Solferino, Italy, 24 June 2018 – More than 10,000 Red Cross volunteers representing more than 60 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies from around the world have gathered in the northern Italian town of Solferino for an annual tribute to the events that led to the foundation of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
The two-day festivities culminated last night in the Fiaccolata, a torch lit march that retraces the steps of the women of the town of Castiglione delle Stiviere in the aftermath of the bloody Battle of Solferino in 1859. These women provided first aid and care to the many wounded left laying on that battlefield, paying no attention to a soldier’s nationality, and laying the foundations for neutral and impartial humanitarian action.
Swiss businessman Henry Dunant, inspired by the people he met in Solferino and Castiglione, sought to transform the devastation of the battlefield of Solferino into something positive and innovative – a global humanitarian network with the goal of helping those in need during times of conflict, and to change the nature of warfare.
“This is an important weekend for the Red Cross,” said Francesco Rocca, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). “It is a chance to reflect on our history and our humanitarian principles. But more importantly, it is a chance to pause and look ahead, to consider our world, and to think about the kind of organization we will need to be in the future.”
On Friday and Saturday morning, leaders from 35 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies took part in a session of the Solferino Academy designed to explore future humanitarian challenges and to consider how a global organization like the IFRC will need to respond.
This meeting comes amid rising humanitarian needs around the world, fuelled by conflicts, increasing disasters, and the emergence and spread of new or forgotten diseases. All this is taking place in a world where respect for basic humanitarian norms and for international humanitarian law seems to be on the decline.
“Next year, we will adopt a new Strategy 2030. We don’t know what our world will look like in five or ten years. But we can be confident that some of the challenges we face will be different to those we are currently grappling with,” said Mr Rocca.
“Our goal isn’t only to anticipate what those challenges will be, but rather to make sure that we are the kind of organization that can adapt to new demands, that can be agile in its thinking, and rapid in its response.
“Key to this is the need to invest more in strengthening local capacity.”