Is the Red Cross an NGO
From the idea to the foundation
The story of the Red Cross - that is also the story of Jean-Henry Dunant. The son of a merchant from Geneva observed on June 24, 1859 in Solferino how the armed forces under Emperor Napoleon III. of France and Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria fought against each other.
40,000 soldiers were killed on the battlefield that day and countless were left injured. Dunant went to work with the locals to care for the injured. Jean-Henry Dunant wrote down his memories of what he had experienced after the battle in his book "A Memory of Solferino".
The book was published in 1862. Dunant advertised and sent it to influential people across Europe. His appeal for better care and neutral protection of the wounded in armed conflict met with broad support. In February 1863, a five-member committee was founded in Geneva to implement Dunant's ideas.
This group later becomes the core of the "International Committee of the German Red Cross". In August 1864, the Swiss government convened a conference in Geneva with delegates from 16 nations. Three weeks later, twelve of the delegates signed the first Geneva or Red Cross conventions.
The agreement stipulates that the hospitals, ambulances, medical services and doctors should act as neutral bodies and that the soldiers of the enemy deserve the same medical care as their own troops.
An idea that made history: the Red Cross emblem was first used as an armband during the German-Danish War in 1864. As a hallmark for ambulances, civil and military rescue services, it has a level of awareness today that is otherwise only achieved by international consumer goods brands. The Red Cross and the Red Crescent together have around 125 million members worldwide.
The organization - use all over the world
When we speak of the Red Cross, we usually refer to the "International Committee of the Red Cross", or ICRC for short. This was founded in Geneva in 1863 by Jean-Henry Dunant and his colleagues.
The ICRC is primarily concerned with international conflicts and civil wars, especially in developing countries. Its task is to monitor compliance with international humanitarian law, to disseminate it and to develop it further.
The ICRC operates as an independent, impartial and neutral organization in conflicts. In addition to the ICRC, there is the "League of Red Cross Societies" founded in Paris in 1919. For several years it has been called the "Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies", which means: It is the multinational umbrella organization for around 190 national Red Cross societies, including that of the "German Red Cross" (DRK).
The national organizations act independently of one another. Many of them also have international departments. In coordination with the ICRC, these are deployed worldwide in the event of natural disasters or in conflict areas.
The entire movement is held together by the seven fundamental principles set out in the statutes: humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntariness, unity, universality.
Search, blood donation, care for the elderly - tasks in Germany
The "German Red Cross" (DRK) is one of the oldest Red Cross associations in the world. In the year of the first Geneva Convention (1864), Red Cross associations were founded in the individual German states from Prussia to Bavaria, from Oldenburg to Baden. Today the DRK is one of the largest non-governmental organizations in the Federal Republic of Germany with around four million members.
Around 400,000 volunteers are organized in regional and district associations, local associations and Red Cross communities. The dog squadrons of the "German Red Cross" (DRK) are there with all their dedication free of charge and voluntarily.
Behind it is a group of permanently employed experts such as doctors, paramedics, technicians and administrators. Internationally, too, the DRK has developed into one of the most efficient Red Cross societies in the field of humanitarian aid.
In Germany, the DRK is active both as a national aid society and in welfare work. Its tasks are civil and disaster aid, medical and rescue services, tracing service, voluntary service, blood donation service and, last but not least, the various areas of social work such as care for the elderly, assistance for the disabled, child, youth and family assistance or health promotion.
The DRK is financed by around 4 million members and through regular donations, not least by the federal government, the federal states and local authorities. They provide earmarked funds for tasks that are in the public interest.
Another part of the financing comes from the reimbursement of costs from the statutory social and health insurance funds. Despite this funding, the Red Cross is not a state organization and its existence would not be secure without the commitment of the many volunteers.
Author: Kerstin Eva Dreher
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