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Henry Dunant medals awarded at Red Cross Red Crescent Council of Delegates

17-11-2005 News Release No 05/66

Joint press release - Eight Henry Dunant medals for outstanding humanitarian service were awarded at a ceremony in Seoul, Republic of Korea, on 16 November.

The medal is the highest distinction of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

The recipients this year are:

  • The volunteers and staff of the Red Cross Societies of the four countries most severely affected by the devastating tsunami of 26 December 2004, India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand;

  • General Björn Egge, former President of the Norwegian Red Cross;

  • Mrs. Christina Magnuson, former President of the Swedish Red Cross and member of the Standing Commission of the Red Cross and Red Crescent;

  • Colonel Dr. Mekonnen Muluneh, of the Ethiopian Red Cross Society;

  • and, posthumously, Dr. Jean Pictet, main architect of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and former Vice-President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The medals were awarded on the opening day of the Council of Delegates, composed of representatives from the 183 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The Medal, named after the founder of the Movement, is awarded every two years to individuals to acknowledge and reward outstanding service and acts of great devotion to the Red Cross and Red Crescent cause. 

The Henry Dunant medal is a red cross embossed with the profile of the Movement’s founder, attached to a green ribbon.

 Profiles of the Recipients  

    

 The volunteers and staff of the Red Cross Societies of India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand  

This medal recognizes the courageous and untiring dedication of volunteers and staff who were immediately mobilized to help victims of the deadly tsunami that devastated coastal areas of countries bordering the Indian Ocean. For weeks, these Red Cross and Red Crescent workers assisted the injured and other survivors, collected bodies and supported families in their mourning, even while many of them had themselves lost loved ones in the disaster.

The tribute reads: “Their strong commitment and invaluable contribution to humanity in response to this disaster of such exceptional magnitude is certainly worthy of recognition. (…) the Movement wishes to express recognition for the courage, concern and generous commitment of all the volunteers of the countries affected by this tragedy, and indeed, of all Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers around the world.”

 General Björn Egge  

A retired army general, he is often referred to as a “warrior for peace”, as he has devoted his life to peace building and the dissemination of International Humanitarian Law, at the national and international level. General Egge’s bond with the Movement began in 1945 when the Red Cross helped to liberate him from the gruesome ordeal of a concentration camp. He has since dedicated much of his personal time and energy to Red Cross activities and served as President of the Norwegian Red Cross from 1981 to 1987.

He was awarded the medal for “his personal commitment, his important contribution to the development of humanitarian activities and for his work in promoting the Movement’ s Fundamental Principles and ideals”.

 Mrs. Christina Magnuson  

Mrs. Magnuson has dedicated herself to the Swedish Red Cross and the Movement for the past 30 years, starting out as a volunteer, promoting the Fundamental Principles at the district level. She was elected President of the Swedish Red Cross in 1993 and stayed in office until 2002. 

She also served two terms as a member of the Standing Commission of the Red Cross and Red Crescent which appointed her its special representative on the emblem. She travelled around the world advocating for a solution towards an additional emblem for the Movement, free of any religious, political or cultural connotation.

“Born the Princess of Sweden, she would only use this privilege when it could serve the cause of the Movement. (…) Her unselfish commitment to the Movement’s work has won the esteem of everyone she has come across in her work”, the tribute reads.

 Colonel Dr. Mekonnen Muluneh  

Colonel Dr. Muluneh has been an active and committed member of the Ethiopian Red Cross Society for many years, founding several branches, recruiting thousands of members and volunteers, raising funds, establishing a blood bank as well as health and youth centres.

A trained medical doctor, he treated war victims as a Red Cross volunteer and helped train two thousand first aid workers in his country’s war-affected areas. In 1977, he translated the Fundamental Principles into the Amharic language, facilitating their dissemination to the general public and the military.

Describing his unwavering belief in the Red Cross’ work, the tribute reads “Dr. Muluneh is relentless in his efforts to alleviate the suffering of disaster victims. He has compassion for the desperate, a deep-rooted love of the ideals of the Movement and commitment to realizing them”.

 Dr. Jean Pictet  

A remarkable jurist, Jean Pictet served with the International Committee of the Red Cross for 47 years. He joined the ICRC as legal secretary in 1937, rose through the ranks to the position of director in 1946 and director-general in 1966. When he retired in 1984, he held the post of vice-president. He died on 30 March 2002.

Above all, Jean Pictet was the main architect of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and of the Protocols additional to the Conventions. He also contributed to the revision of the Movement’s statutes.

Dr. Pictet proposed the Movement’s seven Fundamental Principles, which were adopted at the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in Vienna in 1965. These are the principles that today still guide the action of all Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies as well as of the International Federation and the ICRC: Humanity, Impartiality, Neutrality, Independence, Voluntary Service, Unity and Universality.

Mr. Yves, Sandoz, former Director of Humanitarian Law at the ICRC, a close collaborator of Dr. Pictet, accepted the medal and will forward it to the Pictet family in Geneva.

 For more information, please contact:  

 Ian Piper, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Geneva  

 Tel: +41 79 217 3216  

 Marie-Françoise Borel, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Geneva  

 Tel: +41 22 7217 33 45