India: Saluting the resilience of the human spirit


Our work, at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), takes us onto battlefields, into prisons, to floods, cyclones, earthquakes, and to emergency camps where we witness the suffering of human beings. And yet, it is in these same places that we witness as well the extraordinary and heroic acts of individuals — a soldier who risks his life to evacuate a child; a volunteer who puts on her mask and returns to the rubble to collect another dead body; a prisoner who nurses a fellow inmate; a nurse who refuses to leave a hospital that is being shelled, a surgeon who saves a life in the middle of a warzone, a volunteer who consoles a mother who has lost her child.

As on every World Red Cross Day, this year, too, the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement joined hands in paying tribute to the resilience of the human spirit. It is this spirit of humanity which binds us together and is a core principle guiding and, indeed, driving the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement.

We live in a world that’s facing an increase in the frequency and intensity of natural disasters and in the complexity of conflicts and their effect on communities and countries. And these two trends, unfortunately, overlap in many parts of the world. Hence, humanitarian organizations, too, are likely to be increasingly faced with situations where populations are under different layers of pressure — be it demographic or economic pressure, pressure from natural and technological disasters or climate change, over time weakening the capacity of these populations to cope with the changes and leaving them even more vulnerable.

Several new actors have joined the field of humanitarian action. What is at stake for us, then, is the ability to deliver a humanitarian response that respects the fundamental principles of impartiality, neutrality, and independence. These principles are of great importance to us, as at their very core is our ability to gain the widest possible acceptance by all stakeholders, and, thereby, to gain safe access (and proximity) to populations in need of protection and assistance.

Today, we look back at a journey of 150 years from one man’s dream and perseverance to a global community of over 17 million volunteers, with a Red Cross or Red Crescent presence in almost every community in the world. Our strength lies in our hugely diverse and committed staff and volunteers who continue to work in the midst of these extremely difficult situations. The sacrifices and dedication of the members of this movement over this long journey not only reminds us that the institution has always worked to adapt continuously to the changing realities confronting it, but also gives us the faith and conviction to continue to do so in future.

Mary Werntz
Head of the Regional Delegation
New Delhi