International Committee of the Red Cross

International Committee of the Red Cross

Overview


The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is a private humanitarian institution based in Geneva
Geneva
Geneva In the national languages of Switzerland the city is known as Genf , Ginevra and Genevra is the second-most-populous city in Switzerland and is the most populous city of Romandie, the French-speaking part of Switzerland...

, Switzerland. States parties (signatories) to the four Geneva Conventions
Geneva Conventions
The Geneva Conventions comprise four treaties, and three additional protocols, that establish the standards of international law for the humanitarian treatment of the victims of war...

 of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977 and 2005, have given the ICRC a mandate to protect the victims of international and internal armed conflicts
War
War is a state of organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict carried on between states, nations, or other parties typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political...

. Such victims include war wounded, prisoners, refugee
Refugee
A refugee is a person who outside her country of origin or habitual residence because she has suffered persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or because she is a member of a persecuted 'social group'. Such a person may be referred to as an 'asylum seeker' until...

s, civilians, and other non-combatant
Non-combatant
Non-combatant is a term in the law of war describing civilians not taking a direct part in hostilities, as well as persons such as medical personnel and military chaplains who are regular soldiers but are protected because of their function as well as soldiers who are hors de combat ; that is, sick,...

s.

The ICRC is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement
International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is an international humanitarian movement with approximately 97 million volunteers, members and staff worldwide which was founded to protect human life and health, to ensure respect for all human beings, and to prevent and alleviate human...

 along with the International Federation
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is a humanitarian institution that is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement along with the ICRC and 186 distinct National Societies...

 and 186 National Societies.
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style="font-size: larger;" | International Committee of the Red Cross
Type Private humanitarian organization
Founded 1863
Location Geneva
Geneva
Geneva In the national languages of Switzerland the city is known as Genf , Ginevra and Genevra is the second-most-populous city in Switzerland and is the most populous city of Romandie, the French-speaking part of Switzerland...

, Switzerland
Leaders Jakob Kellenberger
Jakob Kellenberger
Jakob Kellenberger is a former Swiss diplomat and the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross .-Biography:Jakob Kellenberger was born in the Swiss canton of Appenzell in 1944....

, President
Yves Daccord
Yves Daccord
Yves Daccord is the Director-General of the International Committee of the Red Cross Directorate.Daccord earned a B.A. in political science from the University of Geneva. He was a tv journalist at the Télévision Suisse Romande in Geneva and producer.He joined the ICRC in 1992...

, Director-General
Field Humanitarianism
Purpose Protection of war wounded, refugee
Refugee
A refugee is a person who outside her country of origin or habitual residence because she has suffered persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or because she is a member of a persecuted 'social group'. Such a person may be referred to as an 'asylum seeker' until...

s, and prisoners.
Budget CHF
Swiss franc
The franc is the currency and legal tender of Switzerland and Liechtenstein; it is also legal tender in the Italian exclave Campione d'Italia. Although not formally legal tender in the German exclave Büsingen , it is in wide daily use there...

 1156 million (2010)
173 m for headquarters
983.2 m for field operations
Employees More than 1,400 in field operations
Website www.icrc.org


The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is a private humanitarian institution based in Geneva
Geneva
Geneva In the national languages of Switzerland the city is known as Genf , Ginevra and Genevra is the second-most-populous city in Switzerland and is the most populous city of Romandie, the French-speaking part of Switzerland...

, Switzerland. States parties (signatories) to the four Geneva Conventions
Geneva Conventions
The Geneva Conventions comprise four treaties, and three additional protocols, that establish the standards of international law for the humanitarian treatment of the victims of war...

 of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977 and 2005, have given the ICRC a mandate to protect the victims of international and internal armed conflicts
War
War is a state of organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict carried on between states, nations, or other parties typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political...

. Such victims include war wounded, prisoners, refugee
Refugee
A refugee is a person who outside her country of origin or habitual residence because she has suffered persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or because she is a member of a persecuted 'social group'. Such a person may be referred to as an 'asylum seeker' until...

s, civilians, and other non-combatant
Non-combatant
Non-combatant is a term in the law of war describing civilians not taking a direct part in hostilities, as well as persons such as medical personnel and military chaplains who are regular soldiers but are protected because of their function as well as soldiers who are hors de combat ; that is, sick,...

s.

The ICRC is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement
International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is an international humanitarian movement with approximately 97 million volunteers, members and staff worldwide which was founded to protect human life and health, to ensure respect for all human beings, and to prevent and alleviate human...

 along with the International Federation
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is a humanitarian institution that is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement along with the ICRC and 186 distinct National Societies...

 and 186 National Societies. It is the oldest and most honored organization within the Movement and one of the most widely recognized organizations in the world, having won three Nobel Peace Prize
Nobel Peace Prize
The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the five Nobel Prizes bequeathed by the Swedish industrialist and inventor Alfred Nobel.-Background:According to Nobel's will, the Peace Prize shall be awarded to the person who...

s in 1917, 1944, and 1963.

Solferino, Henry Dunant and the foundation of the ICRC



Up until the middle of the 19th century, there were no organized and well-established army nursing
Nursing
Nursing is a healthcare profession focused on the care of individuals, families, and communities so they may attain, maintain, or recover optimal health and quality of life from conception to death....

 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
Henry Dunant
Jean Henri Dunant , aka Henry Dunant, was a Swiss businessman and social activist. During a business trip in 1859, he was witness to the aftermath of the Battle of Solferino in modern day Italy...

 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
Solferino
Solferino is a small town and comune in the province of Mantua, Lombardy, northern Italy, approximately 10 kilometres south of Lake Garda....

 on the evening of 24 June, he witnessed the Battle of Solferino
Battle of Solferino
The Battle of Solferino, , was fought on June 24, 1859 and resulted in the victory of the allied French Army under Napoleon III and Sardinian Army under Victor Emmanuel II against the Austrian Army under Emperor Franz Joseph I; it was the last major battle in world...

, 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
Geneva
Geneva In the national languages of Switzerland the city is known as Genf , Ginevra and Genevra is the second-most-populous city in Switzerland and is the most populous city of Romandie, the French-speaking part of Switzerland...

, 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 neutrality and protection of those wounded on the battlefield as well as medics and field hospitals.

On 9 February 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
Gustave Moynier
Gustave Moynier was a Swiss Jurist who was active in many charitable organizations in Geneva.He was a co-founder of the "International Committee for Relief to the Wounded", which became the International Committee of the Red Cross after 1876...

, lawyer and chairman of the Geneva Society for Public Welfare; physician Louis Appia
Louis Appia
Louis Paul Amédée Appia was a Swiss surgeon with special merit in the area of military medicine. In 1863 he became a member of the Geneva "Committee of Five", which was the precursor to the International Committee of the Red Cross...

, who had significant experience working as a field surgeon; Appia's friend and colleague Théodore Maunoir
Théodore Maunoir
Dr. Théodore Maunoir was a Swiss surgeon and co-founder of the International Committee of the Red Cross ....

, from the Geneva Hygiene and Health Commission; and Guillaume-Henri Dufour
Guillaume Henri Dufour
Guillaume-Henri Dufour was a Swiss army officer, bridge engineer and topographer. He served under Napoleon I and held the office of General to lead the Swiss forces to victory against the Sonderbund. He presided over the First Geneva Convention which established the International Red Cross...

, 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
Kingdom of Bavaria
The Kingdom of Bavaria was a German state that existed from 1806 to 1918. The Bavarian Elector Maximilian IV Joseph of the House of Wittelsbach became the first King of Bavaria in 1806 as Maximilian I Joseph. The monarchy would remain held by the Wittelsbachs until the kingdom's dissolution in 1918...

, France
Second French Empire
The Second French Empire or French Empire was the Imperial Bonapartist regime of Napoleon III from 1852 to 1870, between the Second Republic and the Third Republic, in France.-Rule of Napoleon III:...

, Britain, Hanover
Hanover
Hanover or Hannover, on the river Leine, is the capital of the federal state of Lower Saxony , Germany and was once by personal union the family seat of the Hanoverian Kings of Great Britain, under their title as the dukes of Brunswick-Lüneburg...

, Hesse
Grand Duchy of Hesse
The Grand Duchy of Hesse and by Rhine , or, between 1806 and 1816, Grand Duchy of Hesse —as it was also known after 1816—was a member state of the German Confederation from 1806, when the Landgraviate of Hesse-Darmstadt was elevated to a Grand Duchy, until 1918, when all the German...

, Italy
Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946)
The Kingdom of Italy was a state forged in 1861 by the unification of Italy under the influence of the Kingdom of Sardinia, which was its legal predecessor state...

, the Netherlands, Austria
Austrian Empire
The Austrian Empire was a modern era successor empire, which was centered on what is today's Austria and which officially lasted from 1804 to 1867. It was followed by the Empire of Austria-Hungary, whose proclamation was a diplomatic move that elevated Hungary's status within the Austrian Empire...

, Prussia
Kingdom of Prussia
The Kingdom of Prussia was a German kingdom from 1701 to 1918. Until the defeat of Germany in World War I, it comprised almost two-thirds of the area of the German Empire...

, Russia
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

, Saxony
Kingdom of Saxony
The Kingdom of Saxony , lasting between 1806 and 1918, was an independent member of a number of historical confederacies in Napoleonic through post-Napoleonic Germany. From 1871 it was part of the German Empire. It became a Free state in the era of Weimar Republic in 1918 after the end of World War...

, Sweden, and Spain. Among the proposals written in the final resolutions of the conference, adopted on 29 October 1863, were:
  • The foundation of national relief societies for wounded soldiers;
  • Neutrality and protection for wounded soldiers;
  • The utilization of volunteer forces for relief assistance on the battlefield;
  • The organization of additional conferences to enact these concepts in legally binding international treaties; and
  • The introduction of a common distinctive protection symbol for medical personnel in the field, namely a white armlet bearing a red cross.


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 22 August 1864, the conference adopted the first Geneva Convention
Geneva Conventions
The Geneva Conventions comprise four treaties, and three additional protocols, that establish the standards of international law for the humanitarian treatment of the victims of war...

 "for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field". Representatives of 12 states and kingdoms signed the convention: Baden
Baden
Baden is a historical state on the east bank of the Rhine in the southwest of Germany, now the western part of the Baden-Württemberg of Germany....

, Belgium, Denmark, France, Hesse
Hesse
Hesse or Hessia is both a cultural region of Germany and the name of an individual German state.* The cultural region of Hesse includes both the State of Hesse and the area known as Rhenish Hesse in the neighbouring Rhineland-Palatinate state...

, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Prussia
Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

, Switzerland, Spain, and Württemberg
Württemberg
Württemberg , formerly known as Wirtemberg or Wurtemberg, is an area and a former state in southwestern Germany, including parts of the regions Swabia and Franconia....

. 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:
  • The national society must be recognized by its own national government as a relief society according to the convention, and
  • The national government of the respective country must be a state party to the Geneva Convention.


Directly following the establishment of the Geneva Convention, the first national societies were founded in Belgium, Denmark, France, Oldenburg
Oldenburg
Oldenburg is an independent city in Lower Saxony, Germany. It is situated in the western part of the state between the cities of Bremen and Groningen, Netherlands, at the Hunte river. It has a population of 160,279 which makes it the fourth biggest city in Lower Saxony after Hanover, Braunschweig...

, Prussia, Spain, and Württemberg. Also in 1864, Louis Appia and Charles van de Velde, a captain of the Dutch Army
Royal Netherlands Army
The Royal Netherlands Army is the land forces element of the military of the Netherlands.-Short history:The Royal Netherlands Army was raised on 9 January 1814, but its origins date back to 1572, when the so-called Staatse Leger was raised...

, 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
American Red Cross
The American Red Cross , also known as the American National Red Cross, is a volunteer-led, humanitarian organization that provides emergency assistance, disaster relief and education inside the United States. It is the designated U.S...

 was founded through the efforts of Clara Barton
Clara Barton
Clarissa Harlowe "Clara" Barton was a pioneer American teacher, patent clerk, nurse, and humanitarian. She is best remembered for organizing the American Red Cross.-Youth, education, and family nursing:...

. 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
Nobel Peace Prize
The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the five Nobel Prizes bequeathed by the Swedish industrialist and inventor Alfred Nobel.-Background:According to Nobel's will, the Peace Prize shall be awarded to the person who...

 was awarded in 1901, the Norwegian Nobel Committee
Norwegian Nobel Committee
The Norwegian Nobel Committee awards the Nobel Peace Prize each year.Its five members are appointed by the Norwegian Parliament and roughly represent the political makeup of that body.-History:...

 opted to give it jointly to Henry Dunant and Frédéric Passy
Frédéric Passy
Frédéric Passy was a French economist and a joint winner of the first Nobel Peace Prize awarded in 1901.- Biography :...

, 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
Heiden, Switzerland
Heiden is a municipality in the canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden in Switzerland. Its Biedermeier village around the church square is listed as a heritage site of national significance.-History:Heiden is first mentioned in 1461 as guot genant Haiden....

. 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
Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907)
The Hague Conventions were two international treaties negotiated at international peace conferences at The Hague in the Netherlands: The First Hague Conference in 1899 and the Second Hague Conference in 1907...

, adopted at the Second International Peace Conference in The Hague
The Hague
The Hague is the capital city of the province of South Holland in the Netherlands. With a population of 500,000 inhabitants , it is the third largest city of the Netherlands, after Amsterdam and Rotterdam...

, 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 (South Africa).

World War I


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 15 October 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
International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum , also known simply as the International Red Cross Museum, is a museum located in Geneva, Switzerland.-External links:*...

 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
Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907)
The Hague Conventions were two international treaties negotiated at international peace conferences at The Hague in the Netherlands: The First Hague Conference in 1899 and the Second Hague Conference in 1907...

'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 postcard
Postcard
A postcard or post card is a rectangular piece of thick paper or thin cardboard intended for writing and mailing without an envelope....

s 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
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

, which appointed the Norwegian diplomat and scientist Fridtjof Nansen
Fridtjof Nansen
Fridtjof Wedel-Jarlsberg Nansen was a Norwegian explorer, scientist, diplomat, humanitarian and Nobel Peace Prize laureate. In his youth a champion skier and ice skater, he led the team that made the first crossing of the Greenland interior in 1888, and won international fame after reaching a...

 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
Nansen passport
Nansen passports were internationally recognized identity cards first issued by the League of Nations to stateless refugees.-Origins:Designed in 1921 by Fridtjof Nansen, in 1942 they were honored by governments in 52 countries and were the first refugee travel documents...

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.

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
Nazism
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

-controlled German Red Cross
German Red Cross
The German Red Cross , or the DRK, is the national Red Cross Society in Germany.With over 4.5 million members, it is the third largest Red Cross society in the world. The German Red Cross offers a wide range of services within and outside Germany...

 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 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
Sachsenhausen concentration camp
Sachsenhausen or Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg was a Nazi concentration camp in Oranienburg, Germany, used primarily for political prisoners from 1936 to the end of the Third Reich in May, 1945. After World War II, when Oranienburg was in the Soviet Occupation Zone, the structure was used as an NKVD...

.



Swiss historian Jean-Claude Favez, who conducted an 8-year review of the Red Cross records, says that even though the Red Cross knew by November 1942 about the Nazi’s annihilation plans for the Jews – and even discussed it with U.S. officials – the group did nothing to inform the public, maintaining silence even in the face of pleas by Jewish groups.

Because the Red Cross was based in Geneva and largely funded by the Swiss government, it was very sensitive to Swiss wartime attitudes and policies. On October 1942, the Swiss government and the Red Cross’ board of members vetoed a proposal by several Red Cross board members to condemn the persecution of civilians by the Nazis. For the rest of the war, the Red Cross took its cues from Switzerland in avoiding acts of opposition or confrontation with the Nazis.

On 12 March 1945, ICRC president Jacob Burckhardt received a message from SS General Ernst Kaltenbrunner
Ernst Kaltenbrunner
Ernst Kaltenbrunner was an Austrian-born senior official of Nazi Germany during World War II. Between January 1943 and May 1945, he held the offices of Chief of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt , President of Interpol and, as a Obergruppenführer und General der Polizei und Waffen-SS, he was the...

 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 (Mauthausen Camp
Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp
Mauthausen Concentration Camp grew to become a large group of Nazi concentration camps that was built around the villages of Mauthausen and Gusen in Upper Austria, roughly east of the city of Linz.Initially a single camp at Mauthausen, it expanded over time and by the summer of 1940, the...

), Paul Dunant (Theresienstadt Camp) and Victor Maurer (Dachau Camp), 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
Cornelio Sommaruga
Cornelio Sommaruga is a prominent Swiss humanitarian, lawyer and diplomat who is best known for being President of the International Committee of the Red Cross from 1987 to 1999. Today, he chairs the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining in Geneva...

.

Another example of great humanitarian spirit was Friedrich Born
Friedrich Born
Friedrich Born was a Swiss delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Budapest between May 1944 and January 1945, when he had to leave Hungary following orders of the occupying Red Army.He already lived in the Hungarian Capital city before his appointment by the ICRC, working as...

 (1903–1963), an ICRC delegate in Budapest
Budapest
Budapest is the capital of Hungary. As the largest city of Hungary, it is the country's principal political, cultural, commercial, industrial, and transportation centre. In 2011, Budapest had 1,733,685 inhabitants, down from its 1989 peak of 2,113,645 due to suburbanization. The Budapest Commuter...

 who saved the lives of about 11,000 to 15,000 Jews in Hungary. Marcel Junod
Marcel Junod
Marcel Junod was a Swiss doctor and one of the most accomplished field delegates in the history of the International Committee of the Red Cross...

 (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
Hiroshima
is the capital of Hiroshima Prefecture, and the largest city in the Chūgoku region of western Honshu, the largest island of Japan. It became best known as the first city in history to be destroyed by a nuclear weapon when the United States Army Air Forces dropped an atomic bomb on it at 8:15 A.M...

 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 1 September 1939 to 30 June 1947. Since January 1996, the ICRC archive for this period has been open to academic and public research.

After the Second World War


On 12 August 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
Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907)
The Hague Conventions were two international treaties negotiated at international peace conferences at The Hague in the Netherlands: The First Hague Conference in 1899 and the Second Hague Conference in 1907...

. 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
Fourth Geneva Convention
The Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, commonly referred to as the Fourth Geneva Convention and abbreviated as GCIV, is one of the four treaties of the Geneva Conventions. It was adopted in August 1949, and defines humanitarian protections for civilians...

, a new Convention "relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War," was established. Also, the additional protocols of 8 June 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
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is a humanitarian institution that is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement along with the ICRC and 186 distinct National 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 16 October 1990, the UN General Assembly decided to grant the ICRC observer status
Observer status
Observer status is a privilege granted by some organizations to non-members to give them an ability to participate in the organization's activities. Observer status is often granted by intergovernmental organizations to non-member states and international nongovernmental organizations that have...

 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 19 March 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.

The ICRC continued its activities throughout the 1990s. It broke its customary media silence when it denounced the Rwandan Genocide
Rwandan Genocide
The Rwandan Genocide was the 1994 mass murder of an estimated 800,000 people in the small East African nation of Rwanda. Over the course of approximately 100 days through mid-July, over 500,000 people were killed, according to a Human Rights Watch estimate...

 in 1994. It struggled to prevent the crimes that happened in and around Srebrenica
Srebrenica
Srebrenica is a town and municipality in the east of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the Bosnian Serb entity of Republika Srpska. Srebrenica is a small mountain town, its main industry being salt mining and a nearby spa. During the Bosnian War, the town was the site of the July 1995 massacre,...

 in 1995 but admitted, "We must acknowledge that despite our efforts to help thousands of civilians forcibly expelled from the town and despite the dedication of our colleagues on the spot, the ICRC's impact on the unfolding of the tragedy was extremely limited." It went public once again in 2007 to decry "major human rights abuses" by Burma's military government including forced labor, starvation, and murder of men, women, and children.

Fatalities


At the end of the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, 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:
  • Frédéric Maurice. He died on 19 May 1992 at the age of 39, one day after a Red Cross transport he was escorting was attacked in the former Yugoslavia
    Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
    The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was the Yugoslav state that existed from the abolition of the Yugoslav monarchy until it was dissolved in 1992 amid the Yugoslav Wars. It was a socialist state and a federation made up of six socialist republics: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia,...

    n city of Sarajevo
    Sarajevo
    Sarajevo |Bosnia]], surrounded by the Dinaric Alps and situated along the Miljacka River in the heart of Southeastern Europe and the Balkans....

    .
  • Fernanda Calado (Spain), Ingeborg Foss (Norway), Nancy Malloy (Canada), Gunnhild Myklebust (Norway), Sheryl Thayer (New Zealand), and Hans Elkerbout (Netherlands). They were murdered at point-blank range while sleeping in the early hours of 17 December 1996 in the ICRC field hospital in the Chechen
    Chechnya
    The Chechen Republic , commonly referred to as Chechnya , also spelled Chechnia or Chechenia, sometimes referred to as Ichkeria , is a federal subject of Russia . It is located in the southeastern part of Europe in the Northern Caucasus mountains. The capital of the republic is the city of Grozny...

     city of Nowije Atagi near Grozny
    Grozny
    Grozny is the capital city of the Chechen Republic, Russia. The city lies on the Sunzha River. According to the preliminary results of the 2010 Census, the city had a population of 271,596; up from 210,720 recorded in the 2002 Census. but still only about two-thirds of 399,688 recorded in the 1989...

    . Their murderers have never been caught and there was no apparent motive for the killings.
  • Rita Fox (Switzerland), Véronique Saro (Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly Zaire), Julio Delgado (Colombia), Unen Ufoirworth (DR Congo), Aduwe Boboli (DR Congo), and Jean Molokabonge (DR Congo). On 26 April 2001, they were en route with two cars on a relief mission in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo when they came under fatal fire from unknown attackers.
  • Ricardo Munguia (El Salvador). He was working as a water engineer in Afghanistan and travelling with local colleagues when their car was stopped by unknown armed men. He was killed execution-style at point-blank range while his colleagues were allowed to escape. He died at the age of 39.
  • Vatche Arslanian
    Vatche Arslanian
    Vatche Arslanian was a member of the Canadian Red Cross and head of logistics for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Iraq. He was one of the six ICRC delegates who chose to stay in the country during the 2003 Iraq war and continue helping local relief workers...

     (Canada). Since 2001, he worked as a logistics coordinator for the ICRC mission in Iraq. He died when he was travelling through Baghdad together with members of the Iraqi Red Crescent. Their car accidentally came into the crossfire of fighting in the city.
  • Nadisha Yasassri Ranmuthu (Sri Lanka). He was killed by unknown attackers on 22 July 2003, when his car was fired upon near the city of Hilla in the south of Baghdad
    Baghdad
    Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

    .

The Holocaust


By taking part in the 1995 ceremony to commemorate the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp
Auschwitz concentration camp
Concentration camp Auschwitz was a network of Nazi concentration and extermination camps built and operated by the Third Reich in Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany during World War II...

, the President of the ICRC, Cornelio Sommaruga
Cornelio Sommaruga
Cornelio Sommaruga is a prominent Swiss humanitarian, lawyer and diplomat who is best known for being President of the International Committee of the Red Cross from 1987 to 1999. Today, he chairs the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining in Geneva...

, sought to show that the organization was fully aware of the gravity of The Holocaust
The Holocaust
The Holocaust , also known as the Shoah , was the genocide of approximately six million European Jews and millions of others during World War II, a programme of systematic state-sponsored murder by Nazi...

 and the need to keep the memory of it alive, so as to prevent any repetition of it. He paid tribute to all those who had suffered or lost their lives during the war and publicly regretted the past mistakes and shortcomings of the Red Cross with regard to the victims of the concentration camps.

In 2002, an ICRC official outlined some of the lessons the organization has learned from the failure:
  • from a legal point of view, the work that led to the adoption of the Geneva Convention relative to the protection of civilian persons in time of war;
  • from an ethical point of view, the adoption of the declaration of the Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, building on the distinguished work of Max Huber and Jean Pictet
    Jean Pictet
    Jean Simon Pictet was a Swiss jurist, expert in international humanitarian law and senior staff member and Vice President of the International Committee of the Red Cross. He was the main architect of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol I and Protocol II...

    , to prevent any more abuses such as those that occurred within the Movement after Hitler rose to power in 1933;
  • on a political level, the ICRC's relationship with Switzerland was redesigned to ensure its independence;
  • with a view to keeping memories alive, the ICRC accepted, in 1955, to take over the direction of the International Tracing Service
    International Tracing Service
    The International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen, Germany, is the internationally governed archive whose task it is to document the fate of millions of civilian victims of Nazi Germany. The documents in the ITS archives include original records from concentration camps, details of forced labour,...

     where records from concentration camps are maintained;
  • finally, to establish the historical facts of the case, the ICRC invited Jean-Claude Favez to carry out an independent investigation of its activities on behalf of the victims of Nazi persecution, and gave him unfettered access to its archives relating to this period; out of concern for transparency, the ICRC also decided to give all other historians access to its archives dating back more than 50 years; having gone over the conclusions of Favez's work, the ICRC acknowledged its past failings and expressed its regrets in this regard.


In an official statement made on 27 January 2005, the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the ICRC stated:
Auschwitz also represents the greatest failure in the history of the ICRC, aggravated by its lack of decisiveness in taking steps to aid the victims of Nazi persecution. This failure will remain part of the ICRC's memory, as will the courageous acts of individual ICRC delegates at the time.

Iraq war


The International Committee of the Red Cross reported on 17 March 2008 that there is no let-up in the Humanitarian Crisis in Iraq after the start of the war in 2003. Despite limited improvements in security in some areas, armed violence is still having a disastrous impact. Civilians continue to be killed in the hostilities.

Characteristics


The original motto of the International Committee of the Red Cross was Inter Arma Caritas ("Amidst War, Charity"). It has preserved this motto while other Red Cross organizations have adopted others. Due to Geneva's location in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, the ICRC is also known under its initial French name Comité international de la Croix-Rouge (CICR). However, the ICRC has four official languages (Arabic, English, French and Spanish). The official symbol of the ICRC is the Red Cross on white background (the inverse of the Swiss flag
Flag of Switzerland
The flag of Switzerland consists of a red flag with a white cross in the centre. It is one of only two square sovereign-state flags, the other being the flag of the Vatican City...

) with the words "COMITE INTERNATIONAL GENEVE" circling the cross.

Mission


The official mission statement says that: "The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is an impartial, neutral, and independent organization whose exclusively humanitarian mission is to protect the lives and dignity of victims of war and internal violence and to provide them with assistance." It also directs and coordinates international relief
Humanitarian aid
Humanitarian aid is material or logistical assistance provided for humanitarian purposes, typically in response to humanitarian crises including natural disaster and man-made disaster. The primary objective of humanitarian aid is to save lives, alleviate suffering, and maintain human dignity...

 and works to promote and strengthen humanitarian law
International humanitarian law
International humanitarian law , often referred to as the laws of war, the laws and customs of war or the law of armed conflict, is the legal corpus that comprises "the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Conventions, as well as subsequent treaties, case law, and customary international law." It...

 and universal humanitarian principles. The core tasks of the Committee, which are derived from the Geneva Conventions and its own statutes (http://www.icrc.org/Web/Eng/siteeng0.nsf/iwpList130/E1B071F72AF9BAB4C1256B66005C48D6), are the following:
  • to monitor compliance of warring parties with the Geneva Conventions
  • to organize nursing and care for those who are wounded on the battlefield
  • to supervise the treatment of prisoners of war and make confidential interventions with detaining authorities
  • to help with the search for missing persons in an armed conflict (tracing service)
  • to organize protection and care for civil populations
  • to act as a neutral intermediary between warring parties


The ICRC drew up seven fundamental principles in 1965 that were adopted by the entire Red Cross Movement. They are humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, volunteerism, unity, and universality.

Legal status


ICRC is the only institution explicitly named under International Humanitarian Law
International humanitarian law
International humanitarian law , often referred to as the laws of war, the laws and customs of war or the law of armed conflict, is the legal corpus that comprises "the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Conventions, as well as subsequent treaties, case law, and customary international law." It...

 (IHL) as a controlling authority. The legal mandate of the ICRC stems from the four Geneva Conventions
Geneva Conventions
The Geneva Conventions comprise four treaties, and three additional protocols, that establish the standards of international law for the humanitarian treatment of the victims of war...

 of 1949, as well as its own Statutes. The ICRC also undertakes tasks that are not specifically mandated by law, such as visiting political prisoners outside of conflict and providing relief in natural disaster
Natural disaster
A natural disaster is the effect of a natural hazard . It leads to financial, environmental or human losses...

s.

The ICRC is a private association registered in Switzerland that has enjoyed various degrees of special privileges and legal immunities
Charitable immunity
Charitable immunity is a legal doctrine which holds that a charitable organization is not liable under tort law. It originated in 19th century Britain....

 within the territory of Switzerland for many years and those are described as amounting to de facto sovereignty. On 19 March 1993, a legal foundation for this special treatment was created by a formal agreement between the Swiss government and the ICRC. This 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
Diplomatic mission
A diplomatic mission is a group of people from one state or an international inter-governmental organisation present in another state to represent the sending state/organisation in the receiving state...

, and simplifies Committee travel in and out of Switzerland. On the other hand Switzerland does not recognize ICRC issued passports.

Contrary to popular belief, the ICRC is not a sovereign entity like the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and also it is not an international organization
International organization
An intergovernmental organization, sometimes rendered as an international governmental organization and both abbreviated as IGO, is an organization composed primarily of sovereign states , or of other intergovernmental organizations...

, neither of non-governmental
International nongovernmental organization
The World Bank defines a non-governmental organization as "private organizations that pursue activities to relieve suffering, promote the interests of the poor, protect the environment, provide basic social services, or undertake community development"...

 nor of governmental type. The ICRC limits its membership to Swiss nationals only, and also it does not have a policy of open and unrestricted membership for individuals as its new members are selected by the Committee itself (a process called cooptation). However, since the early 1990s, the ICRC employs persons from all over the world to serve in its field mission and at Headquarters. In 2007, almost half of ICRC staff was non-Swiss. The ICRC has special privileges and legal immunities in many countries, based on national law in these countries, based on agreements between the ICRC and the respective governments, or, in some cases, based on international jurisprudence (such as the right of ICRC delegates not to bear witness in front of international tribunals).

Funding and financial matters


The 2010 budget of the ICRC amounts to about 1156 million Swiss franc
Swiss franc
The franc is the currency and legal tender of Switzerland and Liechtenstein; it is also legal tender in the Italian exclave Campione d'Italia. Although not formally legal tender in the German exclave Büsingen , it is in wide daily use there...

s. All payments to the ICRC are voluntary and are received as donations based on two types of appeals issued by the Committee: an annual Headquarters Appeal to cover its internal costs and Emergency Appeals for its individual missions. The total budget for 2009 consists of about 996.9 million Swiss Francs (85% of the total) for field work and 168.6 million Swiss Francs (15%) for internal costs. In 2009, the budget for field work increased by 6.9% and the internal budget by 4.4% compared to 2008, primarily due to above-average increases in the number and scope of its missions in Africa.

Most of the ICRC's funding comes from Switzerland and the United States, with the other European states and the EU close behind. Together with Australia, Canada, Japan, and New Zealand, they contribute about 80–85% of the ICRC's budget. About 3% comes from private gifts, and the rest comes from national Red Cross societies.

Responsibilities within the Movement


The ICRC is responsible for legally recognizing a relief society as an official national Red Cross or Red Crescent society and thus accepting it into the Movement. The exact rules for recognition are defined in the statutes of the Movement. After recognition by the ICRC, a national society is admitted as a member to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies. The ICRC and the Federation
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is a humanitarian institution that is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement along with the ICRC and 186 distinct National Societies...

 cooperate with the individual national societies in their international missions, especially with human, material, and financial resources and organizing on-site logistics. According to the 1997 Seville Agreement
Seville Agreement
The Seville Agreement was an agreement drafted within the Red Cross Movement in 1997 to specify which organization within the Movement would take the lead in certain field operations. It was the latest of several "peace treaties" that sought to end turf wars between the ICRC and the Federation...

, the ICRC is the lead Red Cross agency in conflicts while other organizations within the Movement take the lead in non-war situations. National societies will be given the lead especially when a conflict is happening within their own country.

Organization


The ICRC is headquartered in the Swiss city of Geneva
Geneva
Geneva In the national languages of Switzerland the city is known as Genf , Ginevra and Genevra is the second-most-populous city in Switzerland and is the most populous city of Romandie, the French-speaking part of Switzerland...

 and has external offices called Delegations in about 80 countries. Each delegation is under the responsibility of a Head of delegation who is the official representative of the ICRC in the country. Of its 2,000 professional employees, roughly 800 work in its Geneva headquarters and 1,200 expatriates work in the field. About half of the field workers serve as delegates managing ICRC operations in the different countries while the other half are specialists like doctors, agronomist
Agronomist
An agronomist is a scientist who specializes in agronomy, which is the science of utilizing plants for food, fuel, feed, and fiber. An agronomist is an expert in agricultural and allied sciences, with the exception veterinary sciences.Agronomists deal with interactions between plants, soils, and...

s, engineers or interpreters
Interpreting
Language interpretation is the facilitating of oral or sign-language communication, either simultaneously or consecutively, between users of different languages...

. In the delegations, the international staff are assisted by some 13,000 national employees, bringing the total staff under the authority of the ICRC to roughly 15,000. Delegations also often work closely with the National Red Cross Societies of the countries where they are based and thus can call on the volunteers of the National Red Cross to assist in some of the ICRC operations.

The organizational structure of the ICRC is not well understood by outsiders. This is partly because of organizational secrecy, but also because the structure itself is highly mutable and has been prone to change. The Assembly and Presidency are two long-standing institutions, but the Assembly Council and Directorate were created only in the latter part of the twentieth century. Decisions are often made in a collective way, so authority and power relationships are not set in stone. Today, the leading organs are the Directorate and the Assembly.

Directorate


The Directorate is the executive body of the Committee. It attends to the daily management of the ICRC, whereas the Assembly sets policy. The Directorate consists of a Director-General and five directors in the areas of "Operations", "Human Resources", "Financial Resources and Logistics ", "Communication and Information Management", and "International Law and Cooperation within the Movement". The members of the Directorate are appointed by the Assembly to serve for four years. The Director-General has assumed more personal responsibility in recent years, much like a CEO, where he was formerly more of a first among equals at the Directorate.

Assembly


The Assembly (also called 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 Assembly has a membership of a maximum of 25 Swiss citizens. Members must speak the house language of French, but many also speak English and German as well. These Assembly members are co-opted
Co-option
A co-opting or less frequently co-optation most commonly refers to action performed in a number of fields whereby an opponent is nullified or neutralized by absorption but there are other distinct senses as well....

 for a period of four years, and there is no limit to the number of terms an individual member can serve. A three-quarters majority vote from all members is required for re-election after the third term, which acts as a motivation for members to remain active and productive.

In the early years, every Committee member was Genevan, Protestant, white, and male. The first woman, Renée-Marguerite Cramer, was co-opted in 1918. Since then, several women have attained the Vice Presidency, and the female proportion after the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 has been about 15%. The first non-Genevans were admitted in 1923, and one Jew has served in the Assembly.

While the rest of the Red Cross Movement many be multi-national, the Committee believes that its mono-national nature is an asset because the nationality in question is Swiss. Thanks to permanent Swiss neutrality
Neutral country
A neutral power in a particular war is a sovereign state which declares itself to be neutral towards the belligerents. A non-belligerent state does not need to be neutral. The rights and duties of a neutral power are defined in Sections 5 and 13 of the Hague Convention of 1907...

, conflicting parties can be sure that no one from "the enemy" will be setting policy in Geneva. The Franco-Prussian War
Franco-Prussian War
The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War, often referred to in France as the 1870 War was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. Prussia was aided by the North German Confederation, of which it was a member, and the South German states of Baden, Württemberg and...

 of 1870–71 showed that even Red Cross actors (in this case National Societies) can be so bound by nationalism that they are unable to sustain neutral humanitarianism.


Assembly Council


Furthermore, the Assembly elects a five-member Assembly Council that constitutes an especially active core of the Assembly. The Council meets at least ten times per year and 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. The Assembly Council normally includes the president, two vice presidents and two elected members. While one of the vice presidents is elected for a four-year term, the other is appointed permanently with his tenure ending by retirement from the vice presidency or from the Committee. Currently Olivier Vodoz and Christine Beerli are vice presidents.

The President


The Assembly also selects, for a term of four years, one individual to act as President of the ICRC. The president is both a member of the Assembly and leader of the ICRC, and he has always been included on the Council since its formation. The President automatically becomes a member of the aforementioned groups once he is appointed, but he does not necessarily come from within the ICRC organization. There is a strong faction within the Assembly that wants to reach outside the organization to select a president from the Swiss government or professional circles like the banking or medical fields. In fact, the last three presidents were previously officials in the Swiss government. The president's influence and role is not well-defined, and changes depending upon the times and each president's personal style. Since 2000, the president of the ICRC has been Jakob Kellenberger
Jakob Kellenberger
Jakob Kellenberger is a former Swiss diplomat and the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross .-Biography:Jakob Kellenberger was born in the Swiss canton of Appenzell in 1944....

, a reclusive man who rarely makes diplomatic appearances but who is skilled in personal negotiation and comfortable with the dynamics of the Assembly. In February 2007, he was appointed by the Assembly to another four-year term which, will run until the end of 2011 .

The presidents of the ICRC have been:

  • 1863–1864: Henri Dufour
    Guillaume Henri Dufour
    Guillaume-Henri Dufour was a Swiss army officer, bridge engineer and topographer. He served under Napoleon I and held the office of General to lead the Swiss forces to victory against the Sonderbund. He presided over the First Geneva Convention which established the International Red Cross...

  • 1864–1910: Gustave Moynier
    Gustave Moynier
    Gustave Moynier was a Swiss Jurist who was active in many charitable organizations in Geneva.He was a co-founder of the "International Committee for Relief to the Wounded", which became the International Committee of the Red Cross after 1876...

  • 1910–1928: Gustave Ador
    Gustave Ador
    Gustave Ador was a Swiss politician.He was elected to the Federal Council of Switzerland on June 26, 1917 and handed over office on December 31, 1919...

  • 1928–1944: Max Huber
  • 1944–1948: Carl Jacob Burckhardt
    Carl Jacob Burckhardt
    Carl Jacob Burckhardt was a Swiss diplomat and historian. His career alternated between periods of academic historical research and diplomatic postings; the most prominent of the latter were League of Nations High Commissioner for the Free City of Danzig and President of the International...

  • 1948–1955: Paul Ruegger


  • 1955–1964: Leopold Boissier
  • 1964–1969: Samuel Gonard
  • 1969–1973: Marcel Naville
  • 1973–1976: Eric Martin
  • 1976–1987: Alexandre Hay
    Alexandre Hay
    Alexandre Hay was a Swiss lawyer. From 1966 to 1976 he was Vice President of the Board of the Swiss National Bank. Later, from 1976 to 1987 he was President of the International Committee of the Red Cross ....

  • 1987–1999: Cornelio Sommaruga
    Cornelio Sommaruga
    Cornelio Sommaruga is a prominent Swiss humanitarian, lawyer and diplomat who is best known for being President of the International Committee of the Red Cross from 1987 to 1999. Today, he chairs the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining in Geneva...

  • 2000 – present: Jakob Kellenberger
    Jakob Kellenberger
    Jakob Kellenberger is a former Swiss diplomat and the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross .-Biography:Jakob Kellenberger was born in the Swiss canton of Appenzell in 1944....



Staff


As the ICRC has grown and become more directly involved in conflicts, it has seen an increase in professional staff rather than volunteers over the years. The ICRC had only twelve employees in 1914 and 1,900 in the Second World War complemented its 1,800 volunteers. The number of paid staff dropped off after both wars, but has increased once again in the last few decades, averaging 500 field staff in the 1980s and over a thousand in the 1990s. Beginning in the 1970s, the ICRC became more systematic in training to develop a more professional staff. The ICRC is an attractive career for university graduates especially in Switzerland, but the workload as an ICRC employee is demanding. 15% of the staff leaves each year and 75% of employees stay less than three years. The ICRC staff is multi-national and averaged about 50% non-Swiss citizens in 2004. The ICRC's international staff are assisted in their work by some 13,000 national employees hired in the countries where the delegations are based.

Relationships within the Movement


By virtue of its age and place in international humanitarian law
International humanitarian law
International humanitarian law , often referred to as the laws of war, the laws and customs of war or the law of armed conflict, is the legal corpus that comprises "the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Conventions, as well as subsequent treaties, case law, and customary international law." It...

, the ICRC is the lead agency in the Red Cross Movement, but it has weathered some power struggles within the Movement. The ICRC has come into conflict with the Federation and certain national societies at various times. The American Red Cross threatened to supplant the ICRC with its creation of the Federation
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is a humanitarian institution that is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement along with the ICRC and 186 distinct National Societies...

 as "a real international Red Cross" after the First World War. Elements of the Swedish Red Cross desired to supplant the Swiss authority of the ICRC after WWII. Over time the Swedish sentiments subsided, and the Federation grew to work more harmoniously with the ICRC after years of organizational discord. Currently, the Federation's Movement Cooperation division organizes interaction and cooperation with the ICRC.

In 1997, the ICRC and the Federation signed the Seville Agreement
Seville Agreement
The Seville Agreement was an agreement drafted within the Red Cross Movement in 1997 to specify which organization within the Movement would take the lead in certain field operations. It was the latest of several "peace treaties" that sought to end turf wars between the ICRC and the Federation...

 which further defined the responsibilities of both organizations within the movement. According to the 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.

Acceptance of Magen David Adom


From its inception in 1930 until 2006, the Magen David Adom
Magen David Adom
The Magen David Adom is Israel's national emergency medical, disaster, ambulance and blood bank service. The name means "Red Star of David"...

 organization, the Israeli equivalent to the Red Cross, was not accepted as part of the Federation, as it used the Star of David
Star of David
The Star of David, known in Hebrew as the Shield of David or Magen David is a generally recognized symbol of Jewish identity and Judaism.Its shape is that of a hexagram, the compound of two equilateral triangles...

, which the ICRC refused to recognize as an acceptable symbol. This meant that although Arab ambulances would be protected by the ICRC, Israeli ambulances would not. In May 2000, Bernadine Healy
Bernadine Healy
Bernadine Patricia Healy was an American physician, cardiologist, academic and a former head of the National Institutes of Health . She was a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University, professor and dean of the College of Medicine and Public Health at the Ohio State University, and served...

, the president of the American Red Cross
American Red Cross
The American Red Cross , also known as the American National Red Cross, is a volunteer-led, humanitarian organization that provides emergency assistance, disaster relief and education inside the United States. It is the designated U.S...

, wrote: "The international committee's feared proliferation of symbols is a pitiful fig leaf
Fig leaf
A fig leaf is the covering up of an act or an object that is embarrassing or disagreeable. The term is a metaphorical reference to the Biblical Book of Genesis, in which Adam and Eve used fig leaves to cover "their nakedness" after eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and...

, used for decades as the reason for excluding the Magen David Adom – the Shield (or Star) of David." In protest over the ICRC's perceived anti-Israel discrimination, the ARC withdrew its financial support. In 2005, at a meeting of nations party to the Geneva convention, the ICRC adopted the new Red Crystal. Magen David Adom then centered the Star of David sign inside the newly accepted signage, and in 2006 was accepted as a full member. Yonatan Yagodovsky, director of MDA’s fundraising department, said in an article published in October 2011 that "MDA will continue to use its emblem and logo, and no one ever asked us to take it off."

Relationships within the World Order



The ICRC is one of the largest and most respected humanitarian and non-state
Non-state actor
Non-state actors are categorized as entities participating or acting in the sphere of international relations; organisations with sufficient power to influence and cause change in politics which are...

 actors
Actor (policy debate)
In policy debate, an actor is an entity that enacts a certain policy action. If a plan were to have the U.S. send humanitarian aid to Sudan, then the actor would be the United States federal government....

 in the international system
International relations
International relations is the study of relationships between countries, including the roles of states, inter-governmental organizations , international nongovernmental organizations , non-governmental organizations and multinational corporations...

. Its efforts have provided aid
Humanitarian aid
Humanitarian aid is material or logistical assistance provided for humanitarian purposes, typically in response to humanitarian crises including natural disaster and man-made disaster. The primary objective of humanitarian aid is to save lives, alleviate suffering, and maintain human dignity...

 and protection to victims of armed struggle in numerous conflicts for over a century.

The ICRC prefers to engage states
Sovereign state
A sovereign state, or simply, state, is a state with a defined territory on which it exercises internal and external sovereignty, a permanent population, a government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other sovereign states. It is also normally understood to be a state which is neither...

 directly and relies on low-key and confidential negotiations to lobby for access to prisoners of war and improvement in their treatment. Its findings are not available to the general public but are shared only with the relevant government. This is in contrast to related organizations like Doctors Without Borders
Médecins Sans Frontières
' , or Doctors Without Borders, is a secular humanitarian-aid non-governmental organization best known for its projects in war-torn regions and developing countries facing endemic diseases. Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland...

 and Amnesty International
Amnesty International
Amnesty International is an international non-governmental organisation whose stated mission is "to conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights, and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated."Following a publication of Peter Benenson's...

 who are more willing to expose abuses and apply public pressure to governments. The ICRC reasons that this approach allows it greater access and cooperation from governments in the long run.

When granted only partial access, the ICRC takes what it can get and keeps discreetly lobbying for greater access. In the era of apartheid South Africa
History of South Africa in the apartheid era
Apartheid was a system of racial segregation enforced by the National Party governments of South Africa between 1948 and 1994, under which the rights of the majority 'non-white' inhabitants of South Africa were curtailed and white supremacy and Afrikaner minority rule was maintained...

, it was granted access to prisoners like Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, and was the first South African president to be elected in a fully representative democratic election. Before his presidency, Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist, and the leader of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing...

 serving sentences, but not to those under interrogation
Interrogation
Interrogation is interviewing as commonly employed by officers of the police, military, and Intelligence agencies with the goal of extracting a confession or obtaining information. Subjects of interrogation are often the suspects, victims, or witnesses of a crime...

 and awaiting trial. After his release, Mandela publicly praised the Red Cross.

Some governments use the ICRC as a tool to promote their own ends. The presence of respectable aid organizations
Aid agency
An aid agency is an organisation dedicated to distributing aid. Many professional aid organisations exist, both within government , between governments as multilateral donors and as private voluntary organizations...

 can make weak regimes
Form of government
A form of government, or form of state governance, refers to the set of political institutions by which a government of a state is organized. Synonyms include "regime type" and "system of government".-Empirical and conceptual problems:...

 appear more legitimate
Legitimacy (political science)
In political science, legitimacy is the popular acceptance of a governing law or régime as an authority. Whereas “authority” denotes a specific position in an established government, the term “legitimacy” denotes a system of government — wherein “government” denotes “sphere of influence”...

. Fiona Terry contends that "this is particularly true of ICRC, whose mandate, reputation, and discretion imbue its presence with a particularly affirming quality." Recognizing this power, the ICRC can pressure weak governments to change their behavior by threatening to withdraw. As mentioned above, Nelson Mandela acknowledged that the ICRC compelled better treatment of prisoners and had leverage over his South African captors because "avoiding international condemnation was the authorities' main goal."

In a controversial move demonstrating the ICRC's commitment to neutrality, three officials from the Hamas
Hamas
Hamas is the Palestinian Sunni Islamic or Islamist political party that governs the Gaza Strip. Hamas also has a military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades...

 political party, which some governments designate a terrorist organization, have been living at the International Red Cross office in Jerusalem. Israel believes that these three Hamas legislators had a role in the 2006 kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit
Gilad Shalit
Gilad Shalit is an Israeli – French citizen and Israel Defense Forces soldier. On 25 June 2006, he was captured inside Israel by Hamas militants in a cross-border raid via underground tunnels near the border with Gaza. The Hamas militants held him for over five years, until he was released on...

, and has a deportation order set for them. Red Cross spokesperson Cecilia Goin, in speaking with CBN
Commonwealth Broadcasting Network
Commonwealth Broadcasting Network is a Canadian English language Category B pay television channel owned by Asian Television Network .CBN focuses on programming from the Caribbean along with programs from Africa...

 News said that hosting the wanted Hamas officials is in line with the organization's humanitarian mission.

Books

  • David P. Forsythe: Humanitarian Politics: The International Committee of the Red Cross. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore 1978, ISBN 0-8018-1983-0
  • Henry Dunant: A Memory of Solferino. ICRC, Geneva 1986, ISBN 2-88145-006-7
  • Hans Haug: Humanity for all: the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. Henry Dunant Institute, Geneva in association with Paul Haupt Publishers, Bern 1993, ISBN 3-258-04719-7
  • Georges Willemin, Roger Heacock: International Organization and the Evolution of World Society. Volume 2: The International Committee of the Red Cross. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Boston 1984, ISBN 90-247-3064-3
  • Pierre Boissier: History of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Volume I: From Solferino to Tsushima. Henry Dunant Institute, Geneva 1985, ISBN 2-88044-012-2
  • André Durand: History of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Volume II: From Sarajevo to Hiroshima. Henry Dunant Institute, Geneva 1984, ISBN 2-88044-009-2
  • International Committee of the Red Cross: Handbook of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. 13th edition, ICRC, Geneva 1994, ISBN 2-88145-074-1
  • John F. Hutchinson: Champions of Charity: War and the Rise of the Red Cross. Westview Press, Boulder 1997, ISBN 0-8133-3367-9
  • Caroline Moorehead: Dunant's dream: War, Switzerland and the history of the Red Cross. HarperCollins, London 1998, ISBN 0-00-255141-1 (Hardcover edition); HarperCollins, London 1999, ISBN 0-00-638883-3 (Paperback edition)
  • François Bugnion: The International Committee of the Red Cross and the protection of war victims. ICRC & Macmillan (ref. 0503), Geneva 2003, ISBN 0-333-74771-2
  • Angela Bennett: The Geneva Convention: The Hidden Origins of the Red Cross. Sutton Publishing, Gloucestershire 2005, ISBN 0-7509-4147-2
  • David P. Forsythe: The Humanitarians. The International Committee of the Red Cross. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2005, ISBN 0-521-61281-0
  • Dominique-D. Junod : "The Imperiled Red Cross and the Palestine Eretz Yisrael Conflict: The Influence of Institutional Concerns on A Humanitarian Operation." 344 pages. Kegan Paul International."@ The Graduate Institute of International Studies Geneva. ISBN 0-7103-0519-2 1995.

Articles

  • François Bugnion: The emblem of the Red Cross: a brief history. ICRC (ref. 0316), Geneva 1977
  • Jean-Philippe Lavoyer, Louis Maresca: The Role of the ICRC in the Development of International Humanitarian Law. In: International Negotiation. 4(3)/1999. Brill Academic Publishers, p. 503–527, ISSN 1382-340X
  • Neville Wylie: The Sound of Silence: The History of the International Committee of the Red Cross as Past and Present. In: Diplomacy and Statecraft. 13(4)/2002. Routledge/ Taylor & Francis, p. 186–204, ISSN 0959-2296
  • David P. Forsythe: "The International Committee of the Red Cross and International Humanitarian Law." In: Humanitäres Völkerrecht – Informationsschriften. The Journal of International Law of Peace and Armed Conflict. 2/2003, German Red Cross and Institute for International Law of Peace and Armed Conflict, p. 64–77, ISSN 0937-5414
  • François Bugnion: Towards a comprehensive Solution to the Question of the Emblem. Revised third edition. ICRC (ref. 0778), Geneva 2005
  • International Committee of the Red Cross: "Discover the ICRC", ICRC, Geneva, 2007, 2nd edition, 53 pp.
  • International Review of the Red Cross An unrivalled source of international research, analysis and debate on all aspects of humanitarian law, in armed conflict and other situations of collective violence.

External links

  • International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
  • Legacy Dr. Cornelio Sommaruga
    Cornelio Sommaruga
    Cornelio Sommaruga is a prominent Swiss humanitarian, lawyer and diplomat who is best known for being President of the International Committee of the Red Cross from 1987 to 1999. Today, he chairs the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining in Geneva...

    , President of the ICRC from 1987–1999, donated four hours of high-definition audiovisual life story interviews to Legacy. The ICRC audiovisual library houses copies of these interviews.
  • Exploring Humanitarian Law Virtual Campus – ICRC web-based resource center for teachers