The American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.
Fundamental Principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement
The American Red Cross is part of the global Red Cross and Red Crescent network, which works to prevent and alleviate human suffering around the world. This network includes national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies like the American Red Cross in almost every country; the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which coordinates international assistance; and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which focuses exclusively on areas of armed conflict. The network is united by a shared commitment to the fundamental principles listed below.
The Red Cross, born of a desire to bring assistance without discrimination to the wounded on the battlefield, endeavors—in its international and national capacity—to prevent and alleviate human suffering wherever it may be found. Its purpose is to protect life and health and to ensure respect for the human being. It promotes mutual understanding, friendship, cooperation and lasting peace amongst all peoples.
It makes no discrimination as to nationality, race, religious beliefs, class or political opinions. It endeavors to relieve the suffering of individuals, being guided solely by their needs, and to give priority to the most urgent cases of distress.
In order to continue to enjoy the confidence of all, the Red Cross may not take sides in hostilities or engage at any time in controversies of a political, racial, religious or ideological nature.
The Red Cross is independent. The national societies, while auxiliaries in the humanitarian services of their governments and subject to the laws of their respective countries, must always maintain their autonomy so that they may be able at all times to act in accordance with Red Cross principles.
The Red Cross is a voluntary relief movement not prompted in any manner by desire for gain.
There can be only one Red Cross society in any one country. It must be open to all. It must carry on its humanitarian work throughout its territory.
The Red Cross is a worldwide institution in which all societies have equal status and share equal responsibilities and duties in helping each other.
Who is the founder of the Red Cross?
The Red Cross idea was born in 1859. Henry Dunant, a young Swiss, witnessed a bloody battle in Solferino, Italy, between the armies of imperial Austria and the Franco-Sardinian Alliance. Some 40,000 men lay dead or dying on the battlefield and the wounded were lacking medical attention. Dunant organized local people to bind the soldiers' wounds and feed and comfort them. On his return, he called for the creation of national relief societies to assist those wounded in war, and pointed the way to the future Geneva Conventions.
In October 1863, The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement were created in Geneva, Switzerland, to provide nonpartisan care to the wounded and sick in times of war. The Red Cross emblem was adopted at this first International Conference as a symbol of neutrality and was to be used by national relief societies. In August 1864, the representatives of 12 governments signed the Geneva Convention Treaty.
The extraordinary efforts of Henry Dunant led to the eventual establishment of the International Red Cross. Today, the Red Cross Movement incorporates the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (the International Federation), as well as National Societies in 175 countries, including the American Red Cross of the United States.
Who founded the American Red Cross?
Clara Barton (1821-1912) was the first person to establish a lasting Red Cross Society in America. She organized the American Association of the Red Cross in Washington, D.C., on May 21, 1881. Created to serve America in peace and in war, during times of disaster and national calamity, Barton's organization took its service beyond that of the International Red Cross Movement by adding disaster relief to battlefield assistance. She served as the organization's volunteer president until 1904.
Is the American Red Cross part of the U.S. government?
The American Red Cross functions independently of the government but works closely with government agencies, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), during times of major crises. It is responsible for giving aid to members of the U.S. Armed Forces and to disaster victims at home and abroad. It does this through services that are consistent with its Congressional Charter and the Fundamental Principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement allowing the Red Cross to stay neutral and impartial. Race, religion, legal or economic status are irrelevant to receiving Red Cross assistance.