Red Cross anniversary reminds us of humanitarian principles
Today is a special day of commemoration for the American Red Cross. Sixty years ago, on Aug. 12, 1949, the four Geneva Conventions in their current form came into being. Now adopted by every nation, the Geneva Conventions place limits on how war is waged, protecting civilians, wounded and sick combatants and prisoners of war. They are the cornerstone of international humanitarian law and are forever linked to the Red Cross.
In fact, our Congressional Charter specifies that the American Red Cross is a “federally chartered instrumentality of the United States,” and charges us with carrying out the “purposes of the Geneva Conventions” dating back to the original in 1864.
As the women and men of the American Red Cross, our duty is to ensure that these humanitarian principles are followed on behalf of the people and government of the United States, guided by our own seven Fundamental Principles. This is the reason we came into existence, and it is our oldest and most cherished mission.
The Red Cross and the Geneva Conventions were both born on the battlefield of Solferino, Italy, 150 years ago, when Henry Dunant, the founder of the Red Cross, witnessed the devastating consequences of war. In the aftermath of that battle, Henry argued successfully for the creation of a civilian relief corps to respond to human suffering during conflict, and for rules to set limits on how war is waged.
Please take a moment this week to remember those still in need of humanitarian protections in today’s conflicts and to honor the dedicated men and women of the Red Cross who have gone before us, and who continue to go wherever they are needed.