An Overview of the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement


SEATTLE — The International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement (ICRC) was officially founded in Geneva, Switzerland in 1863. In a conference over four days in October 1863, 16 major states, including the major European powers of the time and philanthropic organizations around the world, discussed and created the goals of the ICRC movement. These objectives were based on ideas from the book A Memory of Solferino by Henry Dunant.

The most important was the idea that relief societies should be created in every country. Daniel Palmieri, an ICRC historian, claims that this laid the foundation for the expansion of the movement we see today. In 1949, with the creation of the Geneva Conventions, the ICRC has adopted this as its mandate. Its mission statement claims that the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement is a neutral organization with the goal of upholding the mandates of the Geneva Conventions.

The ICRC does more than that. Aside from providing humanitarian assistance directly to war zones and people affected by war, the ICRC also provides humanitarian assistance to those in disaster areas. The ICRC focuses on 15 different humanitarian aid targets, ranging from medical assistance to providing clean water. The organization has a network of more than 80 million people who volunteer or work for any of the organizations under its umbrella.

These organizations consist of the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the 191 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which operate independently in as many countries. Right now the ICRC itself has 16,800 staff assisting in 21 key operations directly associated with the world’s ongoing conflicts.

The agenda for the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement is conceived by its five governing bodies:

  1. The Assembly: The supreme governing body of the ICRC, led by the president and vice-president. The Assembly appoints directors and sets the overall agenda and budget for the ICRC.
  2. The Assembly Council: Acts as HR and communication for the Assembly.
  3. The Office of the President: Made up of the president, who acts as the ICRC’s global spokesperson and is responsible for international relations. The vice-president acts as the president when the president is absent and is responsible for the internal mechanisms of the organization.
  4. The Directorate: An executive body with the responsibility of the smooth running of the organization.
  5. The Internal Audit Unit: Works with the Assembly and Directorate as an oversight commission to make sure the organization operates to international standards.

Since the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement is a nonprofit, it must appeal to the world for donations. The main contributors are states who have signed the Geneva Conventions, international organizations (such as the European Commission), and both public and private donors. In 2018, the ICRC asked for more than two million Swiss Francs, the equivalent of nearly $2.1 billion.

Nearly two-thirds of the budget is slated to be spent in Africa (41 percent) and the Middle East (31 percent). Its top five countries of concern are Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, Yemen and Nigeria. Eight of the top 10 countries are located in these regions, Ukraine and Myanmar being the only countries outside of these regions.

Volunteering and working for the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement does not come without risk. Because the organization operates in and around war zones, people involved with the organization must take precautions. Sometimes they become targets as a result of their work. The ICRC often provides people with aid they could not otherwise receive directly from their government or rebel and terrorist organizations.

This aid can be seen as a legitimizing factor for the opposition. In 2017, seven ICRC workers were killed in two separate incidents in Afghanistan. One doctor was killed by a patient and six more were killed by unidentified gunmen. Unfortunately, the ICRC was forced to suspend operations in northern Afghanistan due to the danger.

Despite the danger, the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement said it will not abandon Afghanistan. This shows the tenacity of the organization. For more than 150 years, the ICRC has upheld its goal and will continue to do so with the support of the world on its side.

– Nick DeMarco

Photo: Flickr


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