Case studies/Red Cross

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he International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is an international humanitarian movement with approximately 97 million volunteers worldwide which started to protect human life and health, to ensure respect for the human being, and to prevent and alleviate human suffering, without any discrimination based on nationality, race, sex, religious beliefs, class or political opinions. The often-heard term International Red Cross is actually a misnomer, as no official organization as such exists bearing that name. In reality, the movement consists of several distinct organizations that are legally independent from each other, but are united within the Movement through common basic principles, objectives, symbols, statutes and governing organs. The Movement's parts:

  • The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is a private humanitarian institution founded in 1863 in Geneva, Switzerland by Henry Dunant. Its 25-member committee has a unique authority under international humanitarian law to protect the life and dignity of the victims of international and internal armed conflicts. The ICRC was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on three occasions (in 1917, 1944 and 1963).
  • The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) was founded in 1919 and today it coordinates activities between the 186 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies within the Movement. On an international level, the Federation leads and organizes, in close cooperation with the National Societies, relief assistance missions responding to large-scale emergencies. The International Federation Secretariat is based in Geneva, Switzerland. In 1963, the Federation (then known as the League of Red Cross Societies) was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with the ICRC.
  • National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies exist in nearly every country in the world. Currently 186 National Societies are recognized by the ICRC and admitted as full members of the Federation. Each entity works in its home country according to the principles of international humanitarian law and the statutes of the international Movement. Depending on their specific circumstances and capacities, National Societies can take on additional humanitarian tasks that are not directly defined by international humanitarian law or the mandates of the international Movement. In many countries, they are tightly linked to the respective national health care system by providing emergency medical services.

Activities

Organization of the Movement

Entry to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum in Geneva.

Altogether, there are about 97 million people worldwide who serve with the ICRC, the International Federation, and the National Societies. And there are about 12,000 total full time staff members.

The 1965 International Conference in Vienna adopted seven basic principles which should be shared by all parts of the Movement, and they were added to the official statutes of the Movement in 1986.

  • Humanity
  • Impartiality
  • Neutrality
  • Independence
  • Voluntary Service
  • Unity
  • Universality

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Conference, which occurs once every four years, is the highest institutional body of the Movement. It gathers delegations from all of the national societies as well as from the ICRC, the Federation and the signatory states to the Geneva Conventions. In between the conferences, the Standing Commission acts as the supreme body and supervises implementation of and compliance with the resolutions of the conference. In addition, the Standing Commission coordinates the cooperation between the ICRC and the Federation. It consists of two representatives from the ICRC (including its president), two from the Federation (including its president), and five individuals who are elected by the International Conference. The Standing Commission convenes every six months on average. Moreover, a convention of the Council of Delegates of the Movement takes place every two years in the course of the conferences of the General Assemblies of the Federation. The Council of Delegates plans and coordinates joint activities for the Movement.

Activities and Organization of the ICRC

The mission of the ICRC and its responsibilities within the Movement

Emblem of the ICRC

The official mission of the ICRC as an impartial, neutral, and independent organization is to stand for the protection of the life and dignity of victims of international and internal armed conflicts. According to the 1997 Seville Agreement, it is the "Lead Agency" of the Movement in conflicts. The core tasks of the Committee, which are derived from the Geneva Conventions and its own statutes, are the following:

  • to monitor compliance of warring parties with the Geneva Conventions
  • to organize nursing and care for those who are wounded on the battlefield
  • to supervise the treatment of prisoners of war
  • to help with the search for missing persons in an armed conflict (tracing service)
  • to organize protection and care for civil populations
  • to arbitrate between warring parties in an armed conflict

Legal status and organization

The ICRC is headquartered in the Swiss city of Geneva and has external offices in about 80 countries. It has about 12,000 staff members worldwide, about 800 of them working in its Geneva headquarters, 1,200 expatriates with about half of them serving as delegates managing its international missions and the other half being specialists like doctors, agronomists, engineers or interpreters, and about 10,000 members of individual national societies working on site. Contrary to popular belief, the ICRC is not a non-governmental organization in the most common sense of the term, nor is it an international organization. As it limits its members (a process called cooptation) to Swiss nationals only, it does not have a policy of open and unrestricted membership for individuals like other legally defined NGOs. The word "international" in its name does not refer to its membership but to the worldwide scope of its activities as defined by the Geneva Conventions. The ICRC has special privileges and legal immunities in many countries, based on national law in these countries or through agreements between the Committee and respective national governments. According to Swiss law, the ICRC is defined as a private association. According to its statutes it consists of 15 to 25 Swiss-citizen members, which it coopts for a period of four years. There is no limit to the number of terms an individual member can have although a three-quarters majority of all members is required for re-election after the third term.

The leading organs of the ICRC are the Directorate and the Assembly. The Directorate is the executive body of the Committee. It consists of a General Director and five directors in the areas of "Operations", "Human Resources", "Resources and Operational Support", "Communication", and "International Law and Cooperation within the Movement". The members of the Directorate are appointed by the Assembly to serve for four years. The Assembly, consisting of all of the members of the Committee, convenes on a regular basis and is responsible for defining aims, guidelines, and strategies and for supervising the financial matters of the Committee. The president of the Assembly is also the president of the Committee as a whole. Furthermore, the Assembly elects a five member Assembly Council which has the authority to decide on behalf of the full Assembly in some matters. The Council is also responsible for organizing the Assembly meetings and for facilitating communication between the Assembly and the Directorate.

Due to Geneva's location in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, the ICRC usually acts under its French name Comité international de la Croix-Rouge (CICR). The official symbol of the ICRC is the Red Cross on white background with the words "COMITE INTERNATIONAL GENEVE" circling the cross.

Funding and financial matters

The 2009 budget of the ICRC amounts more than 1 billon Swiss Francs. Most of that money comes from the States, including Switzerland in its capacity as the depositary state of the Geneva Conventions, from national Red Cross societies, the signatory states of the Geneva Conventions, and from international organizations like the European Union. All payments to the ICRC are voluntary and are received as donations based on two types of appeals issued by the Committee: an annual Headquarters Appeal to cover its internal costs and Emergency Appeals for its individual missions.

The ICRC is asking donors for more than 1.1 billion Swiss francs to fund its work in 2010. Afghanistan is projected to become the ICRC’s biggest humanitarian operation (at 86 million Swiss francs, an 18% increase over the initial 2009 budget), followed by Iraq (85 million francs) and Sudan (76 million francs). The initial 2010 field budget for medical activities of 132 million francs represents an increase of 12 million francs over 2009.

Activities and organization of the Federation

The Mission of the Federation and its responsibilities within the Movement

Emblem of the Federation

The Federation coordinates cooperation between national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies throughout the world and supports the foundation of new national societies in countries where no official society exists. On the international stage, the Federation organizes and leads relief assistance missions after emergencies like natural disasters, manmade disasters, epidemics, mass refugee flights, and other emergencies. According to the 1997 Seville Agreement, the Federation is the Lead Agency of the Movement in any emergency situation which does not take place as part of an armed conflict. The Federation cooperates with the national societies of those countries affected – each called the Operating National Society (ONS) – as well as the national societies of other countries willing to offer assistance – called Participating National Societies (PNS). Among the 187 national societies admitted to the General Assembly of the Federation as full members or observers, about 25–30 regularly work as PNS in other countries. The most active of those are the American Red Cross, the British Red Cross, the German Red Cross, and the Red Cross societies of Swedish Red Cross and Norwegian Red Cross. Another major mission of the Federation which has gained attention in recent years is its commitment to work towards a codified, worldwide ban on the use of land mines and to bring medical, psychological, and social support for people injured by land mines.

The tasks of the Federation can therefore be summarized as follows:

  • to promote humanitarian principles and values
  • to provide relief assistance in emergency situations of large magnitude
  • to support the national societies with disaster preparedness through the education of voluntary members and the provision of equipment and relief supplies
  • to support local health care projects
  • to support the national societies with youth-related activities

Legal status and organization

Like the ICRC, the Federation has its headquarters in Geneva. It also runs 14 permanent regional offices and has about 350 delegates in more than 60 delegations around the world. The legal basis for the work of the Federation is its constitution. The executive body of the Federation is a secretariat, led by a Secretary General. The secretariat is supported by four divisions labeled "Support Services", "National Society and Field Support", "Policy and Relations" and "Movement Cooperation". The Movement Cooperation division organizes interaction and cooperation with the ICRC. The highest body of the Federation is the General Assembly which convenes every two years with delegates from all of the national societies. Among other tasks, the General Assembly elects the Secretary General. Between the convening of General Assemblies, the Governing Board is the leading body of the Federation. It has the authority to make decisions for the Federation in a number of areas. The Governing Board consists of the president and the vice presidents of the Federation, the chairman of the Finance Commission, and twenty elected representatives from national societies. It is supported by four additional commissions: "Disaster Relief", "Youth", "Health & Community Services", and "Development".

The symbol of the Federation is the combination of the Red Cross (left) and Red Crescent (right) on a white background (surrounded by a red rectangular frame) without any additional text.

Funding and financial matters

The main parts of the budget of the Federation are funded by contributions from the national societies which are members of the Federation and through revenues from its investments. The exact amount of contributions from each member society is established by the Finance Commission and approved by the General Assembly. Any additional funding, especially for unforeseen expenses for relief assistance missions, is raised by appeals published by the Federation and comes from voluntary donations by national societies, governments, other organizations, corporations, and individuals.

National societies within the Movement

Official Recognition of a national society

National Red Cross and Red Crescent societies exist in nearly every country in the world. Within their home country, they take on the duties and responsibilities of a national relief society as defined by International Humanitarian Law. Within the Movement, the ICRC is responsible for legally recognizing a relief society as an official national Red Cross or Red Crescent society. The exact rules for recognition are defined in the statutes of the Movement. Article 4 of these statutes contains the "Conditions for recognition of National Societies":

In order to be recognized in terms of Article 5, paragraph 2 b) as a National Society, the Society shall meet the following conditions:
  1. Be constituted on the territory of an independent State where the Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field is in force.
  2. Be the only National Red Cross or Red Crescent Society of the said State and be directed by a central body which shall alone be competent to represent it in its dealings with other components of the Movement.
  3. Be duly recognized by the legal government of its country on the basis of the Geneva Conventions and of the national legislation as a voluntary aid society, auxiliary to the public authorities in the humanitarian field.
  4. Have an autonomous status which allows it to operate in conformity with the Fundamental Principles of the Movement.
  5. Use the name and emblem of the Red Cross or Red Crescent in conformity with the Geneva Conventions.
  6. Be so organized as to be able to fulfill the tasks defined in its own statutes, including the preparation in peace time for its statutory tasks in case of armed conflict.
  7. Extend its activities to the entire territory of the State.
  8. Recruit its voluntary members and its staff without consideration of race, sex, class, religion or political opinions.
  9. Adhere to the present Statutes, share in the fellowship which unites the components of the Movement and co-operate with them.
  10. Respect the Fundamental Principles of the Movement and be guided in its work by the principles of international humanitarian law.

After recognition by the ICRC, a national society is admitted as a member to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies.

Activities of national societies on a national and international stage

Despite formal independence regarding its organizational structure and work, each national society is still bound by the laws of its home country. In many countries, national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies enjoy exceptional privileges due to agreements with their governments or specific "Red Cross Laws" granting full independence as required by the International Movement. The duties and responsibilities of a national society as defined by International Humanitarian Law and the statutes of the Movement include humanitarian aid in armed conflicts and emergency crises such as natural disasters. Depending on their respective human, technical, financial, and organizational resources, many national societies take on additional humanitarian tasks within their home countries such as Blood donation services or acting as civilian Emergency Medical Service (EMS) providers. The ICRC and the International Federation cooperate with the national societies in their international missions, especially with human, material, and financial resources and organizing on-site logistics.

References