International Committee of the Red Cross

In this article, we talk about the International Committee of the Red Cross, its origin and development, objectives and activities.

Origin and Development

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) came into being in 1864 by the work of Jean-Henri Dunant, a Swiss humanitarian, who organised emergency aid for the wounded soldiers of Austria and France in Battle of Solferino in 1859. In his book UN Souvenir de Solferino (1862; “A Memory of Solferino”), Dunant proposed voluntary relief societies in all countries. The Geneva Convention of 1864 committed the signatory governments to care for the wounded of war, whether enemy or friend. This Convention was revised and new conventions to protect victims of warfare at sea (1907), prisoners of war (1929), and civilians in times of war (1949) were adopted. The Red Cross is the name used in the countries under Christian sponsorship while Red Crescent is used in the Muslim countries. The ICRC is a private institution acting as a neutral and independent intermediary in humanitarian matters during international conflicts and other international disturbances. Its work is prompted by the desire to promote humane conduct and is guided by empathy for the victims. The ICRC remains detached from all political issues related to conflict.


The ICRC acts to help all victims of war and internal violence, attempting to ensure implementation of humanitarian rules restricting armed violence. Its mission arises from the basic human desire to lay down rule governing the use of force in war and to safeguard the dignity of the weak. With a mandate from the international community to help victims of war and internal violence and to promote compliance with International humanitarian law, the ICRC strives for protecting and assisting the victims of armed conflict and internal violence so as to preserve their physical integrity and their dignity and to enable them to regain their autonomy as quickly as possible.


The Red Cross consists of the International Committee, the League of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The International Committee is an independent council of 25 Swiss citizens. During a war, the Committee acts as an intermediary among belligerents and also among National Red Cross Societies. It visits prisoners in war camps and provides relief supplies, mail and information for their relatives. The League of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies help in providing relief to victims of national disaster and aids in the development of national societies.


Being a humanitarian agency, the Red Cross has national affiliates in almost every country in the world. It was established primarily to care for the victims of war but now the organisation is also involved in the task of aiding in the prevention and relief of human suffering which include first aid, accident prevention, water safety, training of nurses’ aids and mothers’ assistants and maintenance of maternal and child welfare centres and medical clinics, blood banks and many other services. The ICRC acts in a consultation with all other organisations involved in humanitarian work. It systematically reminds all military and civilian authorities directly involved in armed conflict or internal violence of their obligations under international humanitarian law and the other humanitarian rules by which they are bound. The Committee acts as an intermediary between the parties to armed conflict and promotes dialogue in situation of internal violence, with a view to finding solutions for matters of humanitarian concern.