The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is an umbrella term referring to all the national and international organizations allowed to use the Red Cross, Red Crescent and, recently, the Red Crystal emblems, and all the activities they undertake to relieve human suffering throughout the world. This network is one of the largest in the world with a presence in almost every country. It 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 it is during conflict, in response to natural or man-made disasters, or to alleviate the suffering brought on by conditions of chronic poverty.
The three arms of the global network are: the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. No part of the network governs any of the others, but all three coordinate and collaborate as part of the global Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement to provide neutral and impartial assistance to those affected by conflicts and disasters.
- The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has the primary function of protecting and assisting the victims of war and conflict while remaining impartial and neutral. The ICRC also attempts to prevent suffering through the promotion and adoption of universal humanitarian laws and principles throughout the world. Founded in 1863, the ICRC gains its mandate primarily from the first Geneva conventions.
- The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) coordinates international assistance efforts in response to natural and man-made disasters that are unrelated to war. The IFRC’s main mission is to improve the lives of the vulnerable by mobilizing the capable. The IFRC also strives to teach disaster preparedness, fight the spread of disease, discourage discrimination and violence, and promote humanitarian values.
- The National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are each uniquely chartered to operate within their respective countries. Each society works in cooperation with ICRC and IFRC projects as well as with the societies of other nations. The range of services provided by each society varies depending on the needs of the country, but can include disaster preparedness and relief; health and social initiatives; and aide to those locally affected by war. Each National Society also promotes humanitarian values and advocates for the vulnerable within its own country.
The IFRC, ICRC and all National Societies work together to protect the emblems (Red Cross, Red Crescent and Red Crystal) against misuse and abuse, as it is essential that they stand unchallenged as symbols of neutral and independent assistance at all times, and as guarantees of protection in times of conflict or emergency. Governments have accepted an obligation to prevent misuse and abuse, and in many countries the misuse or abuse of the emblems can lead to prosecution.
Read more about the emblems