As I write, with a title taken from Paul Robeson, African American writer and singer, it is harvest time in the Northern Hemisphere and age-old traditions of thanksgiving are being celebrated. In the Southern Hemisphere, spring unfolds with the sowing of seeds and promise of new life: a simultaneous global cycle of conception and birth. As the ICM begins a new triennium it is an opportunity to acknowledge the fruits of our many labours as we make plans for this new cycle together.
In taking stock, it is important to acknowledge the generations of midwives who have come before us. Midwifery has survived due to the foresight and determination of small groups of midwives who have worked tirelessly in many countries. These midwives developed the profession by establishing the underpinnings of the three pillars of a strong profession: independent professional associations, schools and training programmes, and autonomous midwifery standards and regulations. However, the last 20 to 30 years has seen a real global 'modernization' of midwifery, with an unprecedented number of new educational programmes, new professional associations and new legislation, all of which support the growth and autonomy of midwifery.
The ICM has continued to grow from a loosely knit confederation with a low international profile, to a permanent structure with Headquarters in The Hague; today it has 90 member associations in 80 countries. The ICM has partnered with WHO, FIGO, the ICN, the UNFPA, the WRA and other international agencies. In 2000, the ICM co-chaired the Inter-Agency Group of the Safe Motherhood Initiative and in 2005 the ICM co-chaired, along with the World Bank, the Steering Committee of the new Partnership for Maternal and Newborn Health. The ICM currently sits as Board member on the latest incarnation of this global entity, the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH).
Over these years the ICM Council has approved several dozen Position Statements for use by our Member Associations (available on www.internationalmidwives.org). In 2002 the ICM developed the basic competencies of midwifery practice, which are now recognized by the WHO, FIGO and the ICN as essential midwifery skills for all skilled birth attendants. The ICM has also developed a tool for strengthening midwifery associations and a series of modules for training midwifery leaders. The recent past Directors of the ICM, Margaret Peters, Joyce Thompson and Judi Brown, were instrumental in guiding the Confederation through this transition. Today the ICM has a dynamic international Board supported by Secretary General, Agneta Bridges, who confidently manages a small but talented staff. Together we carry out direction from Council and conduct the work of the ICM.