What national societies do: Within their own countries, national societies are autonomous organisations working with professional staff and trained volunteers. They carry out their humanitarian activities according to local needs, in line with their own statutes and subject to national law.
When conflict breaks out: ICRC and the national society will agree on procedures to work together, as far as possible, to help the victims. According to a 1997 accord ( Seville Agreement ), ICRC takes lead responsibility in conflict areas.
ICRC's areas of expertise: ICRC is a reference on international humanitarian law (IHL), restoring family links and conflict preparedness and response. In these areas, ICRC contributes to the development of national societies.
Recognizing new societies: ICRC has the statutory responsibility of checking that all national societies in formation fulfill certain conditions. After recognition it has no direct authority over them.
Mobilizing support: Much of ICRC's work for the victims of conflict is supported by national societies, which provide funding and/or personnel. Societies which have the means also contribute to the development of those which need such assistance, in order to strengthen the Movement as a whole.
Making policy: ICRC, all national societies and their I nternational Federation meet every two years to decide on matters of common interest (Council of Delegates). Every four years they also meet at the International Conference, along with the governments of states that have signed up to the Geneva Conventions.
The answers to FAQs on this site are intended as brief, informative summaries of what are often complex matters, and the terminology used has no legal significance.