The Red Cross Movement
History of the International Movement
The Battle of Solferino
Solferino, 1859. The non-discriminatory, institutional and international protection of war victims became a realizable and mobilizing programme in the second half of the 19th century. This historically necessary step was inspired by the Battle of Solferino in 1859. The battle between the Austrian and the united Franco-Sardinian forces resulted in huge heavy casualties.
Henry Dunant, a Swiss businessman, shaken by the sight of the forty thousand dead and wounded on the battlefield, was looking for a way to provide aid. He organized volunteer relief teams from the residents of the neighbouring village, who helped in nursing and assisting the victims regardless of their nationalities. This shocking experience prompted Henry Dunant to formulate a proposal to protect the victims of the wars and to initiate the establishment of an aid organisation.
Thus emerged the idea – 150 years ago – that lead to the establishment of the humanitarian movement, the Red Cross (1863).
The initiators who were of Swiss nationality proposed the red cross – which was the inverse of the Swiss flag’s white cross on a red base – as the symbol of the movement.
After these, national societies were formed one after another in various countries, which, by accepting the humanitarian values, initially aimed to provide assistance primarily to the victims of wars.
In order to coordinate the activities of national societies, it became necessary to establish a coordinating organisation, thus, 90 years ago, in 1919, the League of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (now Federation; IFRC) was formed.
1863 Foundation of the Red Cross
In February the Committee of Five was established (Dunant was one of its founding members). It was the predecessor of the International Committee of the Red Cross of today. (At that time its name was the International Committee for Relief to the Wounded.)
The red cross on a white ground, the reverse of the Swiss flag, was selected as the emblem of the organization which was accepted by an international conference.
1864 Geneva Convention
On the initiative of the founders a diplomatic conference was organized in Geneva between 8-28 August 1864 with the participation of 16 countries. The first Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field was signed on 22 August 1864.The international humanitarian law is based on the four Geneva Conventions of 1949.
He was a wealthy businessman born on 8 May 1828. For him helping people in need was a vital issue even as a young man. He won the Noble Peace Prize in 1901 for his activity. He died in 1910.
8 May is the World Red Cross Day.
Given that the movement extended to Islamic countries as well, the red crescent was added to the symbols.
The headquarters of the Federation is situated in Geneva, in the neutral Switzerland; however, the Federation is regionally represented all over the globe – in Budapest too – to help the work of Red Cross and Red Crescent organizations that are already present in 186 countries.
The headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is also based in Geneva. In accordance with Swiss neutrality, the Committee plays the mediator in times of conflict, and supervises adherence to humanitarian law (protection of prisoners of armed conflicts, the injured, the arrested, civilians and cultural and health institutions.)
At the initiative of the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocols relating to the protection of victims of international armed conflicts came into existence in 1949.
The Geneva Conventions have been ratified by the governments and parliaments of the participating countries, and are today the basis of humanitarian law.
The ICRC also supervises that the Movement’s seven fundamental principles (humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality) prevail in the activities of the national societies.
The Hungarian Red Cross
The Hungarian Red Cross was established in 1881. Its founding was officially recognized by the International Committee of the Red Cross in 1882. The Hungarian Red Cross has been a member of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies since 1921.
Its activities are carried out on the basis of the four Geneva Conventions for the Protection of Victims of War and their additional protocols, to which the Republic of Hungary is currently a State Party, taking into account the statutes of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. It cooperates with the International Committee of the Red Cross and supports the development and dissemination of international humanitarian law.