Over the years, resolutions on nursing and midwifery adopted by the WHO World Health Assembly have helped to provide a strong foundation for strengthening nursing and midwifery services. The most recent resolution, WHA 64.7, gives WHO the mandate to develop and strengthen strategies such as: capacity of nursing and midwifery workforce through the provision of support to Member States on developing targets, action plans and forging strong interdisciplinary health teams as well as strengthening the dataset on nursing and midwifery. The mandates have been operationalized through the various strategic directions of strengthening nursing and midwifery. The Global strategic directions for strengthening nursing and midwifery 2016–2020, being the third in the series follows the versions of 2002–2008 and 2011–2015.

Together with the Global Strategy on Human Resources for Health: Workforce 2030, the Global strategic directions for strengthening nursing and midwifery 2016–2020 provides a robust WHO strategic response to develop nursing and midwifery as it outlines critical objectives. Collaboration with key stakeholders will help deliver the overall vision of achieving universal health coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals. The Global strategic directions are organized according to the following four thematic areas:

Ensuring an educated, competent and motivated nursing and midwifery workforce within effective and responsive health systems at all levels and in different settings

Optimizing policy development, effective leadership, management and governance

Working together to maximize the capacities and potentials of nurses and midwives through intra and interprofessional collaborative partnerships, education and continuing professional development

Mobilizing political will to invest in building effective evidence-based nursing and midwifery workforce development

Through a set of guiding principles, strategic interventions under the different thematic areas mentioned above are outlined for implementation at country, regional and global levels.