ICRC Director General's speech on the 120th anniversary ceremony of the RCSC

On May 8, 2024, the Red Cross Society of China celebrated its 120th anniversary at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China. Pierre Krähenbühl, the new Director-General of the International Committee of the Red Cross, attended the celebration and delivered a speech.

Your Excellencies, Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure, on behalf of President Mirjana Spoljaric and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), to extend heartfelt congratulations to the Red Cross Society of China (RCSC) on your 120th anniversary. Marking this celebration on Red Cross and Red Crescent Day makes it even more meaningful.

Our shared history is rich in memorable chapters. From the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904 which led China to answer the call of Henry Dunant to set up a humanitarian organization in the country, to the 1952 letter by then Premier and Foreign Minister H.E. Zhou Enlai, recognizing the Geneva Conventions on behalf of the People’s Republic of China.

As witnesses to human tragedies during conflicts, our institutions strive to provide neutral and impartial humanitarian assistance to the wounded on the battlefield and to preserve peace.

Chinese philosophy, advocating for benevolence and to “not do to others what you don’t want them to do to you”, aligns with the humanitarian principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

Your National Society has long been at the forefront of disaster response, supporting volunteering, blood donations, and people-to-people cooperation through international assistance. It played a global role in the response to the COVID pandemic and Chinese nurses have been rightly awarded Florence Nightingale medals.

You have also been proactively supporting ICRC’s response in armed conflicts across the world, demonstrating your attachment to the International Humanitarian Law, spearheading humanitarian innovation with the establishment of the International Red Cross Academy.

The ICRC has enjoyed a longstanding cooperation with the Red Cross Society of China, which hosted the first visit of then ICRC President Paul Ruegger to China in 1951. The ICRC’s institutional engagement with China has been marked by an intensification of high-level dialogue ever since, leading to the opening of a delegation in Beijing in 2005 and the signing of a new Memorandum of Cooperation in 2023.

In September last year, President Xi Jinping emphasized that humanitarianism represents an advanced form of consensus able to unite different civilizations. He expressed deep recognition for humanitarianism and the work of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

Having just begun my tenure as Director-General of the ICRC, I wish to convey my commitment to further reinforcing mutual understanding and trust between our two institutions, and to take our cooperation to the next level, at a time when we mark 75 years since the adoption of Geneva Conventions of 1949.

China’s call for the respect of International Humanitarian Law is a much-needed voice when agreements are being negotiated in international multilateral fora, such as the United Nations, where it must be a political priority of all.

The respect for IHL and principled humanitarian action preserves a minimum of humanity in times of war and contributes to a stable and more peaceful and prosperous world. It is, thus, relevant to China’s Global Initiatives.

In a few months, the 34th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent will gather the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and the States parties to the Geneva Conventions, to address today’s humanitarian challenges.

In an increasingly polarized world where human suffering is omnipresent, the ICRC is committed to strengthening dialogue with China and cooperation with the RCSC to prepare for and respond to international crises.

This year’s theme of the Red Cross Day: “Keeping Humanity Alive”, reminds us of our founding mission. I want to pay a tribute to all RCSC staff and all National Societies’ volunteers working around the world, facing risks, sometimes paying with their lives and their commitment to reduce suffering: in Gaza, in Ukraine, in Sudan, and beyond.

Dear partners and friends, I wish your National Society resounding success in this New Era. May you be guided by our fundamental principles and be assured of the ICRC’s solidarity and cooperation in building the next phase of our crucial partnership!

Thank you.