A Humanitarian Movement

The Seven Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross

Although the origin of the Red Cross is not based on abstract principles but on the spontaneous action of the people who, on the battlefield of Solferino in 1859, came to the aid of the wounded and dying, a search was conducted early on for principles and guidelines for the humanitarian Movement that was to be created.

The first definitions are to be found in Henry Dunant’s book ‘A Memory of Solferino’ (1862). It took many more years, until 8 October 1965, before the 20th International Conference of the Red Cross in Vienna adopted and proclaimed the Red Cross Charter.

The seven Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross are binding for all members of the International Red Cross & Red Crescent Movement. This means that a National Society may only be recognized by the ICRC if it adheres to the Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross & Red Crescent Movement.

The Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross define the humanitarian principles that must not be violated or misused against human beings. They offer all those who commit themselves under the Red Cross emblem a practical aid in their activity. It is important that the seven Fundamental Principles from the ideal, factual and logical points of view are closely related and form a whole; only the whole Charter defines the Movement and gives it its special character or uniqueness.

HUMANITY is the main principle and the ethical basis for the activities of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. All other Fundamental Principles can only be interpreted in the light of the premise of humanity. For example, inhumanity cannot be committed or tolerated on the premise of neutrality. In the event of a conflict with any other principle, the principle of humanity takes precedence. The Swiss Red Cross therefore makes a public statement, for example, if the principle of humanity is under threat.

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