DEVELOPMENT OF THE RED CROSS/RED CRESCENT SOCIETY
who was born in Geneva on 8 May 1828, came from a very devout
Calvinist family that practiced charity. After incomplete secondary
schooling, he was apprenticed to a Geneva bank.
As a result of the scandal which this
bankruptcy caused in Geneva, he resigned from his post as Secretary of the
International Committee. On 8 September 1867 the Committee decided
to accept his resignation not only as Secretary but also as a
Dunant left for Paris, where he
was reduced to sleeping on public benches. At the same time,
however, the Empress Eugénie summoned him to the Tuileries Palace in
order to consult him on extending the Geneva Convention to naval
In 1853, he traveled to Algeria to take
charge of the Swiss colony of Sétif. He started construction of a wheat
mill, but could not obtain the land concession that was essential for
its operation. After traveling to Tunisia he returned to Geneva, where
he decided to approach Napoleon III to obtain the business document he
needed. At the time, the Emperor was commanding the Franco-Sardinian
troops fighting the Austrians in northern Italy, and it was there that
Henry Dunant decided to seek him out. Thus it was that he came to be
present at the end of the Battle of Solferino, in Lombardy.
Returning to Geneva, he wrote A Memory of Solferino, which
eventually led to the creation of the International Committee for
Relief to the Wounded, the future International Committee of the Red
Dunant was a member and acted
as Secretary. He was now famous and was received by heads of State,
Kings and Princes of the European courts. But his financial affairs
were floundering and he was declared bankrupt in 1867. Completely ruined, he was in debt for
almost a million Swiss francs of the time.
Dunant was made an Honorary Member of the National Red
Cross Societies of Austria, Holland, Sweden, Prussia and Spain.
During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, he visited and comforted the
wounded brought to Paris and introduced the wearing of a badge so
that the dead could be identified.
When peace returned, Dunant travelled
to London, where he endeavoured to organize a diplomatic conference
on the problem of prisoners of war; the Tsar encouraged him but
England was hostile to the plan.
An international congress for the
"complete and final abolition of the traffic in Negroes and the
slave trade" opened in London on 1 February 1875, on Dunant's
initiative. There followed years of wandering and utter poverty for
Dunant: he travelled on foot in Alsace, Germany and Italy, living on
charity and the hospitality of a few friends.
Finally, in 1887, he ended up in the
Swiss village of Heiden, overlooking Lake Constance, where he fell
ill. He found refuge in the local hospice, and it was there that he
was discovered in 1895 by a journalist, Georg Baumberger, who wrote
an article about him which, within a few days, was reprinted in the
press throughout Europe. Messages of sympathy reached Dunant from
all over the world; overnight he was once more famous and honoured.
In 1901, he received the Nobel Peace
Henry Dunant died on 30 October 1910.
THE FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES OF THE RED CROSS & RED CRESCENT MOVEMENT
Humanity, Impartiality, Neutrality, Independence, Voluntary Service, Unity,
The International Red Cross and Red
Crescent Movement, born of a desire to bring assistance without
discrimination to the wounded on the battlefield, endeavours, in its
international and national capacity, to prevent and alleviate human
suffering wherever it may be found. Its purpose is to protect life
and health and to ensure respect for the human being. It promotes
mutual understanding, friendship, cooperation and lasting peace
amongst all peoples.
It makes no
discrimination as to nationality, race, religious beliefs, class or
political opinions. It strives to relieve the sufferings of individuals,
being guided solely by their needs, and to give priority to the most urgent
cases of distress
In order to continue to enjoy the
confidence of all, the Movement may not take sides in hostilities or
engage at any time in controversies of a political, racial,
religious or ideological nature.
The Movement is independent. The
National Societies, while auxiliaries in the humanitarian services
of their governments and subject to the laws of their respective
countries, must always maintain their autonomy so that they may be
able at all times to act in accordance with the principles of the
It is a voluntary relief movement not
prompted in any manner by desire for gain.
There can be only one Red Cross or
one Red Crescent Society in any one country. It must be open to all.
It must carry on its humanitarian work throughout its territory.
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, in which all
Societies have equal status and share equal responsibilities and
duties in helping each other, is worldwide.