Known to most people as simply the "Red Cross
", the ICRC is the international
organisation that co-ordinates efforts between humanitarian
groups at national
levels (eg the American Red Cross, British Red Cross,
French Crux Rouge and so on). To quote from their website
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is an impartial, neutral
and independent organization whose exclusively humanitarian mission is to
protect the lives and dignity of victims of war and internal violence
and to provide them with assistance. It directs and coordinates the
international relief activities conducted by the Movement in situations
of conflict. It also endeavours to prevent suffering by promoting and
strengthening humanitarian law and universal humanitarian principles.
Established in 1863, the ICRC is at the origin of the International
Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
The red cross was founded by Henry Dunant, a Swiss citizen
who inadvertantly found himself close to the town of Solferino in northern
Italy during the War of Italian Unification in 1859. Finding nearly
9,000 wounded after a battle Dunant was shocked that treatment of their
wounds and general food distribution and relief efforts were left to
volunteers and women from the local villages.
Unable to forget what he had seen, 3 years later he published a work in
which he asked why it would not be possible for an international
organisation to be created to look after the victims of war. This work,
entitled A Memory of Solferino was so influential that it not only led
directly to the creation of the Red Cross, but also to the drawing-up of
the Geneva Convention.
The symbol of the organisation so formed, represented on flags as a red cross
on a white background, was originally nothing more than a reversal of the
colours on Dunant's native Swiss flag. Within twenty years, however, the
flag of the red cross was recognised internationally as a humanitarian
symbol, and today in wartime (and peacetime) hospitals and ambulances
carry the flag.
Further information available at http://www.icrc.org