Papers and preparation
In the months preceding the 27th Triennial Congress in Brisbane, a large part of the ICM Headquarters' workload, and mine, consisted of preparing for the Council meeting. It was a challenge for all of us. At that time, my knowledge of Council was from stories and the experiences of others as I had never previously attended a Council meeting. I was reassured by some that my experience with meetings of the Board of Management and Executive Committee was sufficient preparation for the Council. Others, however, warned me that I was about to experience something I had never experienced before.
Looking back, I can agree with both statements and I would like to take this opportunity to share my experience, as this last Council meeting under the English ICM constitution has paved the way for the new ICM governance structure under Dutch law and has given us a strong message to carry into the future.
The huge amount of paperwork involved with ICM Council is necessary, as it is the only way--at the moment--for the delegates to be informed of the issues at hand and the motions and recommendations that are put to them. The agenda of the four-day meeting was long and challenging, with 32 topic areas for discussion. The delegates received more than 80 background documents in English, French or Spanish. Not all papers were finished in time to be sent prior to the meeting, and the staff appreciate greatly the patience and understanding of our Member Associations and delegates who took this all in their stride.
A 'global midwifery conscience'
The strength of a Confederation is that each member is equally responsible for the well-being of the organisation. It was clear in Brisbane that the delegates, from more than 60 ICM Member Associations, took their responsibility seriously and came to Council prepared to work on what they considered to be very pressing and significant issues. It was also inevitable that, within this large group of midwives with diverse backgrounds and cultures, there would not necessarily be agreement in the priority topics to be brought to discussion and difference in opinions about specific subjects would become apparent. IM editor Elizabeth Duff described this eloquently in an article she wrote recently about the ICM Council; 'Difference and debate: no aggression, no sarcasm', the words being taken from an actual comment made by one of the observers.
Some of the discussions during Council were certainly heated...