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8 May - World Red Cross Red Crescent Day

07-05-2003

It's the birthday of Henry Dunant, born in Geneva in 1828, recipient of the first Nobel Peace Prize. But the anniversary took an unexpected course before being adopted by the Movement...

 



First aid: a symbol of the Movement
Photo: Ayad el Mounzer / Lebanese RC
 

 

In 1922, just after World War I, there was a general yearning for peace. In the Czech Republic and Slovakia - then one State, Czechoslovakia - the National Society proclaimed a three-day truce at Easter to promote peace. An eminent government leader of the time summed up the underlying aspirations of that initiative as follows: " Our Red Cross wants to prevent disease so that it will not be obliged to give care; it also wants to encourage our society to prevent wars rather than having to bear the serious consequences involved. We all know the importance of the moral potential it brings into being and extends to all sections of the community. If its annual action could take hold in the whole world, this would certainly be a major contribution to peace " . This was an intimation of what was to become World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day.

This initiative, known as the " Red Cross Truce " , had a big impact on the public, but met with some scepticism among National Society leaders. As a result the 14th International Conference of the Red Cross set up an International Commission to study the Red Cross Truce. Its report, presented to the 15th International Conference in Tokyo in 1934, stated that it approved the principle of the Truce and considered it advisable that its application be made more general, from the point of view of methodology, taking into account the psychology characteristic of different regions.

It was only after World War II, in 1946, that the Tokyo proposal was put into effect. During the XIVth Session of the Board of Governors of the League of Red Cross Societies, later called the General Assembly of the International Federation of Red Cross Societies, the League was requested to study the possibility of adopting an international Red Cross Day, to be celebrated on the same date by all National Societies.

Two years later, following approval by the Federation's Executive Committee, Red Cross Day was celebrated for the first time throughout the world on 8 May 1948, the anniversary of the birth of Henry Dunant, the founder of the Red Cross. It subsequently changed names several times and in 1984 became " World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day " .

> Read more on Henry Dunant