From the CEO: Sigma and the United Nations

By Elizabeth A. Madigan | 07/06/2018

Liz Madigan recounts the history of Sigma’s involvement with the U.N., describes how Sigma maintains a presence with the world body, and suggests ways for members to be involved.

Elizabeth MadiganAt the 44th Biennial Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA, the new Sigma brand was unveiled. As discussed in my previous column, the tagline “Global Nursing Excellence” was added to reflect the organization’s global commitment now and in the future. It was specifically chosen to align with Sigma’s mission of advancing world health and celebrating nursing excellence in scholarship, leadership, and service and its vision to be the global organization of choice for nursing. Because you as a nurse and member are represented through our activities, I want to share specific information about Sigma’s involvement with the United Nations (U.N.). It’s a critical component of Sigma’s overall growth, global stability, and success. 

Sigma’s formal U.N. representation is coordinated through the Global Initiatives Department, led by Cynthia Vlasich, MBA, BSN, RN, and managed on a day-to-day basis by Rebecca “Beckie” Schafer, global program manager. As directed by Sigma’s board, they provide guidance to support Sigma’s formal presence not only at the United Nations but also in global regions and organizations outside North America, including the World Health Organization, the World Health Assembly, the International Council of Nurses, and the International Confederation of Midwives. 

In July 2012, the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) granted special consultative status to Sigma based on its expertise in the field of nursing and global health. This designation recognizes our commitment to the U.N. charter, which identifies international cooperation in solving humanitarian issues as one of the purposes of the United Nations. To achieve special consultative status, Sigma first had to be approved as an associated nongovernmental organization by the U.N.’s Department of Public Information, which occurred in December 2009. 

Achieving ECOSOC special consultative status was a seminal moment for Sigma as a player on the global stage. It allows Sigma greater privileges and access to nearly all intergovernmental processes at the United Nations that deal with economic and social development, including health and gender issues, sustainable development, and human rights. It qualifies Sigma to participate on committees through which we—and you as a member—have a voice at the U.N. 

Our onsite representation is enhanced through Sigma’s U.N. liaison, Connie Sobon-Sensor, PhD, RN, CTN-A, and two Sigma U.N. youth representatives, Marnie Colborne, BScN, and Aden Hamza, BSN, RN. Our representatives advocate on behalf of Sigma at the U.N. and within the nongovernmental organization community. In addition to raising public awareness of the purposes and activities of the United Nations and related issues of global concern, they attend and/or participate in various U.N. events and programs related to health and/or nursing, with the goal of gathering information to fulfill Sigma’s mission. Starting in 2019, Sigma will have three additional liaisons—a total of four—to help expand our physical presence at the U.N. 

Sigma provides a strong nursing presence at the United Nations and continues to conduct outreach around the world to help our nurse members better understand the work and aims of the U.N., including its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). How can you as a Sigma member contribute? I suggest three ways: 

  1. If you are not already familiar with the SDGs, review them so you are prepared to cite the goals in your advocacy work as a nurse. The SDGs are not just about what needs to be done in countries with fewer resources—they apply to all countries.
  2. Watch for progress reports on how the SDGs influence global health. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has developed a website that lets you quickly see where progress is being made—and where there is little progress. Click here to view.
  3. Familiarize yourself with Gapminder and its tools, including those that enable you to take deep dives into health indicators, country by country over time. Take the Gapminder test to see how much you know about global health. We all have something to learn. (I take no responsibility for the amount of time you spend once you see all the ways you can display data available on Gapminder. I can get lost for hours!) 

As a world leader in nursing—by virtue of your membership in Sigma—you have a lot to offer. We need your thoughts and contributions to achieve our vision—to be the global organization of choice for nursing. RNL

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Elizabeth “Liz” Madigan, PhD, RN, FAAN

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