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Saturday, August 15, 2009

125th Anniversary Of The Red Cross And Red Crescent Movement. (1988-4)

It was 24 June, 1859 when a 31 year old Genevese, Henry Dunant happened to witness clash between the powerful armies of France and Austria at Solferino. This was one of the bloodiest battles of the 19th century and by hightfall more than 40,000 had, fallen on the battlefield.

Moved by the horrible scene of wounded lying in heaps, many of whom could have been healed, had they been treated in time, Dunant promptly set about to improvised aid for treating some of these unfortunates, with the help of local population.

Later, after returning to Geneva, Dunant wrote a short book “A Memory of Solferino” in which he movingly described all that he had seen not long before on the scene of battlefield. The book, which appeared in November, 1862, contained the following two proposals being the basis of the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement.

ormation of relief societies in peace time, whose aim would be to give support to the army medical service in time of war.

Ensuring that States would formulate some international principle “sanctioned by a convention inviolable in character, which once agreed upon and ratified might constitute basis for societies for the relief of the wounded”.

Attracted by these proposals, Gustave Moynier, a young lawyer and the then President of the Public Welfare Society of Geneva, called a meeting in order to discuss the proposals and attempted to find ways of putting them into effect, and appointed a Committee composed of five members.

This small group of private individuals then boldly proceeded to convene inter-national conference whose object was “to improve the inadequacies in the army medical service”. As a result, no less than 16 States met in October, 1863 and laid the foundation of the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement.

The resolution which was then approved, provided for formulation groups of volunteers in each country, with the help of respective government who would be prepared to go onto the field of battle and tend the wounded. These groups (associations) were later developed as national Societies.

The following year, the committee succeeded in getting the representatives of the governments to attend an international meeting in Geneva, the Diplomatic Conference of August, 1864 which adopted the first Geneva Convention for the amelioration of the condition of the wounded in armies in the field, and for the protection of medical personnel.

The International Red Cross/Red Crescent which became an organised body in 1928 with its own statues, is an association of a non-official character consisting of

(i) International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which is at the origin of the whole Red Cross/Red Ci~37ent movement, is a private committee, whose members are all Swiss, recruited by co-option among Swiss citizens, but whose activity, recognised by international treaties, is primarily international. It is essentially a neutral intermediary in time of war who, as the guardian of the Red Cross principles (appended below), watches over the application of the Geneva Conventions:

Humanity, - Impartiality, - Neutrality, - independence, - Voluntary Service, - Unity, -

(ii) The League of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (LRCS), which was founded in 1919 is a world- wide Federation of the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, It coordinates, facilitates and promotes the development of their activities in peace-time and more particularly, goes into action in the event of natural disasters.

(iii) The National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which have adopted emblems of Red Cross and Red Crescent, respectively, are the pillars on which the whole of the edifice has been build. There is only one Red Cross/Red Crescent Society in a country. The total numbers of the national Societies, at present, is 145 throughout the globe. These Societies are independent out of each other and of their own Government, which however projects and supports its Society and their only purpose is to being relief to all those who suffer.


Since adoption of the First Geneva Convention in August, 1864 the International Committee of the Red Cross has always retained the initiative in the promotion and development of international humanitarian law and has been the originator of its subsequent extension. This Convention followed adoption of two more Conventions; one in 1899 and other in 1929.

The 12 August 1949 was an important date in the development of international humanitarian law. On that day was signed a fourth humanitarian treaty for the protection of civilians and also the revised and supplemented versions of the first three Conventions as we know them today:

The FIRST CONVENTION protects wounded and sick soldiers and medical personnel in war on land.

The SECOND CONVENTION protects the wounded, the sick and the shipwrecked and the medical personnel of armed forces at sea.

The THIRD CONVENTION protects prisoners of war.

The FOURTH CONVENTION protects civilians in enemy and occupied territory.

With a view to meet the new situations developed after adoption of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, two Protocols additional to these Conventions were worked out under ICRC auspices in the course of many years of work and signed on 10 June 1977. Protocol I protects the victims of international armed conflicts and Protocol II those of non international armed conflicts.


The Pakistan Red Crescent Society (former Pakistan Red Cross Society) was founded on 20th December, 1947. It was recognised by thc ICRC on 21st July, 1948 and was admitted as a member of the LRCS on 15th August, 1948. Its Constitution is based on the Geneva Convention to which the Society is a party, and on the fundamental principles outlined earlier.

In deference to the wishes of the people of Pakistan, legislation to change the name of the Pakistan Red Cross Society was passed by the Parliament in February 1974 and since then the Society is known as “Pakistan Red Crescent Society” with its new emblem as red crescent in place of red cross.

The Society, according to its Constitution, and the Pakistan Red Crescent Act No XV of 1920 (as amended upto February 1974), is an auxiliary agency to the Government of Pakistan and as such has a more important status than any other voluntary agency in the country.
The Society Is primarily an emergency organisation operating essentially ‘in the field’ during the relatively limited emergency and post emergency periods. For disaster relief, the Society’s programme envisages the provision of:

Rescue and first-aid. - Food supplies, - Clothing, - Shelter, - Evacuation, - Tracing

Services and other forms of emergency assistance.

The Society runs a number of medical institutions, such as, hospitals, dispensaries, clinics (including Mobile Eye Clinic run by the National Head-quarters), Blood Banks and MCH Centres etc throughout the country, and thus assists in providing the much needed medical facilities to the deserving people.

Contributed by Pakistan Red Crescent Society Islamabad.

To commemorate the 125th Anniversary of the Red Cross & Red Crescent Movement, Pakistan Post Office is issuing a stamp of Rs 3 denomination on May 8, 1988.