Birth of an idea: the founding of the International Committee of the Red Cross and of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement: from Solferino to the original Geneva Convention (1859–1864)

The trauma of coming face to face with the horrors of a battlefield and witnessing first-hand the abandonment of the war-wounded led Henry Dunant to two ingenious concepts: the creation of permanent volunteer relief societies and the adoption of a treaty to protect woundedsoldiers and all who endeavour to come to theiraid. On the initiative of Gustave Moynier, a committee was established in Geneva to implement Dunant's proposals. That committee–which soon took the name 'International Committee of the Red Cross' (ICRC)–convened two international conferences, the first of which laid the foundation for the future relief societies while the second adopted the initial Geneva Convention. This article considers the circumstances that led to the founding of the ICRC and then to that of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, starting with Solferino and culminating in the adoption of the Geneva Convention.

About the author

François Bugnion
Independent consultant in international humanitarian law and humanitarian action

François Bugnion is an independent consultant in international humanitarian law and humanitarian action. He joined the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 1970 and served as a delegate in Israel and the occupied territories, Bangladesh, Turkey, and Cyprus, and then as head of mission in Chad, Viet Nam, and Cambodia. From 2000 to 2006, he was Director for International Law and Cooperation at the ICRC. He has been a member of the ICRC Assembly since May 2010. He is the author of more than fifty books and articles on international humanitarian law and on the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.