The Global Red Cross Network

Global Red Cross people

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The American Red Cross is part of the global Red Cross and Red Crescent network which strives to relieve human suffering throughout the world.

Here in the United States, the American Red Cross is dedicated to helping people in need across the country, and in association with other Red Cross societies, throughout the world. Founded by Clara Barton on May 21, 1881, the American Red Cross provides compassionate care in five critical areas – people affected by disasters; support for members of the military and their families; health and safety education and training; blood collection, processing and distribution to as many as 3,000 medical facilities across the United States; and international relief and development. The American Red Cross is part of the global Red Cross/Red Crescent network.

Global Red Cross and Red Crescent Network

The international Red Cross and Red Crescent network is the largest humanitarian network in the world with a presence and activities in almost every country. The network is made up of all the national and international organizations around the world which are allowed to use the Red Cross or Red Crescent emblem. It also represents all the activities they undertake to relieve human suffering throughout the world.

The global network is unified and guided by seven Fundamental Principles: humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality. All Red Cross and Red Crescent activities have one central purpose: to help those who suffer, without discrimination, whether during conflict, in response to natural or man-made disasters, or due to conditions of chronic poverty.

The three parts of the global Red Cross network are the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the more than 185 national societies.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the national societies are independent bodies. Each has its own individual status and exercises no authority over the others.

The highest decision-making body of the global network is the International Conference which meets every four years to ensure unity in the work of the international network and to discuss and act upon humanitarian issues of common interest. Delegates to the International Conference are members of the ICRC the IFRC, national societies and representatives from signatories to the Geneva Convention.

The National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

These organizations are the individual societies of nearly every independent country in the world. They must be chartered by their respective governments and provide a range of services including disaster relief, health and social programs and assistance to people affected by war within their own borders.

ndividual Red Cross and Red Crescent societies also cooperate with other national societies bilaterally, regionally, and through the Federation and the ICRC on relief and development projects. They assist their own governments in carrying out each nation's humanitarian treaty obligations. Each country is allowed to charter only one Red Cross or Red Crescent society within its territory.

Together, the National Societies have 13 million volunteers assisting some 284 million people each year. The promotion of humanitarian values is an intrinsic part of all Red Cross and Red Crescent activities. They also promote awareness of international humanitarian law.

The International Committee of the Red Cross

Established in 1863, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is an impartial, neutral and independent organization whose exclusive humanitarian mission is to protect the lives and dignity of victims of war and internal violence and to provide them with assistance.

The ICRC is at the origin of the international Red Cross and Red Crescent network and directs and coordinates the international relief activities conducted by the global network in situations of conflict. Among its many activities, the ICRC searches for missing persons, exchanges messages to and from members of separated families, helps establish hospital and security zones in embattled areas, organizes international aid programs and provides medical assistance for refugees, displaced people, and other civilian victims of armed conflicts. It also endeavors to prevent suffering by promoting and strengthening humanitarian law and universal humanitarian principles.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)

Founded in 1919, the International Federation is the coalition of individual Red Cross and Red Crescent national societies that coordinates peacetime humanitarian relief efforts throughout the world.

Currently, the IFRC is comprised of 187 national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, a Secretariat in Geneva and more than 60 delegations strategically located to support activities around the world. The Federation's activities include organizing and coordinating international disaster relief operations, providing assistance to refugees outside areas of conflict, promoting national disaster preparedness programs and strengthening the capacities of its member national societies.

The General Assembly is the highest decision-making body of the Federation. It meets every two years and is made up of representatives from all member National Societies. The Governing Board acts between general assemblies, meeting twice a year with the authority to make certain decisions. The Secretariat is an administration office which conducts day-to-day business and directs the work of country and regional delegations assisting national societies in relief and development projects.