Cyprus Red Cross Society: the Movement's 188th National Society

24-02-2012 Interview

During its session of 22/23 February 2012, the International Committee of the Red Cross recognized the Cyprus Red Cross Society as the 188th National Society of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. ICRC Director for International Law and Cooperation, Philip Spoerri, explains.

Why was the Cyprus Red Cross Society, which has existed as an independent organization since 1960, recognized only now?

When the Cyprus Red Cross Society applied for recognition in the past, beginning in 1971, it did not yet fulfil all the criteria for recognition as set out in the Statutes of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. The recent adoption by the Cyprus Red Cross Society of new statutory base instruments paved the way for the ICRC, on the basis of its statutory responsibilities and a thorough legal assessment of the Society's fulfilment of the 10 conditions for recognition, to proceed with recognition. We are happy to welcome the 188th National Society to be recognized as a component of the Movement.

What do you mean when you refer to "the Movement"?

The Red Cross / Red Crescent is not a single organization. It is composed of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and – with the recognition of the Cyprus Red Cross Society – of 188 individual national Red Cross or Red Crescent Societies.

The Cyprus Red Cross, like its 187 sister organizations, has a wide range of roles that it plays and objectives that it pursues in support of people and communities that need its help. It provides ambulance services, manages a home for sick children, provides assistance for migrants, etc. In accordance with the Cyprus Red Cross Law of 1967, it also acts as an auxiliary to the national authorities of the Republic of Cyprus in the humanitarian field and plays a central role in disaster preparedness and disaster response.

Was the political situation on the island of Cyprus a hindrance in this process?

The process of recognizing a new National Society within the Movement is based on strictly legal considerations and determined by the 10 conditions for recognition I mentioned. Decisions on recognition also take into account past practice and precedents. Political considerations or disputes do not determine such decisions, which are guided by the Movement's Fundamental Principles, in particular that of neutrality, and by a commitment to make its services available to all peoples and communities. In addition, it should be emphasized that decisions on recognition only have effect at the level of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

Can you remind us of the criteria for recognition of new Red Cross or Red Crescent societies within the Movement?

The 10 conditions for recognition are set out in Article 4 of the Statutes of the Movement. The first condition is that the State to which an applicant National Society is attached and under whose law it is incorporated must be party to the 1949 Geneva Conventions. Other conditions concern the autonomous status of the applicant National Society vis-à-vis the government, the use of a recognized emblem, and the applicant society's adherence to the seven Fundamental Principles.

The seventh condition, that the applicant Society have access to the entire territory of the State, raised concerns owing to the current political context on the island of Cyprus. However, in accordance with precedents, the ICRC concluded that this could not make the Cyprus Red Cross ineligible for recognition in view of the fact that the Society was unable to extend its activities to the entire territory of the island of Cyprus due to circumstances beyond its control. This is congruent with the well-established interpretation of Condition 7 by the Joint ICRC / International Federation Commission for National Society Statutes, which is responsible for examining new applications for recognition and for admission to the Federation.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies will further discuss this file and make a final decision regarding the Cyprus Red Cross Society admission process. This cannot formally happen before the General Assembly of the Federation in 2013.

Do cultural or religious considerations play a role or influence this process?

The Movement's Fundamental Principle of impartiality ensures that Red Cross and Red Crescent operations are carried out without discrimination as to nationality, race, religious beliefs, class or political opinions.

In 2012, the ICRC's largest operations serve people in the Muslim world, in countries such as Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Pakistan and Sudan. In these countries, we work very closely with the national Red Crescent societies, as we do with Red Cross societies in other contexts. Ultimately, our aim is to relieve suffering, giving priority to meeting the most urgent humanitarian needs, irrespective of origin and cultural backgrounds.

What relationship do the ICRC and the Movement have with the "Northern Cyprus Turkish Red Crescent Society"?

The ICRC is keen to assist in the further development of the activities of this entity that are undertaken to benefit people in need. Discussions are currently ongoing with the Federation on the planning of a joint mission to meet with "Northern Cyprus Turkish Red Crescent" representatives in order to discuss the circumstances and arrangements needed for the establishment of a concrete dialogue.



Philip Spoerri