The International Committee of the Red Cross

Jean-Henri Dunant and the foundation of the ICRC

Until the middle of the 19th century, there were no organized or well-established army nursing systems for casualties who were wounded on the battlefield. In June 1859, the Swiss businessman, Jean-Henri Dunant travelled to Italy to meet French emperor Napoléon III with the intention of discussing difficulties in conducting business in Algeria, at that time occupied by France.

When he arrived in the small town of Solferino on the evening of June 24, he witnessed the Battle of Solferino, an engagement in theAustro-Sardinian War. In a single day, about 40,000 soldiers on both sides died or were left wounded on the field. Jean-Henri 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 villagers to aid without discrimination.

Original document of the First Geneva Convention, 1864

Back in his home in Geneva, he wrote a book entitled A Memory of Solferino which he published in 1862. He explicitly advocated the formation of national voluntary relief organizations to help nurse wounded soldiers in the case of war.

On February 9, 1863, in Geneva, Jean-Henri Dunant founded the "Committee of the Five" as an investigatory commission of the Geneva Society for Public Welfare. Their aim was to examine the feasibility of Dunant's ideas and to organize an international conference about their possible implementation. The members of this committee, aside from Dunant himself, were Gustave Moynier, lawyer and chairman of the Geneva Society for Public Welfare; physician Louis Appia, who had significant experience working as a field surgeon; Appia's friend and colleague Théodore Maunoir, from the Geneva Hygiene and Health Commission; and Guillaume-Henri Dufour, a Swiss Army general of great renown. 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 battlefield. 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.

Among the proposals written in the final resolutions of the conference, adopted on October 29, 1863, were:

Henri Dunant
1. The foundation of national relief societies for wounded soldiers;

2. Neutrality and protection for wounded soldiers;

3. The utilization of volunteer forces for relief assistance on the battlefield;

4. The organization of additional conferences to enact these concepts in legally binding international treaties;

5. The introduction of a common distinctive protection symbol for medical personnel in the field, namely a white armlet bearing a red cross.

On August 22, 1864, the conference adopted the first Geneva Convention "for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field". Representatives of 12 states and kingdoms signed the convention: Baden, Belgium, Denmark, France, Hesse, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Prussia, Switzerland, Spain, and Württemberg. The convention contained ten articles, establishing rules guaranteeing neutrality and protection for wounded soldiers, field medical personnel, and specific humanitarian institutions in an armed conflict.

In 1867, Jean-Henri Dunant was forced to declare bankruptcy due to business failures in Algeria, partly because he had neglected his business interests during his tireless activities for the International Committee. Controversy surrounding Dunant's business dealings and the resulting negative public opinion, combined with an ongoing conflict with Gustave Moynier, led to Dunant's expulsion from his position as a member and secretary. He was charged with fraudulent bankruptcy and a warrant for his arrest was issued. Thus, he was forced to leave Geneva and never returned to his home city. In the following years, national societies were founded in nearly every country in Europe. In 1876, the committee adopted the name "International Committee of the Red Cross" (ICRC), which is still its official designation today. Five years later, the American Red Cross was founded through the efforts of Clara Barton. More and more countries signed the Geneva Convention and began to respect it in practice during armed conflicts. In a rather short period of time, the Red Cross gained huge momentum as an internationally respected movement, and the national societies became increasingly popular as a venue for volunteer work.

When the first Nobel Peace Prize was awarded in 1901, the Norwegian Nobel Committee opted to give it jointly to Jean-Henri Dunant and Frédéric Passy, a leading international pacifist.

In 1906, the 1864 Geneva Convention was revised for the first time. One year later, the Hague Convention X, adopted at the Second International Peace Conference in The Hague, extended the scope of the Geneva Convention to naval warfare. Shortly before the beginning of the First World War in 1914, 50 years after the foundation of the ICRC and the adoption of the first Geneva Convention, there were already 45 national relief societies throughout the world. The movement had extended itself beyond Europe and North America to Central and South America (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Mexico, Peru, El Salvador, Uruguay, Venezuela), Asia (the Republic of China, Japan, Korea, Siam), and Africa (Union of South Africa).


Protection symbols vs. organizational emblems
The symbols described below have two distinctively different meanings. On one hand, the visual symbols of the Red Cross, the Red Crescent, the Red Lion with Sun and the Red Crystal serve as protection markings in armed conflicts, a denotation which is derived from and defined in the Geneva Conventions. This is called the protective use of the symbols. On the other hand, these symbols are used as distinctive logos by those organizations which are part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. This is the indicative use of the emblems, a meaning which is defined in the statutes of the International Movement and partly in the third Additional Protocol.

As a protection symbol, they are used in armed conflicts to mark persons and objects (buildings, vehicles, etc.) which are working in compliance with the rules of the Geneva Conventions. In this function, they can also be used by organizations and objects which are not part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, for example the medical services of the armed forces, civilian hospitals, and civil defence units. As protection symbols, these emblems should be used without any additional specification (textual or otherwise) and in a prominent manner which makes them as visible and observable as possible, for example by using large white flags bearing the symbol. Four of these symbols, namely the Red Cross, the Red Crescent, the Red Lion with Sun and the Red Crystal, are defined in the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols as symbols for protective use.

When used as an organizational logo, these symbols only indicate that persons, vehicles, buildings, etc. which bear the symbols belong to a specific organization which is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (like the ICRC, the International Federation or the national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies). In this case, they should be used with an additional specification (for example "American Red Cross") and not be displayed as prominently as when used as protection symbols. Three of these symbols, namely the Red Cross, the Red Crescent and the Red Crystal, can be used for indicative purposes by national societies for use in their home country or abroad. In addition to that, the Red Shield of David (Star of David) can be used by the Israel society Magen David Adom for indicative purposes within Israel, and, pending the approval of the respective host country, in combination with the Red Crystal when working abroad.

Red Cross

The Red Cross on white background was the original protection symbol declared at the 1864 Geneva Convention. The ideas to introduce a uniform and neutral protection symbol as well as its specific design originally came from Dr. Louis Appia and General Henri Dufour, founding members of the International Committee. The Red Cross is defined as a protection symbol in Article 7 of the 1864 Geneva Convention, Chapter VII ("The distinctive emblem") and Article 38 of the 1949 Geneva Convention ("For the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field"). There is an unofficial agreement within the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement that the shape of the cross should be a cross composed of five squares.However, regardless of the shape, any Red Cross on white background should be valid and must be recognized as a protection symbol in conflict. Of the 186 national societies which are currently recognized by the ICRC, 152 are using the Red Cross as their official organization emblem. In addition, the Red Cross is currently used by the national society of Tuvalu which has applied for official recognition.

Relation to the flag of Switzerland

According to the ICRC, the emblem adopted was formed by reversing the colours of the Swiss flag. However, according to jurist and Red Cross historian Pierre Boissier, no clear evidence of this origin has been found; the concept that the design was chosen to compliment the country in which the convention at which it was adopted was held, was promoted later to counter the objections of Turkey that the flag was a Christian symbol.This was enshrined in the 1906 revision of the Convention.

Red Crescent

During the Russo-Turkish War from 1876 to 1878, the Ottoman Empire used a Red Crescent instead of the Red Cross because its government believed that the cross would alienate its Muslim soldiers. When asked by the ICRC in 1877, Russia committed to fully respect the sanctity of all persons and facilities bearing the Red Crescent symbol, followed by a similar commitment from the Ottoman government to respect the Red Cross. After this de facto assessment of equal validity to both symbols, the ICRC declared in 1878 that it should be possible in principle to adopt an additional official protection symbol for non-Christian countries. The Red Crescent was formally recognized in 1929 when the Geneva Conventions were amended (Article 19). After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Red Crescent was first used by its successor nation Turkey, followed by Egypt. From its official recognition to today, the Red Crescent became the organizational emblem of nearly every national society in countries with majority Muslim populations. The national societies of some countries such as Pakistan (1974), Malaysia (1975), or Bangladesh (1989) have officially changed their name and emblem from the Red Cross to the Red Crescent. The Red Crescent is used by 33 of the 186 recognized societies worldwide.

Red Crystal

Because of the controversy over Israel's national society Magen David Adom and a number of other disputes, the introduction of an additional neutral protection symbol had been under discussion for a number of years, with the Red Crystal (previously referred to as the Red Lozenge or Red Diamond) being the most popular proposal. However, amending the Geneva Conventions to add a new protection symbol requires a diplomatic conference of all 192 signatory states to the Conventions. The Swiss government organized such a conference to take place on December 5–6, 2005, to adopt a third additional protocol to the Geneva Conventions introducing the Red Crystal as an additional symbol with equal status to the Red Cross or Red Crescent. Following an unplanned extension of the conference until December 7, the protocol was adopted after a vote successfully achieved the required two-thirds majority. From the countries which attended the conference, 98 voted in favour and 27 against the protocol, while 10 countries abstained from voting.
In the third Protocol the new symbol is referred to as "the third Protocol emblem". The rules for the use of this symbol, based on the third additional protocol to the Geneva Conventions, are the following:
·                     Within its own national territory, a national society can use either of the recognized symbols alone, or incorporate any of these symbols or a combination of them into the Red Crystal. Furthermore, a national society can choose to display a previously and effectively used symbol, after officially communicating this symbol to the state parties of the Geneva Conventions through Switzerland as the depositary state prior to the adoption of the proposed third additional protocol.
·                     For indicative use on foreign territory, a national society which does not use one of the recognized symbols as its emblem has to incorporate its unique symbol into the Red Crystal, based on the previously mentioned condition about communicating its unique symbol to the state parties of the Geneva Conventions.
·                     For protective use, only the symbols recognized by the Geneva Conventions can be used. Specifically, those national societies which do not use one of the recognized symbols as their emblem have to use the Red Crystal without incorporation of any additional symbol.
On 22 June 2006 the ICRC announced that the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement adopted the Red Crystal as additional emblem for use by the national societies. The ICRC also announced the recognition of the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) and the Israeli National Society, Magen David Adom (MDA). On 14 January 2007, the third additional protocol entered into force.

Red Lion with Sun

From 1924 to 1980, Iran (known as Persia up to 1935) used a Red Lion with Sun symbol for its national society, the Red Lion and Sun Society, based on the flag and emblem of the Qajar Dynasty. The Red Lion with Sun was formally recognized as a protection symbol in 1929, together with the Red Crescent. Despite the country's shift to the Red Crescent in 1980, Iran explicitly maintains the right to use the symbol. Therefore, it is still recognized by the Geneva Convention as a protection symbol with equal status to the Red Cross, Red Crescent and Red Crystal.

Red Shield of David

Magen David Adom, the national society of Israel, has used the Red Shield of David as its organization emblem since its foundation. The Red Shield of David was initially proposed as an addition to the Red Cross, Red Crescent, and Red Lion with Sun in 1931. The proposal was rejected by the ICRC, like theMehrab-e-Ahmar (Red Archway) symbol of the national aid society of Afghanistan four years later, as well as a wide range of other proposals, due to concerns about symbol proliferation. Israel again tried to establish the emblem as a third protection symbol in the context of the Geneva Conventions, but a respective proposal was narrowly defeated when the Geneva Conventions were adopted by governments in 1949. As the Red Shield of David is not a recognized protection symbol under the Geneva Conventions, Magen David Adom's recognition as a national society by the ICRC was long delayed.
It was not until 2006 that the ICRC officially recognized Magen David Adom. The adoption of the third protocol emblem paved the way for the recognition and admission of Magen David Adom as a full member of the International Federation, as the rules of the third protocol allow it to continue using the Red Shield of David when operating within Israel and provide a solution for its missions abroad. Though the organization only recently gained official recognition, it has had an excellent reputation within the Movement for many years and took part in many international activities, in cooperation with both the ICRC and the Federation, prior to its official recognition.
The original motto of the International Committee of the Red Cross was Inter Arma Caritas ("In War, Charity"). This Christian-spirited slogan was amended in 1961 with the neutral motto Per Humanitatem ad Pacem or "With humanity, towards peace". While Inter Arma Caritas is still the primary motto of the ICRC (as per Article 3 of the ICRC statutes), Per Humanitatem ad Pacem is the primary motto of the Federation (Article 1 of the Constitution of the Federation). Both organizations acknowledge the alternative motto, and together both slogans serve as the combined motto of the International Movement.
The mission statement of the International Movement as formulated in the "Strategy 2010" document of the Federation is to improve the lives of vulnerable people by mobilizing the power of humanity. From 1999 to 2004, the common slogan for all activities of the International Movement was The Power of Humanity. In December 2003, the 28th International Conference in Geneva adopted the conference motto Protecting Human Dignity as the new Movement slogan.
The 16th International Conference which convened in London in 1938 officially decided to make May 8, the birthday of Henry Dunant, as the official annual commemoration and celebration day of the Movement. Since 1984, the official name of the celebration day has been "World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day".
In Solferino, a small museum describes the history of the Battle of Solferino and of the Risorgimento, the long and bloody Italian struggle for independence and unity. In the Ossario di Solferino (Solferino Ossuary) in close proximity to the museum, a moving display shows the horrors of war. Inside the chapel, 1,413 skulls and many more bones from thousands of French and Austrian troops who died during the battle are shown. Solferino is also host to theInternational Red Cross Memorial inaugurated in 1959 on the centennial of the Battle of Solferino. The memorial contains stone plaques identifying each recognized national society. In Castiglione delle Stiviere, a small town near Solferino, the International Museum of the Red Cross was also opened in 1959. Moreover, another museum, the International Red Cross Museum stands in Geneva in close proximity to the headquarters of the ICRC. Finally, in the Swiss city of Heiden, the Henry Dunant Museum was opened to preserve the memory and legacy of Dunant himself.

Malaysian Red Crescent Society (MRCS) has its beginnings in 1948 as branches of theBritish Red Cross Society in Sabah and Sarawak (then British North Borneo). In the 1950s the British Red Cross Society further established Branches in the other parts of Malaysia starting in Penang in 1950, and later in the other States.

Upon Malaya ’s independence in 1957, the Branches in Peninsular Malaysia were organized as the Federation of Malaya Red Cross Society, which later was statutorily incorporated by the Federation of Malaya Red Cross Society (Incorporation) Act, 1962. MRCS received official recognition as an independent National Society from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on 4th July 1963 and accordingly was admitted as a member of the International League of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies on 24th August 1963.

When Malaysia was formed in September 1963, an Act to incorporate the Federation of Malaya Red Cross Society and the Branches of the Red Cross Society in Sabah and Sarawak under the name of the “Malaysian Red Cross Society” was endorsed by Parliament vides the Malaysian Red Cross Society (Incorporation) Act 1965. In 1975, the Malaysian Parliament passed the Malaysian Red Cross Society (Change of Name) Act which received Royal Assent on 21st August 1975 and subsequently gazetted on 4th Sept 1975 and is currently being enforced.

MRCS is presently one of 181 National Societies worldwide members of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). MRCS runs programs and activities in accordance to the spirit and requirement of its Incorporation Act and the Fundamental Principles of Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

Today the organization of MRCS comprises of the National Council, the National Executive Board, the Branches, the Chapters and the Subsidiary Units, namely Red Crescent Links in primary schools, Junior Red Crescent in secondary schools and Voluntary Aid Detachments (for members above 18 years old).

The National Executive Board at its 220th meeting on 3rd August 2002 appointed 14 National Committees covering the portfolios of Ambulance Service, Administration and Personnel, Awards, Blood Program, Building, Disaster Management, Finance, Health and Community Services, Information and Fund Raising, International Humanitarian Law and Legal Affairs, International Relations, Tender, Training and Youth.
The National Committees implement their programs and activities through the organizational support of 15 Branches (States) and 148 Chapters (Districts). As of 8th May 2004 MRCS has 290,832 registered members.

The Constitutional Objectives
Under the provision of the Incorporation Act, the objectives of MRCS include “In time of peace or war, to carry on and assist in the work for the improvement of health, the prevention of disease and mitigation, of suffering throughout the world, in time of war, to furnish voluntary aid to the sick and wounded of both of armies and non belligerents, to prisoners of war and civilian sufferers from the effect of war, in accordance with the spirit and covenants of the Geneva Conventions and to perform all the duties devolved upon a national society by each nation, which has acceded to the said Conventions”.

The Vision
To be recognized as the leading humanitarian organization, nationally and globally.

The Mission
To serve the vulnerables efficiently, Anytime, Anywhere.

“Inter arma carita” (in war, charity) and “per humanitatem ad pacem” (through humanity to peace).

Seven Fundamental Principles.

7 fundamental principles embody the work of all Red Cross and Red Crescent staff and volunteers worldwide. Adopted in 1965, these principles define the scope of their humanitarian work, and provide a basis for promoting the ideals and humanitarian values of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, born of a desire to bring assistance without discrimination to the wounded on the battlefield, endeavors, in its international and national capacity, to prevent and alleviate human suffering wherever it may be found. Its purpose is to protect life and health and to ensure respect for the human being. It promotes mutual understanding, friendship, cooperation and lasting peace amongst all peoples.

It makes no discrimination as to nationality, race, religious beliefs, class or political opinions. It endeavors to relieve the suffering of individuals, being guided solely by their needs, and to give priority to the most urgent cases of distress.

In order to continue to enjoy the confidence of all, the Movement may not take sides in hostilities or engage at any time in controversies of a political, racial, religious or ideological nature.

The Movement is independent. The National Societies, while auxiliaries in the humanitarian services of their governments and subject to the laws of their respective countries, must always maintain their autonomy so that they may be able at all times to act in accordance with the principles of the Movement.

Voluntary service
It is a voluntary relief movement not prompted in any manner by desire for gain.

There can be only one Red Cross or one Red Crescent Society in any one country. It must be open to all. It must carry on its humanitarian work throughout its territory.

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, in which all Societies have equal status and share equal responsibilities and duties in helping each other, is worldwide.

Malaysian Red Crescent Song.

* Lyrics : Dato' Dol Ramli @Song : Dato' Johari Salleh "Lagu Bulan Sabit Merah" -Was first played in a ceremony 1975 to commemorate the change of the society from the Malaysian Red Cross Society to Malaysian Red Crescent Society.