1917 – International Committee of the Red Cross

The ICRC, which is itself a three-time Nobel Prize Laureate, is regarded as having been actually awarded the prize four times: in 1917, 1944 (the prize was awarded and received in 1945) and 1963 but also in 1901 as the organisation founded by the first Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Henri Dunant. The Red Cross provides protection and aid to victims of war and violence. The organisation cooperates with state governments. The organisation was given its current name in 1880.

The Geneva Society for Public Welfare, founded in 1863, created the Committee of the Five to examine the ideas of protecting the sick and wounded in battle, presented in Dunant’s book “Un Souvenir de Solferino” (“A memory of Solferino”). Dunant was shocked to see the casualties in the aftermath of the battle of Solferino, which was fought on June 24, 1859 between the Austrian troops and the allied armies of Italy and France. Almost 30,000 soldiers, including over 20,000 wounded men, were left on the battlefield, abandoned to their fate.

Another member of the committee, aside from Dunant himself, was Guillaume Henri Dufour (1787-1875), a Swiss general and author of military treaties who became the first president of the committee and later served as its honorary president. The other members were Gustave Moynier (1826-1910), a young lawyer who devoted his entire later life to serving as president of the Red Cross, and doctors Louis Appia (1818-1898) and Theodore Maunoir (1806-1869).

Owing to Moynier’s organisational talent, the first international conference was held as early as October 1863. The assembly was attended by representatives of 16 countries. It adopted rules and resolutions, as well as introduced the international emblem of the organisation, a red cross on a white background (the inverse of the Swiss flag). The delegates called on all countries to create voluntary units providing aid for the sick and wounded in times of war. These units evolved into National Red Cross Societies and the committee of five became the ICRC.

The following year, an international diplomatic conference held in Geneva adopted the Geneva Convention of 1864, which constituted the legal basis for the neutrality of medical personnel. Moreover, the emblem of the Red Cross was officially adopted. Three more Geneva Conventions followed, granting protection to the wounded and sick in armies at sea, prisoners of war and civilian persons.

The ICRC was the basis for the founding of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and the Red Lion and Sun Society of Iran. It is the leading body of the global humanitarian movement. The Red Cross is represented in approximately 80 countries and currently operates via 114 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and their International Federation.

As a private organisation, the ICRC consists of 25 members who are citizens of Switzerland. In times of war and conflicts, it operates wherever the need arises for the intervention of a neutral body. The ICRC is guardian of the Geneva Conventions and the Red Cross rules. It monitors whether governments comply with them, as well as suggests changes to these rules in support of further development of international humanitarian law. Moreover, it sends its delegates to inspect prisoner-of-war camps and provides material aid to casualties of conflicts and natural disasters.

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