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8 May 2001 - World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day


Message to Red Cross and Red Crescent Volunteers – This year, celebrations to mark the birthday of Henry Dunant, founder of the Red Cross, will highlight the work of tens of millions of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers

 Jakob Kellenberger,  

 President of the International Committee of the Red Cross  


 Astrid Heiberg,  

 President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies  


May 8 is World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day. It could just as well be called Volunteers’ Day as volunteers are so very much the foundation of our Movement. The day was chosen in tribute to Henry Dunant who celebrated his birthday on that day. The same Henry Dunant suggested the formation of “relief societies for the purpose of caring for the wounded in wartime by zealous, devoted and thoroughly qualified volunteers ”. Both the Geneva Conventions and the Statutes of the Movement subsequently highlighted the importance of these volunteer relief Societies (“the foundation of the Movement”), today's National Societies.

Humanitarian motivation is, of course, not unique to you but you, the volunteers, express quite forcefully this “Power of Humanity” as embodied in the Re d Cross and Red Crescent:

  • by the drive of your commitment, the time you give to help, you illustrate our Movement’s will to rely first on its own resources in order to take action;

  • through your free choice in serving and adhering to the Movement’s founding mission, you ensure independence of action in favour of the victims of conflict or disaster, and those who are most vulnerable;

  • present in all countries of the world, coming from different cultures and responding to various and changing needs, you demonstrate the universality of the humanitarian concern.

Many celebrations are to be held in 2001. Two of them are of particular interest to us and to you:

  • the United Nations-declared International Year of Volunteers, of which you are the living embodiment;

  • the commemoration of the award of the first Nobel Peace Prize to Henry Dunant and Frédéric Passy 100 years ago, for their contribution to the work of peace.

Though many of you are familiar with the experience of war-related suffering and carry out activities to help victims of armed conflict, you are imbued with a spirit of peace. At Solferino, Henry Dunant, so to say the first volunteer in our Movement, also imbued with a spirit of peace, mobilized this Power of Humanity that you embody today.

Many of you are also to the fore in providing assistance to the growing numbers of disaster victims worldwide, in many cases despite your own and your families'suffering as a result of such events. It is at such moments of catastrophe that your spirit of self-sacrifice shines brightest.

On the occasion of World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day, w e wish to express recognition and admiration for your constant, generous commitment.

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