International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement

International Committee of the Red Cross

The ICRC is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, which also comprises 189 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The National Societies operate within their respective countries while the Federation coordinates the international response of National Societies to disasters not involving armed conflict. The Federation is a key partner for the ICRC, particularly where conflicts overlap with natural disasters. We also work closely with the National Societies, which share their professional skills, first-hand knowledge of the local terrain and familiarity with local cultures and languages.

National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

The National Societies help the governments of their respective countries to do humanitarian work. They provide a range of services, including disaster relief and health and social programmes. In wartime, the National Societies deliver relief to civilians and, where appropriate, they support the army medical services.

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

The Federation is made up of 189 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies that together comprise the world’s largest volunteer-based humanitarian network. The Federation acts before, during and after disasters and health emergencies to meet the needs and improve the lives of vulnerable people, through long-term services and development programmes, disaster response and early recovery initiatives.

  • National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies can respond quickly in emergencies because their volunteers are part of the community. Here, a Hellenic Red Cross rescue team on the Greek island of Lesbos carries a baby out of a boat. In 2014, they regularly helped migrants get safely ashore, and provided survival blankets and first aid.

  • National Societies often work together in times of crisis. Following the April 2015 earthquake in Nepal, the Nepal Red Cross and Danish Red Cross distributed shelter kits together.

  • Here, volunteers with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent administer polio vaccines. The ICRC and National Societies work closely together. They are sometimes the only organizations able to continue working in conflicts because they are seen as neutral and impartial.

  • National Societies are often on the front lines of global crises, such as during the 2014–2015 outbreak of Ebola in western Africa. Here, new recruits to the Liberian Red Cross learn how to handle dead bodies.

  • In many emergencies, the ICRC supports or works in partnership with National Societies to maintain critical services and facilities, such as this hospital in north Mogadishu, Somalia, run by the Somali Red Crescent.

  • The ICRC often works closely with National Societies during emergencies. Here, staff from the ICRC and the Philippine Red Cross inspect a camp for people fleeing violence in the southern city of Zamboanga in 2013.

  • This hip-hop dance school is backed by the Salvadorean Red Cross. National Societies often work with local communities to create opportunities for social inclusion.

  • Here, local workers rebuild homes that were destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan, as part of a programme supported by the Philippine Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. National Societies often continue recovery work long after other relief efforts have ended.

Fundamental principles

In our work, we are always guided by the Fundamental Principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, born of a desire to bring assistance without discrimination to the wounded on the battlefield, endeavours, in its international and national capacity, to prevent and alleviate human suffering wherever it may be found. Its purpose is to protect life and health and to ensure respect for the human being. It promotes mutual understanding, friendship, cooperation and lasting peace amongst all peoples.
It makes no discrimination as to nationality, race, religious beliefs, class or political opinions. It endeavours to relieve the suffering of individuals, being guided solely by their needs, and to give priority to the most urgent cases of distress.
In order to continue to enjoy the confidence of all, the Movement may not take sides in hostilities or engage at any time in controversies of a political, racial, religious or ideological nature.
The Movement is independent. The National Societies, while auxiliaries in the humanitarian services of their governments and subject to the laws of their respective countries, must always maintain their autonomy so that they may be able at all times to act in accordance with the principles of the Movement.
It is a voluntary relief Movement not prompted in any manner by desire for gain.
There can be only one Red Cross or one Red Crescent Society in any one country. It must be open to all. It must carry on its humanitarian work throughout its territory.
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, in which all Societies have equal status and share equal responsibilities and duties in helping each other, is worldwide.