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It’s about the life-saving and life-changing work of 13.7 million dedicated volunteers worldwide, and the comfort and support they bring to communities large and small every day. It’s about the power of humanity and how our principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence are every bit as relevant today as they were in 1919.

The story of IFRC is one of solidarity

The five founding National Red Cross Societies – France, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, and the United States – understood the power of partnership and knew that many more lives could be saved and improved by working together, sharing knowledge and resources. We have achieved this milestone together, and we will face and overcome the challenges of the coming years and decades together.

In 2019, we are celebrating 100 years of bringing hope to communities in desperate need, and of bringing the voices of the world’s most vulnerable people to the highest levels of government and international diplomacy. We have advocated for peace and dignity in every country in the world for a century, and will always be there to provide support before, during and after a disaster or crisis.

Find out more about our history

100 years of service for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

On 5th May 1919, the League of Red Cross Societies was created in Paris.  From the ruins of the First World War, five founding national Red Cross societies – those of France, Great Britain, Italy, Japan and the United States – launched the huge but simple idea that the great body of Red Cross compassion and expertise that had already been shown in war, could be shown in peace-time too.

The League was the brainchild of an American banker, Henry Pomeroy Davison, who had headed the American Red Cross War Committee.  It took him less than six months – from the genesis of his idea in December 2018 – to turn it into reality.  Today, we celebrate his and all his colleagues’ passion, vision and determination.

Within months, the League had launched a campaign to counter a massive typhus epidemic in Eastern Europe. Soon after, it launched appeals in the wake of the Russian famine of 1921, and the great Kanto earthquake in Japan in 1923.

So began the extraordinary story of the world’s largest humanitarian network, which has launched over 2,300 appeals in its first century.

In 1983, the League of Red Cross Societies became the League of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and then – in 1991 – the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the IFRC.

The Federation now numbers 192 National Societies worldwide, operating through some 166,000 branches, and nearly 14 million volunteers. Its sole purpose is to help people in need, without fear or favour.  It responds to and prepares for disaster, it brings health services to local communities, it lobbies for best humanitarian practice, it ensures the dignity of people on the move.  And much, much more.

A 100-year anniversary is a chance to reflect, and to refresh.

In celebrating the past, it looks to the future in a fast-changing world of unprecedented humanitarian need.  Its task is to strengthen its membership, and to empower it – its staff and volunteers – to continue to serve the most vulnerable people.  It always seeks to do good better, and is currently debating its Strategy 2030, which will pilot its work over the next decade.

The IFRC is a truly global and yet a truly local organisation, the embodiment of the most durable form of multilateralism, which is local humanitarian action.

It’s there before, during and after crisis.  It’s fundamentally a part of the communities it serves.  It walks ‘the last mile’, to meet the hardest to reach. It’s everywhere for everyone: preserving their dignity, and living out our collective humanity.  It’s 100 years old today.

Francesco Rocca
President, IFRC
Elhadj As Sy
Secretary General, IFRC

Join the #100YearsChallenge!

We are celebrating 100 years of humanitarian action with our #100YearsChallenge to inspire, encourage, promote and celebrate the Red Cross and Red Crescent. We’ve selected some powerful archive images that show how humanity connects us all, but we can’t tell the full story without you.

Do you have a great photo or video in the archives of your local Red Cross or Red Crescent? Please join the challenge and send us a copy at av@ifrc.org!

 

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IFRC’s history

1919

1919: League of Red Cross Societies born

1919: League of Red Cross Societies born

May 5  Founding meeting of the League of Red Cross Societies, Regina Hotel, Paris.  Founding members: American, British, French, Italian and Japanese Red Cross Societies.

1920

1920: First meeting of General Council of the League of Red Cross Societies

1920: First meeting of General Council of the League of Red Cross Societies

Almost every National Society engaged in first-aid instruction right from the beginning. March 2nd to 9th was the first meeting of the General Council of the League of Red Cross Societies.

Photo: First Aid training organised by Venezuelan Red Cross volunteers.

1922

1922

The League decided to focus its support to National Societies in three important fields: hygiene, nursing and youth.

1946

1946: Meeting of the Board of Governors

The meeting of the Board of Governors – one of the most important in the history of the League – focused on strengthening National Societies and their cooperation, and defined relations to be established between the League and the United Nations, and between the National Societies and governments.

1948

1948 to 1950: the first relief operation managed by LORCS

1948 to 1950: the first relief operation managed by LORCS

At the request of the United Nations, LORCS (League of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies ) launched the first relief operation managed by LORCS, setting up and running refugee camps for Palestinians, in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.

Photo: 1950: Palestinian refugees being assisted by Red Cross volunteers.

1954

1954

Board of Governors adopts 8 disaster relief principles.

1957

1957: LORCS received Nansen Medal from UN

1957: LORCS received Nansen Medal from UN

LORCS received Nansen Medal from UN for its work with Hungarian refugees.

Photo: 1956: Austrian Red Cross volunteers providing assistance to Hungarian refugees. Nearly a quarter of a million people left the country during the time that the borders were open in 1956.

1963

1963: ICRC and the League jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize

1963: ICRC and the League jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize

ICRC and the League were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for having done “the best work for fraternity among nations”.

1965

1965: 7 Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross adopted

1965: 7 Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross adopted

7 Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross adopted – Drafted jointly by the LORCS and ICRC.

1970

1970

First Strategic Plan drafted for the League of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and one has been drafted every 10 years since.

1983

1983: Change of name to the League of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

A change of name to the League of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies was adopted, and community health declared a priority as nurses and volunteers spread messages on breastfeeding, good nutrition, hygiene, immunization, etc.

1990

1990s: Annual increase of some 10 million people affected by disasters

The 1990s were marked by an average annual increase of some 10 million people affected by disasters, leading to longer, more complex and more expensive operations. Never before had the IFRC’s secretariat mobilized so many resources and personnel for its operations. The number of people assisted more than tripled between 1991 (5.7 million) and 1994 (19.4 million).

1999

1991: League renamed to International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

The League was renamed the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

1994

1994

The IFRC obtained the status of observer at the United Nations General Assembly.

1999

1999: International Conference asked IFRC to study “humanitarian impacts of climate change.”

Fueled by National Societies’ increasing load from weather-related disasters, the 1999 International Conference asked the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to study “humanitarian impacts of climate change.”

2000

2000–2010

The IFRC refocused its activities on health and care, disaster response, disaster preparedness and the dissemination of the Fundamental Principles.

2019

2019: IFRC has 191 National Societies and 13.7 million volunteers

The IFRC is an organization encompassing the world’s largest humanitarian network, with 191 National Societies and 13.7 million volunteers acting at the community level before, during and after a disaster or a crisis strikes.

2020

2020-2030

The IFRC is currently preparing its Strategic Plan for the next 10 years to 2030.

Concept note

The IFRC celebrates this 100th anniversary, and invites all its members and partners to launch its second century with renewed commitment to reach and serve the most vulnerable, and to strengthen the pride and unity of the membership.

Download below the concept note (.docx) in your preferred language

Calendar of activities

Download below the calendar of activities (.docx) in your preferred language

Centenary Souvenirs

View the IFRC centenary souvenirs on FedNet.

IFRC Alumni Association

In the year of our 100th anniversary, the IFRC is very pleased to announce the establishment of the IFRC Alumni Association.
Thousands of highly experienced colleagues from the National Societies have given a significant part of their lives to IFRC, at headquarters, on mission or in country. Many have risked their lives in so doing.

With an Alumni Association, former staff will be able to maintain contact with friends and colleagues and retain positive links with the Movement.

Find out more on the IFRC Alumni Association page

 

 

 

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