The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is an international humanitarian movement with approximately 97 million volunteers worldwide who stated to protect human life and health, to ensure respect for the human being, and to prevent and alleviate human suffering, without any discrimination based on nationality, race, religious beliefs, class or political opinions.
The often-heard term International Red Cross is actually a misnomer, as no official organization as such exists bearing that name. In reality, the movement consists of several distinct organizations that are legally independent from each other, but are united within the Movement through common basic principles, objectives, symbols, statutes, and governing organs. The Movement's parts:
Up until the middle of the 19th century, there were no organized and well-established army nursing systems for casualties and no safe and protected institutions to accommodate and treat those who were wounded on the battlefield. In June 1859, the Swiss businessman Henry Dunant traveled to Italy to meet French emperor Napoléon III with the intention of discussing difficulties in conducting business in Algeria, at that time occupied by France. When he arrived in the small town of Solferino on the evening of June 24, he witnessed the Battle of Solferino, an engagement in the Austro-Sardinian War. In a single day, about 40,000 soldiers on both sides died or were left wounded on the field. Henry Dunant was shocked by the terrible aftermath of the battle, the suffering of the wounded soldiers, and the near-total lack of medical attendance and basic care. He completely abandoned the original intent of his trip and for several days he devoted himself to helping with the treatment and care for the wounded. He succeeded in organizing an overwhelming level of relief assistance by motivating the local population to aid without discrimination. Back in his home in Geneva, he decided to write a book entitled A Memory of Solferino which he published with his own money in 1862. He sent copies of the book to leading political and military figures throughout Europe. In addition to penning a vivid description of his experiences in Solferino in 1859, he explicitly advocated the formation of national voluntary relief organizations to help nurse wounded soldiers in the case of war. In addition, he called for the development of international treaties to guarantee the protection of neutral medics and field hospitals for soldiers wounded on the battlefield.
On February 9, 1863 in Geneva, Henry Dunant founded the "Committee of the Five" (together with four other leading figures from well-known Geneva families) as an investigatory commission of the Geneva Society for Public Welfare. Their aim was to examine the feasibility of Dunant's ideas and to organize an international conference about their possible implementation. The members of this committee, aside from Dunant himself, were Gustave Moynier, lawyer and chairman of the Geneva Society for Public Welfare; physician Louis Appia, who had significant experience working as a field surgeon; Appia's friend and colleague Théodore Maunoir, from the Geneva Hygiene and Health Commission; and Guillaume-Henri Dufour, a Swiss Army general of great renown. Eight days later, the five men decided to rename the committee to the "International Committee for Relief to the Wounded". In October (26–29) 1863, the international conference organized by the committee was held in Geneva to develop possible measures to improve medical services on the battle field. The conference was attended by 36 individuals: eighteen official delegates from national governments, six delegates from other non-governmental organizations, seven non-official foreign delegates, and the five members of the International Committee. The states and kingdoms represented by official delegates were Baden, Bavaria, France, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Hanover, Hesse, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, Prussia, Russia, Saxony, Sweden, and Spain. Among the proposals written in the final resolutions of the conference, adopted on October 29, 1863, were:
Only one year later, the Swiss government invited the governments of all European countries, as well as the United States, Brazil, and Mexico, to attend an official diplomatic conference. Sixteen countries sent a total of twenty-six delegates to Geneva. On August 22, 1864, the conference adopted the first Geneva Convention "for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field". Representatives of 12 states and kingdoms signed the convention: Baden, Belgium, Denmark, France, Hesse, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Prussia, Switzerland, Spain, and Württemberg. The convention contained ten articles, establishing for the first time legally binding rules guaranteeing neutrality and protection for wounded soldiers, field medical personnel, and specific humanitarian institutions in an armed conflict. Furthermore, the convention defined two specific requirements for recognition of a national relief society by the International Committee:
Directly following the establishment of the Geneva Convention, the first national societies were founded in Belgium, Denmark, France, Oldenburg, Prussia, Spain, and Württemberg. Also in 1864, Louis Appia and Charles van de Velde, a captain of the Dutch Army, became the first independent and neutral delegates to work under the symbol of the Red Cross in an armed conflict. Three years later in 1867, the first International Conference of National Aid Societies for the Nursing of the War Wounded was convened.
Also in 1867, Henry Dunant was forced to declare bankruptcy due to business failures in Algeria, partly because he had neglected his business interests during his tireless activities for the International Committee. Controversy surrounding Dunant's business dealings and the resulting negative public opinion, combined with an ongoing conflict with Gustave Moynier, led to Dunant's expulsion from his position as a member and secretary. He was charged with fraudulent bankruptcy and a warrant for his arrest was issued. Thus, he was forced to leave Geneva and never returned to his home city. In the following years, national societies were founded in nearly every country in Europe. In 1876, the committee adopted the name "International Committee of the Red Cross" (ICRC), which is still its official designation today. Five years later, the American Red Cross was founded through the efforts of Clara Barton. More and more countries signed the Geneva Convention and began to respect it in practice during armed conflicts. In a rather short period of time, the Red Cross gained huge momentum as an internationally respected movement, and the national societies became increasingly popular as a venue for volunteer work.
When the first Nobel Peace Prize was awarded in 1901, the Norwegian Nobel Committee opted to give it jointly to Henry Dunant and Frédéric Passy, a leading international pacifist. More significant than the honor of the prize itself, the official congratulation from the International Committee of the Red Cross marked the overdue rehabilitation of Henry Dunant and represented a tribute to his key role in the formation of the Red Cross. Dunant died nine years later in the small Swiss health resort of Heiden. Only two months earlier his long-standing adversary Gustave Moynier had also died, leaving a mark in the history of the Committee as its longest-serving president ever.
In 1906, the 1864 Geneva Convention was revised for the first time. One year later, the Hague Convention X, adopted at the Second International Peace Conference in The Hague, extended the scope of the Geneva Convention to naval warfare. Shortly before the beginning of the First World War in 1914, 50 years after the foundation of the ICRC and the adoption of the first Geneva Convention, there were already 45 national relief societies throughout the world. The movement had extended itself beyond Europe and North America to Central and South America (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Mexico, Peru, El Salvador, Uruguay, Venezuela), Asia (the Republic of China, Japan, Korea, Siam), and Africa (Republic of South Africa).
With the outbreak of World War I, the ICRC found itself confronted with enormous challenges which it could only handle by working closely with the national Red Cross societies. Red Cross nurses from around the world, including the United States and Japan, came to support the medical services of the armed forces of the European countries involved in the war. On October 15, 1914, immediately after the start of the war, the ICRC set up its International Prisoners-of-War (POW) Agency, which had about 1,200 mostly volunteer staff members by the end of 1914. By the end of the war, the Agency had transferred about 20 million letters and messages, 1.9 million parcels, and about 18 million Swiss francs in monetary donations to POWs of all affected countries. Furthermore, due to the intervention of the Agency, about 200,000 prisoners were exchanged between the warring parties, released from captivity and returned to their home country. The organizational card index of the Agency accumulated about 7 million records from 1914 to 1923, each card representing an individual prisoner or missing person. The card index led to the identification of about 2 million POWs and the ability to contact their families. The complete index is on loan today from the ICRC to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum in Geneva. The right to access the index is still strictly restricted to the ICRC.
During the entire war, the ICRC monitored warring parties’ compliance with the Geneva Conventions of the 1907 revision and forwarded complaints about violations to the respective country. When chemical weapons were used in this war for the first time in history, the ICRC vigorously protested against this new type of warfare. Even without having a mandate from the Geneva Conventions, the ICRC tried to ameliorate the suffering of civil populations. In territories that were officially designated as "occupied territories," the ICRC could assist the civilian population on the basis of the Hague Convention's "Laws and Customs of War on Land" of 1907. This convention was also the legal basis for the ICRC's work for prisoners of war. In addition to the work of the International Prisoner-of-War Agency as described above this included inspection visits to POW camps. A total of 524 camps throughout Europe were visited by 41 delegates from the ICRC until the end of the war.
Between 1916 and 1918, the ICRC published a number of postcards with scenes from the POW camps. The pictures showed the prisoners in day-to-day activities such as the distribution of letters from home. The intention of the ICRC was to provide the families of the prisoners with some hope and solace and to alleviate their uncertainties about the fate of their loved ones. After the end of the war, the ICRC organized the return of about 420,000 prisoners to their home countries. In 1920, the task of repatriation was handed over to the newly founded League of Nations, which appointed the Norwegian diplomat and scientist Fridtjof Nansen as its "High Commissioner for Repatriation of the War Prisoners." His legal mandate was later extended to support and care for war refugees and displaced persons when his office became that of the League of Nations "High Commissioner for Refugees." Nansen, who invented the Nansen passport for stateless refugees and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1922, appointed two delegates from the ICRC as his deputies.
A year before the end of the war, the ICRC received the 1917 Nobel Peace Prize for its outstanding wartime work. It was the only Nobel Peace Prize awarded in the period from 1914 to 1918. In 1923, the Committee adopted a change in its policy regarding the selection of new members. Until then, only citizens from the city of Geneva could serve in the Committee. This limitation was expanded to include Swiss citizens. As a direct consequence of World War I, an additional protocol to the Geneva Convention was adopted in 1925 which outlawed the use of suffocating or poisonous gases and biological agents as weapons. Four years later, the original Convention was revised and the second Geneva Convention "relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War" was established. The events of World War I and the respective activities of the ICRC significantly increased the reputation and authority of the Committee among the international community and led to an extension of its competencies.
As early as in 1934, a draft proposal for an additional convention for the protection of the civil population during an armed conflict was adopted by the International Red Cross Conference. Unfortunately, most governments had little interest in implementing this convention, and it was thus prevented from entering into force before the beginning of World War II.
The legal basis of the work of the ICRC during World War II were the Geneva Conventions in their 1929 revision. The activities of the Committee were similar to those during World War I: visiting and monitoring POW camps, organizing relief assistance for civilian populations, and administering the exchange of messages regarding prisoners and missing persons. By the end of the war, 179 delegates had conducted 12,750 visits to POW camps in 41 countries. The Central Information Agency on Prisoners-of-War (Zentralauskunftsstelle für Kriegsgefangene) had a staff of 3,000, the card index tracking prisoners contained 45 million cards, and 120 million messages were exchanged by the Agency. One major obstacle was that the Nazi-controlled German Red Cross refused to cooperate with the Geneva statutes including blatant violations such as the deportation of Jews from Germany and the mass murders conducted in the concentration camps run by the German government. Moreover, two other main parties to the conflict, the Soviet Union and Japan, were not party to the 1929 Geneva Conventions and were not legally required to follow the rules of the conventions.
During the war, the ICRC failed to obtain an agreement with Nazi Germany about the treatment of detainees in concentration camps, and it eventually abandoned applying pressure in order to avoid disrupting its work with POWs. The ICRC also failed to develop a response to reliable information about the extermination camps and the mass killing of European Jews. This is still considered the greatest failure of the ICRC in its history. After November 1943, the ICRC achieved permission to send parcels to concentration camp detainees with known names and locations. Because the notices of receipt for these parcels were often signed by other inmates, the ICRC managed to register the identities of about 105,000 detainees in the concentration camps and delivered about 1.1 million parcels, primarily to the camps Dachau, Buchenwald, Ravensbrück, and Sachsenhausen.
On March 12, 1945, ICRC president Jacob Burckhardt received a message from SS General Ernst Kaltenbrunner accepting the ICRC's demand to allow delegates to visit the concentration camps. This agreement was bound by the condition that these delegates would have to stay in the camps until the end of the war. Ten delegates, among them Louis Haefliger (Camp Mauthausen), Paul Dunant (Camp Theresienstadt) and Victor Maurer (Camp Dachau), accepted the assignment and visited the camps. Louis Haefliger prevented the forceful eviction or blasting of Mauthausen-Gusen by alerting American troops, thereby saving the lives of about 60,000 inmates. His actions were condemned by the ICRC because they were deemed as acting unduly on his own authority and risking the ICRC's neutrality. Only in 1990, his reputation was finally rehabilitated by ICRC president Cornelio Sommaruga.
Another example of great humanitarian spirit was Friedrich Born (1903–1963), an ICRC delegate in Budapest who saved the lives of about 11,000 to 15,000 Jewish people in Hungary. Marcel Junod (1904–1961), a physician from Geneva, was another famous delegate during the Second World War. An account of his experiences, which included being one of the first foreigners to visit Hiroshima after the atomic bomb was dropped, can be found in the book Warrior without Weapons.
In 1944, the ICRC received its second Nobel Peace Prize. As in World War I, it received the only Peace Prize awarded during the main period of war, 1939 to 1945. At the end of the war, the ICRC worked with national Red Cross societies to organize relief assistance to those countries most severely affected. In 1948, the Committee published a report reviewing its war-era activities from September 1, 1939 to June 30, 1947. Since January 1996, the ICRC archive for this period has been open to academic and public research.
On August 12, 1949, further revisions to the existing two Geneva Conventions were adopted. An additional convention "for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea", now called the second Geneva Convention, was brought under the Geneva Convention umbrella as a successor to the 1907 Hague Convention X. The 1929 Geneva convention "relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War" may have been the second Geneva Convention from a historical point of view (because it was actually formulated in Geneva), but after 1949 it came to be called the third Convention because it came later chronologically than the Hague Convention. Reacting to the experience of World War II, the Fourth Geneva Convention, a new Convention "relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War," was established. Also, the additional protocols of June 8, 1977 were intended to make the conventions apply to internal conflicts such as civil wars. Today, the four conventions and their added protocols contain more than 600 articles, a remarkable expansion when compared to the mere 10 articles in the first 1864 convention.
In celebration of its centennial in 1963, the ICRC, together with the League of Red Cross Societies, received its third Nobel Peace Prize. Since 1993, non-Swiss individuals have been allowed to serve as Committee delegates abroad, a task which was previously restricted to Swiss citizens. Indeed, since then, the share of staff without Swiss citizenship has increased to about 35%.
On October 16, 1990, the UN General Assembly decided to grant the ICRC observer status for its assembly sessions and sub-committee meetings, the first observer status given to a private organization. The resolution was jointly proposed by 138 member states and introduced by the Italian ambassador, Vieri Traxler, in memory of the organization's origins in the Battle of Solferino. An agreement with the Swiss government signed on March 19, 1993, affirmed the already long-standing policy of full independence of the Committee from any possible interference by Switzerland. The agreement protects the full sanctity of all ICRC property in Switzerland including its headquarters and archive, grants members and staff legal immunity, exempts the ICRC from all taxes and fees, guarantees the protected and duty-free transfer of goods, services, and money, provides the ICRC with secure communication privileges at the same level as foreign embassies, and simplifies Committee travel in and out of Switzerland.
At the end of the Cold War, the ICRC's work actually became more dangerous. In the 1990s, more delegates lost their lives than at any point in its history, especially when working in local and internal armed conflicts. These incidents often demonstrated a lack of respect for the rules of the Geneva Conventions and their protection symbols. Among the slain delegates were:
In 1919, representatives from the national Red Cross societies of Britain, France, Italy, Japan, and the US came together in Paris to found the "League of Red Cross Societies". The original idea was Henry Davison's, then president of the American Red Cross. This move, led by the American Red Cross, expanded the international activities of the Red Cross movement beyond the strict mission of the ICRC to include relief assistance in response to emergency situations which were not caused by war (such as man-made or natural disasters). The ARC already had great disaster relief mission experience extending back to its foundation.
The formation of the League, as an additional international Red Cross organization alongside the ICRC, was not without controversy for a number of reasons. The ICRC had, to some extent, valid concerns about a possible rivalry between both organizations. The foundation of the League was seen as an attempt to undermine the leadership position of the ICRC within the movement and to gradually transfer most of its tasks and competencies to a multilateral institution. In addition to that, all founding members of the League were national societies from countries of the Entente or from associated partners of the Entente. The original statutes of the League from May 1919 contained further regulations which gave the five founding societies a privileged status and, due to the efforts of Henry P. Davison, the right to permanently exclude the national Red Cross societies from the countries of the Central Powers, namely Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey, and in addition to that the national Red Cross society of Russia. These rules were contrary to the Red Cross principles of universality and equality among all national societies, a situation which furthered the concerns of the ICRC.
The first relief assistance mission organized by the League was an aid mission for the victims of a famine and subsequent typhus epidemic in Poland. Only five years after its foundation, the League had already issued 47 donation appeals for missions in 34 countries, an impressive indication of the need for this type of Red Cross work. The total sum raised by these appeals reached 685 million Swiss Francs, which were used to bring emergency supplies to the victims of famines in Russia, Germany, and Albania; earthquakes in Chile, Persia, Japan, Colombia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Turkey; and refugee flows in Greece and Turkey. The first large-scale disaster mission of the League came after the 1923 earthquake in Japan which killed about 200,000 people and left countless more wounded and without shelter. Due to the League's coordination, the Red Cross society of Japan received goods from its sister societies reaching a total worth of about $100 million. Another important new field initiated by the League was the creation of youth Red Cross organizations within the national societies.
A joint mission of the ICRC and the League in the Russian Civil War from 1917 to 1922 marked the first time the movement was involved in an internal conflict, although still without an explicit mandate from the Geneva Conventions. The League, with support from more than 25 national societies, organized assistance missions and the distribution of food and other aid goods for civil populations affected by hunger and disease. The ICRC worked with the Russian Red Cross society and later the society of the Soviet Union, constantly emphasizing the ICRC's neutrality. In 1928, the "International Council" was founded to coordinate cooperation between the ICRC and the League, a task which was later taken over by the "Standing Commission". In the same year, a common statute for the movement was adopted for the first time, defining the respective roles of the ICRC and the League within the movement.
During the Abyssinian war between Ethiopia and Italy from 1935 to 1936, the League contributed aid supplies worth about 1.7 million Swiss Francs. Because the Italian fascist regime under Mussolini refused any cooperation with the Red Cross, these goods were delivered solely to Ethiopia. During the war, an estimated 29 people lost their lives while being under explicit protection of the Red Cross symbol, most of them due to attacks by the Italian Army. During the Civil War in Spain from 1936 to 1939 the League once again joined forces with the ICRC with the support of 41 national societies. In 1939 on the brink of the Second World War, the League relocated its headquarters from Paris to Geneva to take advantage of Swiss neutrality.
In 1952, the 1928 common statute of the movement was revised for the first time. Also, the period of decolonization from 1960 to 1970 was marked by a huge jump in the number of recognized national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies. By the end of the 1960s, there were more than 100 societies around the world. On December 10, 1963, the Federation and the ICRC received the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1983, the League was renamed to the "League of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies" to reflect the growing number of national societies operating under the Red Crescent symbol. Three years later, the seven basic principles of the movement as adopted in 1965 were incorporated into its statutes. The name of the League was changed again in 1991 to its current official designation the "International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies". In 1997, the ICRC and the Federation signed the Seville Agreement which further defined the responsibilities of both organizations within the movement. In 2004, the Federation began its largest mission to date after the tsunami disaster in South Asia. More than 40 national societies have worked with more than 22,000 volunteers to bring relief to the countless victims left without food and shelter and endangered by the risk of epidemics.
Former presidents (until 1977 titled "Chairman") have been:
Altogether, there are about 97 million people worldwide who serve with the ICRC, the International Federation, and the National Societies. And there are about 300,000 total full time staff members.
The 1965 International Conference in Vienna adopted seven basic principles which should be shared by all parts of the Movement, and they were added to the official statutes of the Movement in 1986.
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Conference, which occurs once every four years, is the highest institutional body of the Movement. It gathers delegations from all of the national societies as well as from the ICRC, the Federation and the signatory states to the Geneva Conventions. In between the conferences, the Standing Commission acts as the supreme body and supervises implementation of and compliance with the resolutions of the conference. In addition, the Standing Commission coordinates the cooperation between the ICRC and the Federation. It consists of two representatives from the ICRC (including its president), two from the Federation (including its president), and five individuals who are elected by the International Conference. The Standing Commission convenes every six months on average. Moreover, a convention of the Council of Delegates of the Movement takes place every two years in the course of the conferences of the General Assemblies of the Federation. The Council of Delegates plans and coordinates joint activities for the Movement.
The official mission of the ICRC as an impartial, neutral, and independent organization is to stand for the protection of the life and dignity of victims of international and internal armed conflicts. According to the 1997 Seville Agreement, it is the "Lead Agency" of the Movement in conflicts. The core tasks of the Committee, which are derived from the Geneva Conventions and its own statutes, are the following:
The leading organs of the ICRC are the Directorate and the Assembly. The Directorate is the executive body of the Committee. It consists of a General Director and five directors in the areas of "Operations", "Human Resources", "Resources and Operational Support", "Communication", and "International Law and Cooperation within the Movement". The members of the Directorate are appointed by the Assembly to serve for four years. The Assembly, consisting of all of the members of the Committee, convenes on a regular basis and is responsible for defining aims, guidelines, and strategies and for supervising the financial matters of the Committee. The president of the Assembly is also the president of the Committee as a whole. Furthermore, the Assembly elects a five member Assembly Council which has the authority to decide on behalf of the full Assembly in some matters. The Council is also responsible for organizing the Assembly meetings and for facilitating communication between the Assembly and the Directorate.
Due to Geneva's location in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, the ICRC usually acts under its French name Comité international de la Croix-Rouge (CICR). The official symbol of the ICRC is the Red Cross on white background with the words "COMITE INTERNATIONAL GENEVE" circling the cross.
The Federation coordinates cooperation between national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies throughout the world and supports the foundation of new national societies in countries where no official society exists. On the international stage, the Federation organizes and leads relief assistance missions after emergencies like natural disasters, manmade disasters, epidemics, mass refugee flights, and other emergencies. According to the 1997 Seville Agreement, the Federation is the Lead Agency of the Movement in any emergency situation which does not take place as part of an armed conflict. The Federation cooperates with the national societies of those countries affected – each called the Operating National Society (ONS) – as well as the national societies of other countries willing to offer assistance – called Participating National Societies (PNS). Among the 187 national societies admitted to the General Assembly of the Federation as full members or observers, about 25–30 regularly work as PNS in other countries. The most active of those are the American Red Cross, the British Red Cross, the German Red Cross, and the Red Cross societies of Sweden and Norway. Another major mission of the Federation which has gained attention in recent years is its commitment to work towards a codified, worldwide ban on the use of land mines and to bring medical, psychological, and social support for people injured by land mines.
The tasks of the Federation can therefore be summarized as follows:
The symbol of the Federation is the combination of the Red Cross (left) and Red Crescent (right) on a white background (surrounded by a red rectangular frame) without any additional text.
National Red Cross and Red Crescent societies exist in nearly every country in the world. Within their home country, they take on the duties and responsibilities of a national relief society as defined by International Humanitarian Law. Within the Movement, the ICRC is responsible for legally recognizing a relief society as an official national Red Cross or Red Crescent society. The exact rules for recognition are defined in the statutes of the Movement. Article 4 of these statutes contains the "Conditions for recognition of National Societies":
After recognition by the ICRC, a national society is admitted as a member to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies.
As a protection symbol, they are used in armed conflicts to mark persons and objects (buildings, vehicles, etc.) which are working in compliance with the rules of the Geneva Conventions. In this function, they can also be used by organizations and objects which are not part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, for example the medical services of the armed forces, civilian hospitals, and civil defense units. As protection symbols, these emblems should be used without any additional specification (textual or otherwise) and in a prominent manner which makes them as visible and observable as possible, for example by using large white flags bearing the symbol. Four of these symbols, namely the Red Cross, the Red Crescent, the Red Lion with Sun and the Red Crystal, are defined in the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols as symbols for protective use.
When used as an organizational logo, these symbols only indicate that persons, vehicles, buildings, etc. which bear the symbols belong to a specific organization which is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (like the ICRC, the International Federation or the national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies). In this case, they should be used with an additional specification (for example "American Red Cross") and not be displayed as prominently as when used as protection symbols. Three of these symbols, namely the Red Cross, the Red Crescent and the Red Crystal, can be used for indicative purposes by national societies for use in their home country or abroad. In addition to that, the Red Shield of David can be used by the Israel society Magen David Adom for indicative purposes within Israel, and, pending the approval of the respective host country, in combination with the Red Crystal when working abroad.
The Red Cross on white background was the original protection symbol declared at the 1864 Geneva Convention. It is, in terms of its color, a reversal of the Swiss national flag, a meaning which was adopted to honor Swiss founder Henry Dunant and his home country. The ideas to introduce a uniform and neutral protection symbol as well as its specific design originally came from Dr. Louis Appia and General Henri Dufour, founding members of the International Committee. The Red Cross is defined as a protection symbol in Article 7 of the 1864 Geneva Convention, Chapter VII ("The distinctive emblem") and Article 38 of the 1949 Geneva Convention ("For the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field"). There is an unofficial agreement within the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement that the shape of the cross should be a cross composed of five squares. However, regardless of the shape, any Red Cross on white background should be valid and must be recognized as a protection symbol in conflict. Of the 186 national societies which are currently recognized by the ICRC, 152 are using the Red Cross as their official organization emblem. In addition, the Red Cross is currently used by the national society of Tuvalu which has applied for official recognition.
During the Russo-Turkish War from 1876 to 1878, the Ottoman Empire used a Red Crescent instead of the Red Cross because its government believed that the cross would alienate its Muslim soldiers. When asked by the ICRC in 1877, Russia committed to fully respect the sanctity of all persons and facilities bearing the Red Crescent symbol, followed by a similar commitment from the Ottoman government to respect the Red Cross. After this de facto assessment of equal validity to both symbols, the ICRC declared in 1878 that it should be possible in principle to adopt an additional official protection symbol for non-Christian countries. The Red Crescent was formally recognized in 1929 when the Geneva Conventions were amended (Article 19). Originally, the Red Crescent was used by Turkey and Egypt. From its official recognition to today, the Red Crescent became the organizational emblem of nearly every national society in countries with majority Muslim populations. The national societies of some countries such as Pakistan (1974), Malaysia (1975), or Bangladesh (1989) have officially changed their name and emblem from the Red Cross to the Red Crescent. The Red Crescent is used by 33 of the 186 recognized societies worldwide.
Because of the controversy over Israel's national society Magen David Adom and a number of other disputes, the introduction of an additional neutral protection symbol had been under discussion for a number of years, with the Red Crystal (previously referred to as the Red Lozenge or Red Diamond) being the most popular proposal. Other attempts have included Sri Lanka (1957) and India (1977) who tried to establish a Red Swastika and also efforts by the national societies of Kazakhstan and Eritrea to use a unique combination of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent, similar to the combination of both symbols used by the national society of the Soviet Union until its demise. However, amending the Geneva Conventions to add a new protection symbol requires a diplomatic conference of all 192 signatory states to the Conventions. The Swiss government organized such a conference to take place on December 5–6, 2005, to adopt a third additional protocol to the Geneva Conventions introducing the Red Crystal as an additional symbol with equal status to the Red Cross or Red Crescent. Following an unplanned extension of the conference until December 7, the protocol was adopted after a vote successfully achieved the required two-thirds majority. From the countries which attended the conference, 98 voted in favour and 27 against the protocol, while 10 countries abstained from voting.
In the third Protocol the new symbol is referred to as "the third Protocol emblem". The rules for the use of this symbol, based on the third additional protocol to the Geneva Conventions, are the following:
On 22 June 2006 the ICRC announced that the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement adopted the Red Crystal as additional emblem for use by the national societies. The ICRC also announced the recognition of the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) and the Israeli National Society, Magen David Adom (MDA). On 14 January 2007, the third additional protocol entered into force.
From 1924 to 1980, Iran used a 'Red Lion with Sun' symbol for its national society, based on the flag and emblem of the Qajar Dynasty. The Red Lion with Sun was formally recognized as a protection symbol in 1929, together with the Red Crescent. Despite the country's shift to the Red Crescent in 1980, Iran explicitly maintains the right to use the symbol. Therefore, it is still recognized by the Geneva Convention as a protection symbol with equal status to the Red Cross, Red Crescent and Red Crystal.
Magen David Adom, the national society of Israel, has used the Red Shield of David as its organization emblem since its foundation. The Red Shield of David was initially proposed as an addition to the Red Cross, Red Crescent, and Red Lion with Sun in 1931. The proposal was rejected by the ICRC, like the Mehrab-e-Ahmar (Red Archway) symbol of the national aid society of Afghanistan four years later, as well as a wide range of other proposals, due to concerns about symbol proliferation. Israel again tried to establish the emblem as a third protection symbol in the context of the Geneva Conventions, but a respective proposal was narrowly defeated when the Geneva Conventions were adopted by governments in 1949. As the Red Shield of David is not a recognized protection symbol under the Geneva Conventions, Magen David Adom's recognition as a national society by the ICRC was long delayed.
It was not until 2006 that the ICRC officially recognized Magen David Adom. The adoption of the third protocol emblem paved the way for the recognition and admission of Magen David Adom as a full member of the International Federation, as the rules of the third protocol allow it to continue using the Red Shield of David when operating within Israel and provide a solution for its missions abroad. Though the organization only recently gained official recognition, it has had an excellent reputation within the Movement for many years and took part in many international activities, in cooperation with both the ICRC and the Federation, prior to its official recognition.
The original motto of the International Committee of the Red Cross was Inter Arma Caritas ("In War, Charity"). This Christian-spirited slogan was amended in 1961 with the neutral motto Per Humanitatem ad Pacem or "With humanity, towards peace". While Inter Arma Caritas is still the primary motto of the ICRC (as per Article 3 of the ICRC statutes), Per Humanitatem ad Pacem is the primary motto of the Federation (Article 1 of the Constitution of the Federation). Both organizations acknowledge the alternative motto, and together both slogans serve as the combined motto of the International Movement.
The mission statement of the International Movement as formulated in the "Strategy 2010" document of the Federation is to improve the lives of vulnerable people by mobilizing the power of humanity. From 1999 to 2004, the common slogan for all activities of the International Movement was The Power of Humanity. In December 2003, the 28th International Conference in Geneva adopted the conference motto Protecting Human Dignity as the new Movement slogan.
The 16th International Conference which convened in London in 1938 officially decided to make May 8, the birthday of Henry Dunant, as the official annual commemoration and celebration day of the Movement. Since 1984, the official name of the celebration day has been "World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day".
In Solferino, a small museum describes the history of the Battle of Solferino and of the Risorgimento, the long and bloody Italian struggle for independence and unity. In the Ossario di Solferino (Solferino Ossuary) in close proximity to the museum, a moving display shows the horrors of war. Inside the chapel, 1,413 skulls and many more bones from thousands of French and Austrian troops who died during the battle are shown. Solferino is also host to the International Red Cross Memorial inaugurated in 1959 on the centennial of the Battle of Solferino. The memorial contains stone plaques identifying each recognized national society. In Castiglione delle Stiviere, a small town near Solferino, the International Museum of the Red Cross was also opened in 1959. Moreover, another museum, the International Red Cross Museum stands in Geneva in close proximity to the headquarters of the ICRC. Finally, in the Swiss city of Heiden, the Henry Dunant Museum was opened to preserve the memory and legacy of Dunant himself.
On July 2 2008 Ingrid Betancourt and a dozen other captives of the Colombian FARC rebels were freed through a subterfuge. Colombian officials pretended to be FARC sympathizers, and the captives were handed over without violence. On July 17 2008 it became public that one of the Colombian officials was dressed as a Red Cross medic. Critics commented that the use of Red Cross identification during this subterfuge could put real Red Cross personnel at risk in the future.