About the adoption of an additional emblem: questions and answers
These informal notes, recently updated, offer brief answers to frequently asked questions about the reasons behind the need for another protective emblem.
1. THE EMBLEM DEBATE
What was the emblem debate about?
The emblems recognized by the Geneva Conventions of 1949 are the red cross, the red crescent and the red lion and sun. Because of the Conventions and the rules of the International Movement, a National Society had to use one of them to be recognized as a Movement member. Since 1980, only the red cross and red crescent emblems have been in use.
The red cross and red crescent emblems are used in more than 190 countries in the world to protect medical personnel, buildings and equipment in time of armed conflict and to identify national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
Unfortunately, the red cross and red crescent emblems are sometimes wrongly perceived as having religious, cultural or political connotations. This has affected respect for the emblems and has diminished the protection the emblems offer to victims and to humanitarian and medical personnel.
The debate that led to the adoption of Additional Protocol III was brought on by both the need to provide protection in cases where neither the red cross nor the red crescent is respected as neutral, and to meet the needs of those countries where other emblems have been in use for many years. An example is the society known as Magen David Adom in Israel, founded in 1930. Israel has argued that it should be able to use the red shield of David in national operations. Some other societies, for example that of Eritrea, would like to use both the red cross and red crescent together. This was not possible under the existing rules.
What was the role of Additional Protocol III in this debate?
The solution, which has been endorsed by governments and national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, involved the adoption, by States party to the Geneva Conventions, of an additional protocol to the Conventions, creating an emblem additional to the red cross and red crescent. The additional emblem, known as the “red crystal”, has been designed to be free of any national, cultural, religious, political or ethnic connotations. It will have the same international status as the existing emblems, a status enshrined in the Geneva Conventions.
The adoption of the additional emblem enables National Societies that find it difficult to use either the red cross or the red crescent to become members of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. The additional emblem will enable the Movement to achieve its goal of universality.
Additional Protocol III was drafted by the International Committee of the Red Cross, in close collaboration with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. It was put forward, after careful consideration, by a joint working group comprising representatives of States and the National Societies directly concerned.
Why is there currently more than one emblem in use?
During the Geneva conferences of 1863 and 1864, which established the rules that have now become the Geneva Conventions, a red cross on a white background was adopted as a neutral emblem, which would be universal and easily recognized, to protect medical personnel from attack during conflicts. This was not a religious symbol; it was simply the reversal of the colours of the Swiss flag. As such, it was felt it would embody the fundamental requirement of neutrality.
Other connotations soon became evident. In the war between Russia and Turkey in 1876-78 the Ottoman Empire, although it had acceded to the Geneva Convention of 1864 without any reservation, declared that it would use the red crescent to mark its own ambulances while respecting the red cross sign protecting enemy ambulances. This use of the red crescent became the practice for the Ottoman Empire.
After lengthy discu ssions, the diplomatic conference of 1929 agreed, for those countries that already used them, to recognize the red crescent and the red lion and sun, the emblem that had been used for some time by Persia, now Iran. The conference, in order to forestall further requests and a possible proliferation of emblems in the future, made a point of stating that no new emblems would be recognized.
Since that time, the red crescent emblem has become widely used by many countries. Proposals by other countries for alternative emblems have not been agreed to. The Islamic Republic of Iran discontinued using the red lion and sun emblem in 1980 and adopted the red crescent instead.
2. ADOPTING THE ADDITIONAL EMBLEM
How was Additional Protocol III adopted?
The adoption of the Protocol by the Diplomatic Conference was put to a vote. According to the unofficial count, 98 States of the 144 States present at the Diplomatic Conference in Geneva in December 2005, voted in favour of the Protocol, 10 States abstained and 27 voted against. In the week after its adoption on 8 December, 27 States signed the Protocol..
What action will the Movement take now?
Now that the Protocol has been adopted, it will be necessary to adapt the Statutes of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement so that the additional emblem can be used within the Movement. Therefore, the Standing Commission of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has decided to call an International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, which is to take place on 20-21 June, 2006. The International Conference brings together those States that are party to the Geneva Conventions, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and its 183 member Societies. After adaptation of the statutes, it will also be possible to recognize and admit new societies to the Movement.
The International Conference:
The conference will open on the morning of 20 June 2006 at the international conference centre in Geneva (CICG), following a session of the International Federation's General Assembly and of the Council of Delegates, on 19 June 2006. The Council of Delegates will adopt the agenda for the conference.
The conference has three main objectives:
to amend the Statutes of the Movement to take account of the adoption on 8 December 2005 of the Third Additional Protocol, creating an additional emblem
to adopt the name " red crystal " for the additional emblem
to invite the ICRC to recognize and the International Federation to admit the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS).
These three points are expected to form the basis of a single draft resolution that will be put to the conference. The conference will be asked to approve it by consensus.
The changes in the Statutes are simple. The two occasions where they refer specifically to the red cross and red crescent emblems will be amended to refer to the distinctive emblems recognized by the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols.
The Third Additional Protocol does not name the additional distinctive emblem. It refers simply to the " third Protocol emblem " . For this reason, the conference is being asked to approve the name " red crystal " , which has been in use informally since 2001.
The third element in the resolution creates a framework for the recognition and admission of the PRCS.
Every effort will be made to achieve consensus, but if the conference votes, changes affecting the Statutes require a two-thirds majority of those present and voting. There are potentially 377 votes, i.e. the 183 National Societies, the 192 States party to the Geneva Conventions, the ICRC and the International Federation.
Conduct of the International Conference:
Political considerations affected the diplomatic conference in December 2005 and resulted in a vote on the Third Additional Protocol instead of the hoped-for consensus. The rules of procedure of the International Conference exist to protect this major humanitarian event from political controversy. In particular:
all participants must respect the Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and all documents must conform to them.
the chairman and other officers of the conference must ensure that " none of the speaker s at any time engages in controversies of a political, racial, religious or ideological nature. "
Who decides to recognize and admit new members to the Movement?
In order to become a member of the Movement, a National Society has to be recognized. The ICRC is responsible for recognition, according to conditions set forth in the Statutes of the Movement. Only recognized Societies can become members of the International Federation. The admission of a National Society to the Federation is subject to the decision of the Federation’s General Assembly.
3. CONSEQUENCES FOR NATIONAL SOCIETIES, THE ICRC AND THE INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION
How can an emblem be used?
The emblems recognized by the Geneva Conventions have two uses: a protective use and an indicative use.
The first use is as a visible sign of the protection conferred by International Humanitarian Law on persons, vehicles and structures of the medical services of the armed forces, medical staff from National Societies and persons, vehicles and structures of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. This is the protective use of the emblem.
The second use of the emblem identifies persons, vehicles or structures linked to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. This is the indicative use of the emblem.
The most common indicative use of the emblem is the logo of National Societies, displaying the emblem, accompanied by the name or initials of the National Society and used to identify activities, persons and objects linked to the National Society.
Who decides whether the additional emblem will be used in a State?
As the red crystal, like the other emblems, is established by a treaty, the government of a State takes that decision. It is possible for a State to decide to adopt the additional emblem as the exclusive emblem to be used on its territory. It is also possible for the government to lay down rules governing the way the additional emblem can be used for temporary or emergency purposes, in accordance with the Protocol. This is its own decision, taken in accordance with its own national laws.
What will happen to the emblem now in use in my country?
There will be no change unless the State wants to change. States and National Societies that currently use and want to keep using the red cross or the red crescent will continue to do so.
Will it be possible to incorporate the red cross, the red crescent or another emblem inside the red crystal?
For indicative use only, National Societies may choose to incorporate, inside the red crystal, a distinctive emblem recognized by the Geneva Conventions or a combination of such emblems. A National Society could theref ore adopt the third Protocol emblem without abandoning its'traditional'red cross or red crescent emblem.
The Protocol also provides for new opportunities, allowing National Societies to include a combination of these emblems inside the red crystal. This flexibility will help some National Societies working outside their own territory in countries where their own emblem is not well-known or respected.
What would be the situation in Israel?
The Protocol enables the Israeli Society to continue to use its red shield of David as its sole emblem inside Israel. When working outside Israel the Society would need to work according to the requirements of the host country. Normally this would mean that it could display the red shield of David incorporated within the red crystal, or use the red crystal alone.
What happens if a National Society operates in another country?
When Societies want to use their name and emblem in another country or territory they are always subject to the laws of that country and to the agreement of the National Society of that country, as well as to agreement from any countries of transit. This rule has been in place since 1921, but has been reaffirmed by the Protocol.
Will the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies or the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement change their names or current emblems?
No. The preamble of Additional Protocol III notes the determination of the international components of the Movement to retain their current names and emblems.
However, following article 4 of the Protocol, the ICRC and the International Federation may decide to use the additional emblem, temporarily and under exceptional circumstance, notably in complex situations where local circumstances suggest that it would provide additional protection and safety for victims, staff and operations.