Skip main navigation

The Movement and its mandate

The Movement and its Mandate

The International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement (the Movement) holds an important and unique position in international law.

The Movement is the largest humanitarian network in the world, comprising the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and more than 190 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (National Societies). Its mission is to prevent and alleviate human suffering wherever it may be found; to protect life and health and ensure respect for the human being, particularly in times of armed conflict and other emergencies; to work for the prevention of disease and the promotion of health and social welfare; to encourage voluntary service and a constant readiness to give help by the members of the Movement, and a universal sense of solidarity towards all those in need of its protection and assistance.

Each component of the Movement is independent and has its own legal identity, but they are all united by the seven Fundamental Principles of Humanity, Impartiality, Neutrality, Independence, Voluntary Service, Unity and Universality.

The exclusively humanitarian mission of the ICRC is to protect the lives and dignity of victims of war and other situations of violence and to provide them with assistance. Often called the custodian of the Geneva Conventions, the ICRC promotes the importance of international humanitarian law and draws attention to universal humanitarian principles. It has a permanent mandate under international law to visit prisons, organise relief operations, reunite separated families and undertake other humanitarian activities during armed conflicts.

The IFRC provides support and policy guidance to the National Societies and coordinates and directs international assistance following natural and man-made disasters in non-conflict situations. Its relief operations are combined with development work, and include disaster preparedness programs, health and care activities, and the promotion of humanitarian values. The IFRC also works to combat discrimination and violence, and assistance for migrants.

Within their own countries, National Societies are auxiliary to the public authorities in the humanitarian field. They provide a range of services including disaster relief, health and social programs, and educating people about international humanitarian law. During wartime, National Societies assist affected civilian populations and support army medical services where appropriate.

The prevention and alleviation of human suffering during armed conflict is what drives international humanitarian law. Achieving this depends not only on governments and militaries guaranteeing and respecting these laws of war, but it relies also on businesses, health care and humanitarian workers, private security contractors, and other individuals understanding international humanitarian law and the rights and responsibilities they have under these laws.

As a National Society within the Movement, Australian Red Cross has a responsibility to ensure that all Australians understand and respect international humanitarian law, not only in war but also in times of peace.

This article is from the free online

International Humanitarian Law for Business

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now