This past week in Bali, Indonesia, over 2,600 midwives from 130 countries met to learn, exchange and network over four days at the first ICM (International Confederation of Midwives) Congress since 2017.
ICM’s Triennial Congress traditionally begins with a flag ceremony, where members from ICM’s Member Associations carry their nation’s flag in a short procession. Once ICM was made aware that showing the Israeli flag at this ceremony would be in breach of Indonesian law (Foreign Minister of Republic of Indonesia Article No 3, 2019 regulated on Foreign/International Relationship Policy), we immediately contacted our Member Association, the Israel Midwives Association (IMA). After discussions, they decided not to participate in the Congress and thanked us for our communication and approach.
Historically, ICM has proudly featured our members’ flags, including that of Israel, at all Congresses where these organisations have had status as member associations, and we will continue to do so in the future. However, we are obliged to comply with the laws and norms Indonesia, the host country for our 2023 Congress. In fact, we are obliged to abide by the laws and norms of every country that hosts our international Congresses.
We regret that political limitations on our international Congress have resulted in the exclusion of one of our member associations. This is, however, an unfortunate reality that accompanies both our privilege to bring our international delegates together and our responsibility to be fair and inclusive in the choice of host regions for each triennial Congress iteration.
This occurrence has not been a reflection of ICM’s relationship with midwives in Israel.
Although we choose our Congress host nations carefully to ensure that there is travel and visa flexibility for the majority of our global membership, every country has rules for entry that we must abide by. ICM can neither influence nor control visa-related and other diplomatic issues.
We will continue to support the efforts of IMA to grow the midwifery profession in Israel and strengthen its organisation, and work with IMA to ensure they have opportunities to attend similar events in the future, working to make the world a better place for midwives’ associations, women, and their babies.