October 29, 1863 — Today, the International Committee of Red Cross formed as result of a conference held in Geneva, Switzerland. Its sole objective was to ensure protection and assistance for victims of armed conflict and strife through direct action around the world.
Meetings to found the organization — which is also known for encouraging the development of international humanitarian law, and promoting respect for it by governments and all weapon bearers — began in February 1863.
Among its five members was a local man named Henry Dunant who, the year before, had published a crusading book, “A Souvenir of Solferino,” which called for improved care for wounded soldiers in wartime. By the end of the year the committee had brought together government representatives to agree on Dunant’s proposal for national relief societies, to help military medical services.
In August 1864 it persuaded governments to adopt the first Geneva Convention. This treaty obliged armies to care for wounded soldiers, whatever side they were on, and introduced a unified emblem for the medical services: a red cross on a white background.
During the next 50 years, the ICRC expanded its work while national societies were established (the first in the German State of Württemberg in November 1863) and the Geneva Convention was adapted to include warfare at sea.
Words of Wisdom for October 29, 2016
“Why could not advantage be taken of a time of relative calm and quiet to investigate and try to solve a question of such immense and worldwide importance, both from the humane and Christian stand-point?”
— Jean Henri Dunant (1828-1910), founder of the Red Cross and the first recipient of Nobel Peace Prize. The 1864 Geneva Convention was based on Dunant's ideas