  • 1988: ICN and WHO hold a joint consultation on primary health care, 10 years after Alma-Ata and co-publish Guidelines for nursing management of people infected with HIV.
  • 1989: ICN and WHO hold workshops on Mobilizing Nurse for AIDS Prevention and Care in eight African countries
  • 1990: ICN, WHO, UNICEF, UNEP and the Centre for Common Future produce the International Nurses Day toolkit on Nurses and the Environment
  • 1991: ICN and WHO collaborate for International Nurses Day with the theme Mental Health: Nurses for Action
  • 1992: ICN and WHO co-publish an information kit on Nurses responding to Substance Abuse and a publication on Mobilizing National Nurse Associations in HIV/AIDS Prevention and Care
  • 1996: ICN and WHO publish Reducing the Impact of HIV/AIDS on Nursing/Midwifery personnel
  • 1998: From 1998-2008 ICN supports the WHO Tobacco Free Initiative including publications for nurses, and support for the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control
  • 1999: ICN becomes a member of the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization; WHO DG Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland speaks at launch of ICN’s Centennial year.
  • 2000: ICN and WHO publish a joint fact sheet on Tuberculosis/DOTS. ICN joins the Safe Injection Network WHO EURO, ICN and the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) call for Europe wide HEALTH21 nursing and midwifery public health campaign and publish the Munich declaration. From 2000-2008 ICN joins and works with the STOP TB Partnership. Collaborations include production of guidelines, fact sheets and tool kits for nurses
  • 2001: ICN and WHO publish Best Infection Control Practices for Skin Piercing Intradermal, Subcutaneous and Intramuscular Needle Injections; ICN, WHO and ICM publish Female Genital Mutilation, Policy Guidelines for Nurses and Midwives, a teachers guide, and a students manual
  • 2002: ILO, ICN, WHO and Public Services International (PSI) collaborate on workplace violence and publish A Framework Guidelines for Addressing Workplace Violence in the Health Sector
  • 2003: ICN, WHO and the Royal College of Nursing publish International Nurse Mobility: Trends and Policy Implications; ICN becomes a founding member of the WHO International Network to Promote Safe Household Water Treatment and Storage.
  • 2004: WHO collaborates in the ICN Global Nursing Review Initiative
  • 2005: ICN and WHO launch the Joint Regulation Futures Project and publish the joint statement on Nursing Regulation: A Futures Perspective; ILO, ICN, WHO and PSI publish the training manual Addressing Workplace Violaine in the Health Sector; ICN joins the Partnership for Maternal and Newborn Health
  • 2006: Inaugural ICN,WHO, ICM Triad meeting of regulations, government chief nurses and leaders of national nursing and midwifery organisations; ICN becomes a founding member of the International Medical Products Anti-counterfeiting Taskforce
  • 2007: ICN and WHO publish Atlas: Nurses in Mental Health; WHO becomes the primary funding partner of ICN Leadership for Change programme; ICN and WHO WPRO collaborate to develop disaster nurse competencies; ICN and WHO EMRO address education-service transition: ICN, WHO and ICM hold High Level Consultation for decision makers.
  • 2008: ICN publishes 60 years of collaboration: ICN and WHO: A growing and fruitful partnership
  • 2009: WHO adds ICNP® to the Family of International Classifications (WHO-FIC) as a related terminology
  • 2010: ICN, in partnership with the WHO HIV/AIDS Cluster, develop a list of commodities and infrastructures needed for standard precautions, safe injection, lab safety, PEP, TB infection control, and waste management.
  • 2011: As a member of the Technical Advisory Group, ICN reviews a series of new e-learning modules based on the basic emergency obstetric and newborn care developed by Jhpiego in collaboration with WHO and UNFPA
  • 2012: ICN and WHO revise The Nursing Community, Macroeconomic and Public Finance Policies: Towards a Better Understanding
  • 2013: ICN, WHO, UNFPA, the International Confederation of Midwives, Jhpiego and other committed global leaders work together to address the need for family planning and accessible midwifery, nursing and health worker education and training related to basic emergency obstetric and newborn care.
  • 2014: ICN assisted in the development of WHO guidelines related to the use of Safety Engineered Syringes for all injections
  • 2015: ICN was a member of the WHO’s Inter-Agency Standing Committee of the Global Health Cluster (GHC) which focused on disasters in various countries; WHO DG Margaret Chan speaks at ICN Congress in Seoul; ICN and WHO co-host the first professional consultation on the Global Strategy on Human Resources for Health 2030
  • 2016: ICN and WHO launch the Strategic Directions for Nursing & Midwifery (SDNM) 2016-2020; ICN president, Dr Judith Shamian appointed to OECD, WHO, ILO High-Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth
  • 2017: Newly elected WHO DG Dr Tedros addresses ICN Congress in Barcelona; WHO supports ICN’s Global Nursing Leadership Institute.
  • 2018: ICN and WHO collaborate to support the Nursing Now Campaign; ICN president Annette Kennedy appointed as a Commissioner on the WHO Independent High-Level Commission on Noncommunicable Diseases
  • 2019: WHO DG Dr Tedros and Chief Nurse Elizabeth Iro attend ICN Congress in Singapore; ICN and WHO issue new Core Competencies in Disaster Nursing; ICN joins the WHO-Civil Society Working Group to Advance Action on Climate and Health
  • 2020: ICN and WHO release the first State of the World’s Nursing report; WHO DG Dr Tedros opens ICN, WHO, ICM Triad meeting
  • 2021: ICN and WHO co-host webinars to discuss the new WHO Global Strategic Directions on Nursing and Midwifery 2021-2025; Nursing Now, ICN and WHO hold a Global Footprints event to mark the close of the three-year campaign; ICN DG Dr Tedros, Chief Nurse Elizabeth Iro and other WHO staff speak at ICN Congress; Dr Tedros presents ICN President Annette Kennedy with Director General’s Health Leaders Award for Outstanding Leadership in Global Health
  • 2022: WHO DG Dr Tedros gives opening address at 12th ICN NP/APN Network Conference; ICN, as a member of the World Health Professions Alliance, signs Memorandum of Understanding with WHO.

[1] WHO https://who/int/about 

Download the communique here