International Red Cross

views updated May 14 2018

International Red Cross


By: Andrea Booher

Date: September 2, 2005

Source: Booher, Andrea. "Hurricane Katrina Refugees." AP Images, September 2, 2005.

About the Photographer: This photograph was taken by Andrea Booher, a contributor to the Associated Press. Based in New York, the Associated Press (AP) is the world's largest and oldest news organization.


In October 1863, The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement was initiated in Geneva, Switzerland. With the aim of providing nonpartisan care to the wounded and sick in times of war, the Movement adopted the Red Cross emblem as a symbol of neutrality. Ever since, the Red Cross and Red Crescent have been universally accepted symbols of relief operations. As of the twenty-first century, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, boasting more than one hundred million members and volunteers, is active in almost every country of the world.

The seven basic tenets that govern the Movement are humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity, and universality. The Movement comprises the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (National Societies) in about 180 countries, and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (The International Federation). Each of these organizations is independent with unique status and rights and has no authority over the other.

The ICRC, based in Geneva, Switzerland, was established in 1863. It is an independent organization with a mission to help victims of war and internal violence. It directs and coordinates international relief activities conducted by the Movement in situations of conflict.

Established in 1919, the International Federation acts as an official representative of the Movement's member societies in the international community and coordinates relief operations during natural and man-made disasters. One of the main objectives of the Federation is to promote cooperation between National Societies—which work at national levels to co-ordinate disaster relief, health, and socio-economic programs—and strengthen their disaster-relief capacity.

To plan their humanitarian agenda, representatives from member associations meet at the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, held every four years. Over the years, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, along with associated organizations, has undertaken numerous disaster-relief operations across the world, including the 2005 disasters caused by hurricane Katrina (in New Orleans) and the Asian tsunami (in southern Asia). Most of these disaster-relief programs are organized by the local National Societies. The American Red Cross (ARC) is a National Society operating in the United States. The American Red Cross, in addition to donations, also receives reimbursement for its programs from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).



Seeprimary source image.


The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, through its National Societies, has helped millions of disaster victims around the world. These societies assist in various ways, raising funds, acting as government liaisons, providing health and family services, organizing volunteers and temporary shelters, and imparting training for disaster preparedness and management to local authorities. In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina and hurricane Rita, more than 225,000 volunteers of the American Red Cross assisted in providing food, water, and shelter to the storm survivors—making it one of the biggest disaster relief operations in the history of the United States. Thousands of victims were provided temporary shelter in 1,200 shelters across twenty-seven states. In addition, Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicles (ERVs) delivered more than sixty-five million meals to affected communities.

The cost of such massive operations to societies like the ARC, which depends on donations and federal funding, is extensive. Considered the most expensive disaster in the United States, the World Trade Center terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, reportedly cost the organization more than $997 million in disaster aid. According to the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, the key to providing timely relief during such disasters is partnership with local associations and authorities. The American Red Cross, for instance, has numerous partners such as the Air Transport Association of America (ATA), American Hospital Association (AHUA), American School Food Service Association (ASFSA), Central United States Earthquake Consortium (CUSEC), National Association of Social Workers, U.S. Geological Survey, and others. During the relief operations for hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the ARC partnered with several schools, churches, and recreation centers to provide 3.4 million overnight stays between August and December of 2005.

However, both the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and the American Red Cross have been embroiled in controversies for several years. Reportedly, allegations exist against the two organizations relating to mismanagement of funds and maltreatment. After the devastating San Franciscoearthquake of 1989, the Red Cross, news reports stated, used only $10 million of the $50 million raised for disaster relief operations. After the World Trade Center bombings, the ARC, under the Liberty Fund, is said to have collected $564 million in donations. Out of this, only $154 million were reported to have been distributed to the affected families. Following hearings instituted by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, American Red Cross President Dr. Bernadine Healy quit the organization.

The policies of ICRC have also been criticized in the United States. In June 2005, Jon Kyl, Chairman of the United States Republican Policy Party, mentioned that the ICRC is "disserving American interests." He accused the international agency of trying to "reinterpret and expand international law so as to afford terrorists and insurgents the same rights and privileges as military personnel of states party to the Geneva Conventions" and also attempting to "lobby for arms control issues that are not within the organization's mandate, e.g. the reinterpretation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and banning land mines."

Over the years, the functioning of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has drawn flak from legislators, media, and the public. Even so, thousands of relief operations have been undertaken by the movement, with the ARC alone responding to nearly 73,000 domestic disasters each year.



Haug, Hans. Humanity for All: The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. Bern, Switzerland: Paul Haupt Publishers, 1993.

International Committee of the Red Cross. Handbook of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, 1994.

Web sites

American Red Cross. "Challenged by the Storms." <http:// Rep06.asp> (accessed June 11, 2006).

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. <> (accessed June 11, 2006).

The U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee. "Are American Interests Being Disserved by the International Committee of the Red Cross?" June 13, 2005. <http://rpc.> (accessed June 11, 2006).

Red Cross

views updated May 23 2018

Red Cross International organization that seeks to alleviate human suffering, particularly through disaster relief and aid to war victims. It consists of more than 150 independent national societies in most countries, with central headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. It is staffed largely by volunteers. The name comes from its symbol: a red cross on a white background. The International Red Cross received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1917 and 1944. The organization is known as the Red Crescent in most Muslim countries.

Red Cross

views updated May 17 2018

Red Cross the International Movement of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent, an international humanitarian organization that provides relief to victims of war or natural disaster. The Red Cross was set up in 1864 at the instigation of the Swiss philanthropist Henri Dunant (1828–1910) according to the Geneva Convention, and its headquarters are in Geneva.