While the secretariat is responsible for the day-to-day running of the IFRC, the decisions on its direction and policy are made by the governing bodies. These bodies define a framework of purpose, policies, goals and programmes, and provide a mechanism for accountability and compliance

The General Assembly is the highest decision-making body of the IFRC. It meets every two years and comprises representatives from all member National Societies.

The Governing Board acts between general assemblies, meeting twice a year with the authority to make certain decisions. The board comprises the IFRC’s President and Vice Presidents, representatives from elected member Societies, the Chair of the Finance Commission and the Chair of the Youth Commission. The IFRC has four constitutional commissions/committees: Finance Commission, Youth Commission, Compliance & Mediation Committee and Election Committee.

The Governing Board is responsible for appointing the secretary general, who is the chief executive officer of the IFRC, directing the secretariat and its delegations.

The 21st session of the Governing Board in May 2010 established the advisory bodies according to the terms of reference adopted by the 17th session of the General Assembly, November 2009 in Nairobi. The Governing Board might in addition set up working groups according to specific needs of the IFRC.