1863: birth of the Red Cross


The proposals made by Henry Dunant in A Memory of Solferino, which is to say the creation of a national relief societies to attend to wounded soldiers and the adoption of a document protecting the war wounded and those who care for them, were studied by a group of citizens of Geneva who, on 17 February 1863, founded an International Committee for Relief to the Wounded, which later became known as the International Committee of the Red Cross.  In October the Committee submitted Dunant’s proposals to a group of experts gathered at an international conference. The proposals were adopted by the conference and subsequently submitted to States for approval in 1864.


The ICRC has nearly 13,000 staff,  7% of whom are Swiss. There are 189 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies throughout the world, made up of tens of millions of volunteers.

Facts and figures

  • The 5 members of the first International Committee were Henry Dunant, General Guillaume-Henri Dufour, the lawyer Gustave Moynier, and two doctors, Louis Appia and Théodore Maunoir.
  • The first national society for relief to the wounded (a future National Red Cross Society) was set up in the state of Württemberg, in present-day Germany, in December 1863.
  • The first non-Swiss delegate, the Dutch citizen Charles William Meredith Van de Velde, was appointed in 1864 and sent on mission to Denmark during the German-Danish war.
  • First meeting of the ICRC

    First page of the minutes of the first meeting of the International Committee for Relief to the wounded (later the ICRC), 17 February 1863.
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  • The Committee of Five

    Committee of Five, founders of the Red Cross : Louis Appia, Guillaume-Henri Dufour, Henry Dunant, Théodore Maunoir, Gustave Moynier.
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  • International Conference, Paris 1867

    Title page of the book: "International Conference of the relief Societies for wounded soldiers on land and at sea, Paris 1867".
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  • Agenda of the 1863 Conference

    First page of the agenda of the October 1863 International Conference.
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