World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day is celebrated annually on 8 May. On this day, the founder of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Swiss humanist and public figure, laureate of the first Nobel Peace Prize, Henri Dunant, was born.
On 24 June 1859, Dunant witnessed a bloody battle near the settlement of Solferino, in which soldiers of the French, Italian and Austrian armies clashed. 16 thousand participants fell on the battlefield, 40 thousand were injured. The battlefield was littered with wounded soldiers, who bled and died of thirst, but no one helped them. Dunant appealed to the inhabitants of nearby settlements with a call to help the unfortunate people, regardless of their nationality, what army they fought in, what language they speak.
In February 1863, five activists-residents of Geneva (Switzerland) including Henri Dunant formed a special commission, later renamed the International Committee for Assistance to the Wounded (thereafter transformed into the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)). In October 1863, the International Conference was held in Geneva, at which representatives of 14 countries and four charitable organizations supported the idea of Henri Dunant to create voluntary committees in each country to help the wounded.
With the support and initiative of the Swiss government, a diplomatic conference was held in Geneva in 1864, at which representatives of 16 states adopted the first Geneva Convention, which formed the foundation for modern international humanitarian law.
This treaty obliged the army to provide care for wounded soldiers, regardless of which side they belonged to, and to introduce a unified emblem of the medical service.
Over time, a special international distinctive sign of the army sanitary units was established, providing legal protection on the battlefields, i.e. a red cross on a white background.
The ICRC’s original role was to coordinate humanitarian action. Gradually, however, the organization became involved in operational work in fields. This was due to the emergence of an obvious need for neutral mediation between the warring parties. Along with this, national societies were created (the first of them appeared in the German state of Württemberg in November 1863), and the Geneva Convention was adopted, which regulates the conduct of hostilities at a sea.
Thus, in 1919, the League of Red Cross Societies (since 1991 the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies) was founded as the coordinating body of the movement. In 1929, the ICRC has already convinced governments to adopt a new Geneva Convention to provide better protection to prisoners of war.
The modern International Committee of the Red Cross positions itself as an impartial, neutral and independent organization, whose goals and objectives are exclusively humanitarian in nature and are to protect the life and dignity of people affected by armed conflicts and other situations of violence and provide them with assistance.
Since its inception, the organization has been based on volunteers, who to this day play an important role in all activities carried out by the ICRC.
Humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntariness, unity and universality are the fundamental principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.