Cooperating with National Societies

The ICRC works closely with the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Federation to ensure a concerted, efficient and rapid response to conflict or violence. The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is the largest humanitarian network in the world.

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is the largest humanitarian network in the world. It comprises the ICRC, 192 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and their International Federation, each operating as neutral and independent organizations and all bound by the same Statutes and Fundamental Principles, with the goal of assisting and protecting victims of humanitarian crises in an impartial manner.

The ICRC works closely with the other components of the Movement in order to ensure a concerted, efficient, and rapid humanitarian response to armed conflict or other situations of violence.

Cooperation is one of the four pillars of the ICRC's work, the others being protection, assistance and prevention. There are four aspects to cooperation:

Operational cooperation

In a country affected by armed conflict or other situations of violence, the ICRC and that country's National Society − the ICRC's primary partner − coordinate their operational activities to ensure that the response to the needs of the communities affected is efficient and complementary.

In addition to preparing for and responding to crises, the purpose of the partnership is to help the National Society to strengthen its capacities – in cooperation and coordination with the International Federation or other National Societies – in order to better address the needs of those people most at risk.

Operational cooperation covers various activities, such as providing first aid and health care, distributing food and providing other forms of humanitarian assistance, and restoring family links.

This type of cooperation can also include National Societies operating outside their own countries in contexts where the ICRC is working. In this case, the National Societies can contribute to ICRC operations:

  • by conducting their own projects, in coordination with the National Society of the country concerned and other Movement components, including the ICRC
  • by cooperating on joint projects bringing complementary expertise and support
  • by making a financial contribution towards ICRC operations
  • by making donations in kind
  • by lending staff.

Coordinating with the Movement's components

According to the roles and responsibilities set out in the Statutes of the Movement, the ICRC plays a primary role in coordinating the Movement's international response in situations of armed conflict or internal strife, in cooperation with the National Society of the country concerned. This means that in addition to organizing its own operations, the ICRC endeavours to coordinate, in an inclusive manner, the activities of the other Movement components in the country, in order to make the best use of their respective capacities and expertise.

The ICRC also has an important role in establishing and maintaining dialogue with the parties to the conflict, to ensure there is impartial access to all people affected and to provide clear security and communication guidelines for all components of the Movement present in the country.

Maguindanao. ICRC staff, Philippine Red Cross volunteers and community members help in the installation of a water tank for storage of clean water for families affected by armed conflict.

Strengthening National Societies

It is important for National Societies to develop in order to provide a more relevant and sustainable humanitarian response. Therefore, in accordance with its mandate, the ICRC cooperates with National Societies on matters of common concern and in areas where it has particular expertise, including conflict preparedness and response.

National Societies should develop both in peacetime as well as during emergencies. The ICRC can support National Societies in particular in the areas below, thanks to its operational know-how, long-standing presence in certain contexts, and close ties with National Societies.

  • Promotion of international humanitarian law and of the Movement's Fundamental Principles
  • Humanitarian assistance and health care for people affected by conflict
  • Restoring family links
  • Mine-hazard awareness education
  • Increasing National Societies' acceptance, security and access to communities in need through the Safer Access Framework
  • Strengthening the legal bases and statutes of National Societies

To provide additional support to National Societies, the ICRC also works to develop partnerships with other competent and experienced partners. 

In planning programmes to strengthen National Societies, the ICRC consults and collaborates with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which is responsible for coordinating support for National Society development, whilst National Societies hold the overall responsibility for their own development. At all times, the ICRC respects the National Societies' independence, as well as their individual capacities, needs, priorities, auxiliary role and organizational development plans.

Cooperating to devise Movement policies

As the founding component of the Movement, the ICRC takes an active part in designing and implementing policies for the Movement. These policies are adopted at statutory meetings, such as the Council of Delegates and the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.