This day marks the birth of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent network's founder, Jean Henri Dunant, who began to advocate for the humane treatment of the sick and wounded during the Battle of Solferino in 1859. The Red Cross Red Crescent is at the foundation of international humanitarian action and of modern international humanitarian law. In 1863, Henry Dunant’s ideas, presented in his landmark book A memory of Solferino, were transformed into reality with the creation of the ICRC and the establishment of the first National Societies, followed in 1864 by the adoption of the First Geneva Convention. Today, his ideas remain pillars for the Movement, giving it strength and purpose.
This year we are celebrating 150 years of humanitarian action. Today the global Red Cross and Red Crescent network is the world's largest humanitarian network comprised of more than 13 million volunteers and assists more than 300 million people worldwide each year. Over the past decade, Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers and staff have supported more than 160 million people in emergency response, ranging from disaster to civil unrest. Together and building on each other's strengths, our 187 Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies, the IFRC and the ICRC mobilize the power of humanity – to help people prepare for, respond to and recover from crisis – now and well into the future.
On this day, let's remember our roots and spread Dunant's vision of the Red Cross' seven fundamental principles: humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality.
Ten Interesting Things You Didn't Know About Henri Dunant:
- At the age of 19 Dunant founded the so-called "Thursday Association", a band of young men that met to study the Bible and help the poor.
- He spent much of his free time engaged in prison visits and social work.
- He was kicked out of college for bad grades.
- In 1867 he was forced to declare bankruptcy after a scandal involving the financial firm he directed, Crédit Genevois.
- He was staunchly against slavery and his idol was Harriet Beecher Stowe. He got to meet her when she visited Geneva.
- Clara Barton and Florence Nightingale were his inspiration for establishing an organization concerned with the alleviation of human suffering.
- Gustave Moynier was among the original 5 that helped Dunant start the International Red Cross, but later in life he and Dunant became archenemies.
- He was from a family of devoted Calvinists, but later he spurned organized religion.
- The first ever Nobel Peace Prize went to Henri Dunant in 1901 for his role in founding the International Red Cross movement and initiating the Geneva Convention. He never spent any of his 104,000 Swiss Francs prize money.
- In his will, he donated funds to secure a "free bed" in the Heiden nursing home always to be available for a poor citizen of the region.