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Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies For Human Rights

Throughout a considerable part of its history, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has customarily refrained from invoking international human rights law, for reason of this law's alleged politicisation. However, the changing character of armed conflicts and other situations of violence where the ICRC is currently operating have prompted it to set a framework for making some limited use of selected and applicable human rights, for the purpose of reinforcing the protection and assistance it provides.

This article examines how the ICRC may use human rights in this way during armed conflicts, through the prism of international humanitarian law, as well as the conditions for their invocation in accordance with relevant ICRC doctrines.

For several decades, the Red Cross has saved lives and advocated for the overall improvement of human livelihoods. Since its inception in 1863 as an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the organization has endeavored to improve the welfare of individuals from all parts of the world.

To ensure that its services are high in quality, the organization has a range of related organizations that work independently, and support each other. Among the related organization is its sister organization, which is the Red Crescent organization that has high regard for human rights. In effect, the advent of the Red Crescent has boosted the operations of the Red Cross and incorporated several aspects that focus on the advancement of human life and rights.

Established in 1919 as the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the organization has been very instrumental in championing the improvement of human rights and the reduction of human suffering. It is within this context that the essay examines the essence of the Red Cross and Red Crescent theme in advancing human rights.

Origin of Indian Red Cross Society

During the first world war in 1914, India had no organization for relief services to the affected soldiers, except a branch of the St. John Ambulance Association and by a Joint Committee of the British Red Cross. Later, a branch of the same Committee was started to undertake the much-needed relief services in collaboration with the St. John Ambulance Association in aid of the soldiers as well as civilian sufferers of the horrors of that great war.

A bill to constitute the Indian Red Cross Society, Independent of the British Red Cross, was introduced in the Indian Legislative Council on 3rd March 1920 by Sir Claude Hill, member of the Viceroy's Executive Council who was also Chairman of the Joint war Committee in India. The Bill was passed on 17th March 1920 and became Act XV of 1920 with the assent of the Governor General on the 20th March 1920.

On 7th June 192, fifty members were formally nominated to constitute the Indian Red Cross Society and the first Managing Body was elected from among them with Sir Malcolm Hailey as Chairman.

Indian Red Cross Society is a member of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. Relations between the IRCS and the India Delegation of the Federation are strong.

Indian Red Cross Society has partnership with National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, St. John Ambulance, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (IFRC), International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Multinational firms. Individuals and others in supporting IRCS activities. It also coordinates with Indian Government and other agencies (UNDP, WHO etc)

Reasons Why a Non-Profit Organization Defends Human Rights

There are various reasons, which explain why a non-profit organization had to defend human rights. Independence, neutrality, and non-profit nature are among the reasons that explain why the Red Cross Red Crescent had to defend the issue of human rights. Since the organization had operations that tried to limit the scale of suffering amongst individuals in areas experiencing war and disaster, the incorporation of human rightswould lead to minimal changes in its operations.

The minimal changes transpired because the issue of human rights has a close relationship with the operations that surround the alleviation of human suffering. Fern�ndez and Puyana state that the roles played by the Red Cross and the Red Crescent societies focus on respect for human rights and reduction of suffering that people experience in the event of calamities or war (17). Therefore, by being an organization, which helps people during war or disasters, the organization was in a good position to defend human rights.

Among the reasons that placed the organization in a better position concerning the issue of human rights is its independent nature. By being independent, the organization could undertake its initiative of improving human rights and minimizing human suffering without coercion or interference from governments.

Another reason, which explains why a non-profit organization was in a good position to defend human rights, is neutrality and the non-profit nature of the Red Cross Red Crescent. Several profit-making organizations have inclinations and orientations, which relate to their need to increase their profit margins. The inclinations or orientations inhibit the neutral requirement that is a principle in defending human rights.

Therefore, by being neutral and non-profit, the Red Crescent could successfully achieve its theme of supporting human rights. Fern�ndez and Puyana explain that the Red Crescent of the Red Cross has increased in popularity and has been integral in various parts of the world (18). The growing popularity of the organization relates to the role that it plays in defending human rights.

IFRC Laws and Agreements that Protect People

The laws that the Red Crescent utilizes in the protection of human rights include neutrality, independence, impartiality, unity, universality, and respect for humanity. In actual sense, these laws and agreements materialized after a consensus on the nature of activities undertaken by the Red Cross and the Red Crescent. The agreements came into existence at the 20th international conference of the federation in Vienna in October 1965 (American Red Cross 3).

By adopting neutrality as one of its law and universal agreement, the crescent ensured that the overall principle, which is the protection of individuals, was practical. The practicability of the overall principle transpires because when the organization becomes neutral, it can execute its activities and reduce human suffering without focusing on the religious, racial, or ethnic backgrounds of the victims.

The organization would also not take sides during the violence or in the process of assisting in the protection of victims. Also, to the principle or agreement of neutrality, the Red Crescent enjoys independence and freedom from government influence. As such, the Red Crescent protects and alleviates human suffering with lots of freedom.

Besides neutrality and independence, the organization also adopted impartiality, unity, universality, and respect for humanity in their set of laws and agreements geared towards the protection of human rights. Notably, the organization exercises independence when delivering its services and defending human rights.

By being impartial, the organization looks at individuals from an equal perspective without any kind of discrimination. Furthermore, the law that concerns unity encourages the organization to undertake its duties and protect victims without worrying about conflicting organizations that purport to be members of the Red Cross.

The absence of worry is due to the limitation that the unity agreement applies as it permits the existence of a single Red Cross organization in a given nation. In the words of Coupland, Red Cross Red Crescent is an organization that strives to ensure that people experience minimal suffering in the advent of a disaster or war (972). Since the main objective of the Red Crescent is the alleviation of human suffering in disaster or war-stricken areas, it is among the organizations that are significant in defending human rights.

Development of the Red Cross's Red Crescent Federation

Since the inception of the Red Cross and its role in alleviating human suffering in places of war, there was an increasing need to expand the operations undertaken by the organization. Expansion of Red Cross operations would lead to the incorporation of aspects, which focus on the improvement of human rights. With the growing need to expand the operations of the Red Cross, leaders and other stakeholders started championing for a sister organization that would help the organization in addressing issues such as disasters and calamities.

The need for a sister organization was because at the time the issues were not part of the operations addressed by the organization. In the assertion of Fern�ndez and Puyana, Henry Davison, who was the leader of the American Red Cross, orchestrated the development of IFRC (18).

In the perspective of Davison, there was the need to expand the roles of the Red Cross beyond its initial scope to include relief, and aid in areas affected by natural disasters or calamities initiated by human activities. The initiative by Davison saw the emergence of a league known as League of Red Cross Societies.

Formation of the league materialized in 1919 stemming from the initiatives advanced by Davison. Coupland elucidates that years after its formation, the league became popular and by 1960, the league had members in several parts of the world that exceeded 100 societies (980). In 1983, the league's name changed to become League of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Thereafter, the name changed in 1991 to the present name, the International Federation of Red Cross, and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). It is imperative to note that during the period when the names changed, the Red Crescent grew in membership and is currently serving over 190 countries all over the world.

The movement has executed several activities that defend human rights starting from its inception in 1919 to date. Some of the major operations that the league has undertaken include helping victims affected by famine in Poland and Russia, and the Japan 1923 earthquake, which led to the death of over 180,000 people. Also, the organization is currently playing an instrumental role in helping victims affected by the ISIL problem in Syria (Sourgens 361).

Remarkably, the development of the Red Crescent, which is a sister organization to the Red Cross, began in the early 1900s and progressed until 1991 when the organization adopted its present name and statutes. The Seville Agreement drafted and effected in 1997 marked one of the major milestones in facilitating the Red Crescent's objective of defending human rights.

Solutions for IFRC to Assist More Refugees

Some of the solutions that IFRC can utilize to assist more refugees include public education, use of technology, and collaborating with private and public organizations in the subject nations. In the advent of war in a nation, the first victims fall in the hands of individuals, who in some cases may not have the requisite knowledge on matters that pertain to the handling of refugees. As such, the refugees either are mishandled or treated unfairly, a factor that leads to the death or complications among several refugees.

By educating the public on aspects of refugee handling, the Red Crescent can increase the number of refugees that they assist directly or indirectly. Coupland states that when IFRC supplies food and shelter to refugees directly, it is undertaking direct assistance (975). Consequently, indirect aid occasions when people educated by the Red Crescent exercise the knowledge acquired to assist refugees.

The Red Crescent can also use technology to assist more refugees globally. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube can be practical in conveying information on matters relating to refugees and how to handle them. When IFRC uses technology to convey information regarding refugee assistance, issues that complicate and increase the suffering of refugees in the hands of inexperienced individuals diminish. Reduced complications associated with refugee handling take effect because they receive proper care and attention from knowledgeable individuals.

On the other hand, the Red Crescent organization can increase the scale of its services to refugees by collaborating with public and private enterprises. In the words of the American Red Cross when the organization increases its partnership with private and public enterprises, the quality and scale of refugee assistance augments(4). Therefore, partnership with public and private enterprises is one of the core solutions that IFRC can utilize as it strives to minimize refugee suffering and defend their rights.

The role played by IFRC is very important in the context of human rights. Since its inception in 1919, the organization has worked on a range of initiatives that focus on defending human rights globally. By helping individuals in areas affected by famine, war, earthquakes, tornadoes, and tsunamis, the organization is indeed helping in alleviating the suffering of individuals.

Subsequently, by engaging in these initiatives, the organization aids in ensuring that people from all nations respect human rights. Therefore, the role that the Red Crescent plays in defending human rights is one that scholars and researchers cannot underestimate.


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