The Red Cross

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The Red Cross

The reputation of Switzerland as a country with a particularly humanitarian tradition is also rooted in the foundation of the Red Cross in Geneva. In 1859, Swiss businessman Henri Dunant witnessed a bloody battle between Austrian, Italian and French soldiers close to the little Italian village of Solferino. Dunant organized aid for the tens of thousands of wounded men and called for the establishment of national aid organizations which, in peace time, would train volunteers to care for those wounded in war. In 1863 members of the Geneva charitable association founded an international committee of aid societies for caring for the wounded. Since 1876 it has used the name by which it is still known today: the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). As an impartial, neutral and independent organization, the ICRC has been involved in countless conflicts, caring for civilian victims, war invalids and prisoners. The third largest portion of the annual budget of about 1 billion francs comes from Switzerland (source: The Federal Council). The 15 to 25 Committee members are exclusively Swiss.

A red cross on a white field (the reversed national flag of Dunant's homeland) was chosen in 1863 to be the distinctive emblem for the neutral, impartial aid for all victims of war. In 1876 the red half-moon was introduced as an equivalent emblem for Islamic countries and, since 2007, the red crystal has joined these recognized protective emblems.