Thursday, 8 May 2014
World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day is an annual celebration of the principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (ICRC). World Red Cross Red Crescent Day is celebrated on 8 May each year. This date is the anniversary of the birth of Henry Dunant, the founder of ICRC. Jean Henri Dunant (8 May 1828 – 30 October 1910), also known as Henry Dunant, was a Swissbusinessman and social activist. During a business trip in 1859, he was witness to the aftermath of the Battle of Solferino in modern-day Italy.
He recorded his memories and experiences in the book "A Memory of Solferino" which inspired the creation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 1863. The 1864 Geneva Convention was based on Dunant's ideas. In 1901 he received the first Nobel Peace Prizetogether with Frédéric Passy.
Dunant's businesses in Algeria had suffered, partially because of his devotion to his humanistic ideals. He was forced to declare bankruptcy and was condemned by the Geneva Trade Court on 17 August 1868 for deceptive practices in the bankruptcies. The social outcry in Geneva, a city deeply rooted in Calvinist traditions, also led to calls for him to separate himself from the International Committee. On 25 August 1868, he resigned as Secretary and, on 8 September, he was fully removed from the Committee.
In February 1868, he was also expelled from the YMCA. In March 1867, he left his home city Geneva and would not return for the rest of his life. The gold medal prize of Sciences Morales at the Paris World's Fair did not go to Dunant as originally planned but to Moynier, Dufour, and Dunant together so that the prize money would only go to the Committee as a whole.
Dunant moved to Paris, where he lived in meager conditions. However, he continued to pursue his humanitarian ideas and plans. During the Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871), he founded the Common Relief Society and the Common Alliance for Order and Civilization. Later he worked for the creation of a world library, an idea which had echoes in future projects such as UNESCO. In his continued pursuit and advocacy of his ideas, he further neglected his personal situation and income, falling further in debt and being shunned by his acquaintances.
Despite being appointed an honorary member of the national Red Cross societies of Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden, Prussia and Spain, he was nearly forgotten in the official discourse of the Red Cross Movement, even as it was rapidly expanding to new countries. He lived in poverty, moving to various places between 1874 and 1886, including Stuttgart, Rome,Corfu, Basel, and Karlsruhe.
Dunant was born in Geneva, Switzerland, the first son of businessman Jean-Jacques Dunant and Antoinette Dunant-Colladon. His family was devoutly Calvinist and had significant influence in Geneva society. His parents stressed the value of social work, and his father was active helping orphans and parolees, while his mother worked with the sick and poor. His father worked in a prison and an orphanage. In 1849, at age 21, Dunant was forced to leave the Collège Calvin due to poor grades, and he began an apprenticeship with the money-changing firm Lullin et Sautter. After its successful conclusion, he remained as an employee of the bank.
Dunant arrived in Solferino on the evening of 24 June 1859, on the same day a battle between the two sides had occurred nearby. Twenty-three thousand wounded, dying and dead remained on the battlefield, and there appeared to be little attempt to provide care. Shocked, Dunant himself took the initiative to organize the civilian population, especially the women and girls, to provide assistance to the injured and sick soldiers.
They lacked sufficient materials and supplies, and Dunant himself organized the purchase of needed materials and helped erect makeshift hospitals. He convinced the population to service the wounded without regard to their side in the conflict as per the slogan "Tutti fratelli" (All are brothers) coined by the women of nearby city Castiglione delle Stiviere. He also succeeded in gaining the release of Austrian doctors captured by the French.
After returning to Geneva early in July, Dunant decided to write a book about his experiences, which he titled Un Souvenir de Solferino (A Memory of Solferino). It was published in 1862 in an edition of 1,600 copies and was printed at Dunant's own expense. Within the book, he described the battle, its costs, and the chaotic circumstances afterwards. He also developed the idea that in the future a neutral organization should exist to provide care to wounded soldiers. He distributed the book to many leading political and military figures in Europe.
Dunant also began to travel through Europe to promote his ideas. His book was largely positively received, and the President of the Geneva Society for Public Welfare, jurist Gustave Moynier, made the book and its suggestions the topic of the 9 February 1863 meeting of the organization. Dunant's recommendations were examined and positively assessed by the members.
They created a five-person Committee to further pursue the possibility of their implementation and made Dunant one of the members. The others were Moynier, theSwiss army general Henri Dufour, and doctors Louis Appia and Théodore Maunoir. Their first meeting on 17 February 1863 is now considered the founding date of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
In October 1863, 14 states took part in a meeting in Geneva organized by the committee to discuss the improvement of care for wounded soldiers. Dunant himself, however, was only a protocol leader because of Moynier's efforts to diminish his role. A year later on 22 August 1864, a diplomatic conference organized by the Swiss Parliament led to the signing of the First Geneva Convention by 12 states. Dunant, again, was only in charge of organizing accommodation for the attendees.