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Origins of the Red Cross

An idea of Henry Dunant

The Red Cross is the first one of the big humanitarian organizations, as we understand them nowadays. The entity was born from a Henry Dunant 's idea(Geneve, 1828 - Heiden, 1910), a swiss business man who, from an early age, was concerd about helping the most disadvantaged groups of the society.

In 1859, Dunant whitnessed the battle of Solferino, a confrontation that took place in this town of Lombardy, between the Franco-Sardinian and the Austrian troops. There, he saw how the soldiers wounded in combat were left helpless on the battlefield and died due to a lack of medical assistance. Along with a group of women in the area, Dunant personally attended the wounded soldiers.

From there, Henry Dunant had the idea of creating societies of aid in peacetime, that would have the mission of assisting the war wounded without distinction of safety or religion, counting on the work of enthusiastic and perfectly qualified volunteers. Dunant announced this idea publishing the book  Memory of Solferino in 1862.

Creation of the Red Cross

In 1863, Dunant and four other swiss citizans (Moynier, Dufour, Appia and Maunoir) met to create the International Comitee of Relief for the Wounded Military, the germ of the Red Cross. The aim of the Red Cross' creators was to involve the main European states to reach agreements regarding medical care for the war wounded.  That is why they called an international conference in Geneva in 1863, which brought together representatives from 14 European countries, and served to approve a set of resolutions that should be ratified at a subsequent diplomatic conference.

Although it  was still in process of constitution in 1863, the Red Cross already undertook its first humanitarian action during the war of Ducats, wich faced Denmark with the Austro-Prussian troops.

In August 1864, was celebrated the diplomatic conference that led to the signing of the First Geneva Convention. Driven by the Red Cross, representatives of 16 European states signed a treaty which included, among other things, the protection of injured soldiers on campaign, and the neutralization and protection of health personnel, as well as military hospitals. It was also decided to adopt the emblem of the red cross on a white background, as a sign of relief and not belligerence.

The signing of this cnvention gave impulse to the movement of the Red Cross. The committee created by Dunant and the other founders was renamed as International Committee of the Red Cross while on the other hand, the institution was spread globally with the establishment of the first societies of relief in a national level.

Arrival of the Red Cross in Spain and Catalonia

The Spanish Red Cross (CRE) was established in July 1864 in Madrid. Previously, a Spanish representation had attended the International Conference of 1863. In Spain, the institution was built on the basis of la Orden de los Hermanos Hospitalarios de San Juan de Jerusalén, an organization that had its origin in the XII century.

The first actions of the CRE were humanitarian aid provided on the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 and, internally, the health intervention during the Third Carlist War in 1872.

As for Catalonia, the Red Cross was introduced in 1872 with the opening of the assemblies of Barcelona, Lleida and Mataró.


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