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International Committee of the Red Cross
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History

Comité International de la Croix Rouge - History




1900-1909


-1900-1901, South Africa: The ICRC is not allowed to provide direct relief during the Anglo-Boer War that breaks out in 1899 between British settlers and Afrikaner farmers of Dutch origin. In 1900, London thus opposes attempts by the Committee to set up an international agency in the capital city of neighbouring Mozambique. As a result, the organisation can only provide donations to both sides, even if it does not officially recognise the Red Cross societies of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. On the field, most volunteers are from the British rather than the Dutch Red Cross, which had previously offered assistance to the Afrikaners during another conflict in the Transvaal in 1881. In the case of the British Red Cross, efforts turn out to be disastrous. Crates are stolen in the ports where supplies are unloaded. And Red Cross armbands are distributed to untrustworthy individuals. According to an investigation by the British government, there were no embezzlement but significant coordination problems. Lack of neutrality is another issue: because of their Irish origin, 56 members of the American Red Cross show hostility towards the English and decide to fight with the Boers. As for Alfred Ernest William Rambsbottom (1860-1921), a doctor from an Irish family and the founding president of the Orange Free State Red Cross, he is captured by the British and transferred to Cape Town. Generally speaking, neither the ICRC nor national societies succeed in protecting Afrikaner war victims: 42,000 civilians detained by the English die in concentration camps, including 16,000 Blacks and 20,000 children under the age of sixteen. Indeed, the Boer families that already lived in British provinces, i.e. the Cape and Natal, are suspected of supporting the rebels and considered as traitors to the Crown. Paradoxically, combatants from Transvaal and the Orange Free State are better off. Although they do not wear uniforms, they are the only ones to be treated as prisoners of war, and they are still protected when they continue a guerrilla warfare after their territories came under British rule in October and May 1900 respectively.
 
-From 1901, the Philippines: Following the Spanish-American War of 1898-1899, Washington takes control of the Philippines in 1901 and let the American Red Cross (ARC) establish itself in the country. As for the ICRC, it never responded to requests by the Spanish Red Cross in March 1899 to help free Spanish citizens imprisoned by Filipino guerrillas. Nor had it recognized the local Red Cross formed in February 1899 by the rebels who, once free of the colonial yoke, opposed Washington’s interference and proclaimed a short-lived republic led by Emilio Aguinaldo. Inspired by Henry Dunant, this organisation was set up by Emilio Aguinaldo’s wife, Hilaria del Rosario, and his prime minister, lawyer Apolinario Mabini. Its special envoy to Europe, Don Felipe Agoncille, was dispatched to Madrid in January 1900 to gain the Spanish Red Cross’ support, then, in the following August, to Geneva to meet with Gustave Moynier. However, the ICRC rejected the Philippines’ demand, under the pretext that the country was not recognised by the international community and consequently could not formally sign the Geneva Convention. Reflecting the colonial views of the times, the Committee did not follow up the case and gave preference to the ARC, whose leader Clara Barton was tangled up in personal problems while the Filipino Red Cross dissolved after Emilio Aguinaldo’s capture in March 1901. As a result, the Geneva Convention was never applied to the Philippine conflict, despite all the best intentions of the rebels, the last of whom surrendered under the leadership of General Miguel Malvar in April 1902. Left as the only Red Cross in the country, the ARC is thus able to launch in August 1905 a Filipino chapter, one of its 15 regional divisions. Placed under the supervision of Mabel Boardman and William Howard Taft, American Secretary of War and first civilian governor of the Philippines, this organisation is entirely composed of expatriates and records a high turnover. All but two of its board members are high-level civil servants. And its president is the Governor General of the Philippines: first Luke Wright, then James Smith in October 1906, and William Cameron from November 1910. In such a context, the organisation has little chance to prosper. After briefly providing aid to tornado victims in October 1905, it becomes inactive and nearly disappears when its board stops to meet. Thanks to support from the American Red Cross, it can only send relief to those who survive an eruption of the Taal Volcano which causes 1,335 deaths on 30 January 1911. But it is not operational and cannot raise funds to help victims of political troubles without express authorisation from the government. When the Filipinos are finally allowed to elect their own representatives and senators, a law voted on 4 February 1916 to create a Red Cross national society is immediately invalidated by Washington. Indeed, the ARC Constitution does not permit other associations to use the Red Cross emblem on “American territory”. The Philippines, considered an integral part of the United States, are no exception. So the local Red Cross is reorganised in 1917 as a separate chapter of the ARC, presided by Governor Francis Burton Harrison. From then on, only one government official seats on its board. And, for the first time, in October 1918, it is presided by a civilian, businessman Horace Pond. As it spreads throughout the country, the organisation begins to win public approval with 200,000 donors in 1918, 7000 of whom are Americans expatriates. Led by Francis Garrett from 1918, then by Charles Hancock Forster from 1923 to 1943, the organisation develops public health programmes and a highly successful youth division which registers 750,000 members in 1922 and up to 1,025,000 in 1929 (as against 67,000 and 75,000 adult members respectively). Presided by Charles Mason Cotterman from 1919 and Thomas Wolff from 1936 to 1942, it nevertheless remains dependent upon the ARC. Its internal regulations, for instance, are modified in 1920 to correspond word for word to those of the home organisation. Likewise, its director throughout the 1920s and 1930s, Charles Hancock Forster (1878-1946), is a former manager for the foreign divisions of the ARC. And the civilian governor of the Philippines in 1929-1932, Dwight Davis, assumes in 1930 the right to appoint four members to the executive committee of the Filipino organisation, allocating land to build headquarters in Manila. In 1923, then again in 1931, the authorities scupper every attempt to establish a Red Cross national society that is truly independent of its American mentor. In 1936, one year after a Filipino government led by Manuel Quezon was formed, the organisation can only change its name and logo by removing its adherence to the ARC, now put into brackets. Increasing nationalist sentiments cause tensions to rise. President Manuel Quezon does not want money received by the Philippine Red Cross to be managed by the ARC. In January 1938, he creates an office to coordinate the relief work and fundraising of the public and private sectors. A year later, he threatens to stop the Christmas collection drive and to put the organisation on the verge of bankruptcy if it does not increase the number of Filipino members on its board. The Second World War finally solves this deadlock when the Americans leave and the Japanese invade the Philippines. Seizing the opportunity, the government creates its own Filipino Red Cross society on 15 April 1942. Presided by Jose Paez and directed by Don Alejandro Roces, then Vicente Madrigal, the new structure has three Japanese on its board but keeps on the personnel and appropriates the assets of the former organisation without agreement from the ARC, which is no longer permitted to send funds to or work in the country. With a small amount of American money received via the Swiss Embassy in Tokyo, it attempts to provide supplies to US citizens held by occupation troops. In June 1942, however, access is denied to the Santo Tomas Internment Camp. The Philippine Red Cross faces its most difficult hour when the Japanese retreat. During the battle for control of Manila on 10 February 1945, its headquarters are assailed by Japanese soldiers who look for refuge and who gun down the caretaker, Marcelino Guevara, and a surgeon, doctor German de Venecia, who was performing an operation. Of the 39 children placed under the responsibility of Philippine Red Cross volunteer Teresa Nava, only 26 survive the bombs and fires that destroy the city. Held in Santo Tomas, two Americans who were collaborating with the organisation, Alfred Duggleby and Carroll Grinnell, are also killed before their camp is liberated on 3 February 1945. The Philippine Red Cross also loose 15 other members, namely Antonio Alberto, Antonio Barbeyto, Juan Miguel Elizalde, Antonio Escoda, Josefa Llanes Escoda, Natti Perez Rubio Fox, Jose Miranda Gonzales, Guillermo Manalang, Angustias Vaca de Mencarini, Joaquin Mencarini, Sue Noell, Maria Orosa, Enrico Pirovano, Rafael Santo Domingo and Carmen de Vera. Once the Japanese are defeated, the organisation is quickly re-established as a chapter of the ARC, presided by Thomas Wolff from July 1945, then General Basilio Valdes from July 1946. Temporarily called PhilCross, it is integrated into the American Army’s civil affairs department. Despite a Philippines’ formal declaration of independence on 12 July 1946, the organisation is to remain under the control of the ARC, which pays expatriate salaries in full and provides Directors Leo Whilhelm from June 1945 and Glen Whisler from January 1946. It is not until a law is passed on 22 February 1947 that the Philippines National Red Cross (PNRC) is finally established as an independent entity and recognized as such by the ICRC, four days after Manila ratified the Geneva Convention. For the first time, the organisation is both directed and presided by Filipinos, respectively Horacio Yanzon (a dentist) from December 1946, and Aurora Aragon-Quezon (wife of the country’s former president) from September 1946. But the organisation does not escape the political tensions that tear the country apart. PNRC president Aurora Aragon-Quezon is killed on 28 April 1949 during an ambush by the Huks Communist rebels. She is replaced by Colonel Manuel Lim, a minister who decides to dispatch a team of volunteers as part of the Philippines Expeditionary Forces that fight alonside the Americans against the Chinese during the Korean War. In the same vein, the organisation’s presidents change according to the governments, who appointed them. Thus Minister Juan Salcedo Junior, who headed the PNRC from 1951, is replaced by his successor to the Ministry of Health, Paulino Garcio, shortly after elections bring Ramon Magsaysay to power in 1953. Subsequent presidents are a bit more technocratic, with Geronima Pecson from 1961, Emilio Abello from 1964, and Fernando Sison from 1969. But they do not escape government interference during the Cold War, given their country’s alliance with the United States. Abroad, the PNRC clearly serves the interests of Manila and Washington by sending relief to refugees who flee the Communist regimes of North Vietnam in 1954 and Hungary in 1956. When the Philippine army is deployed to fight alongside the Americans in South Vietnam, the organisation is entrusted with a C47 cargo plane to fly supplies to Saigon and Vientiane during Operation Brotherhood. Within the Philippines, the PNRC collaborates closely with the military too, and one of its nurses, Rosario Sotto, is killed during a Huk attack on Camp Makabulos in Tarlac on 25 August 1950. A decree passed on 18 November 1952 clarifies the division of duties: the organisation is responsible for distributing aid during natural disasters, while the government is supposed to assist victims of political upheavals. Reaffirmed by a presidential decree of 1 October 1979, such an exclusive relationship with the army highlights the military functions of the PNRC. Created in June 1920 and reorganized in August 1945, a special service of the organisation thus takes care of wounded soldiers and their families. From 1956 to 1969, the PNRC is also to redistribute funds paid by Tokyo as compensation to former Filipino prisoners of war, in line with a peace treaty signed between the United States and Japan in September 1951. During this period, the organisation experiences problems of governance since a law enacted on 11 June 1953 called for biennial rather than annual meetings. Its board of directors forces Doctor Feliciano Cruz, who had taken over from Horacio Yanzon in April 1954, to resign and be replaced by Telesforo Calasanz in December 1957. The organisation does not democratize either after the election of dictator Ferdinand Edralin Marcos in November 1965. In 1964, it creates a secretary general position which is first occupied by Telesforo Calasanz, then Loreto Paras Sulit from 1968, Vicente Galvez from 1976 and Generoso Caridad from 1982. Despite the 1971 Law 6373 that increases the size of its board of directors and reduces the number of co-opted members, the PNRC becomes militarised after martial law is imposed in 1972. In keeping with the 1979 Decree 1643, the chief of state appoints six of its 30 board members, including a maximum of three mandatory army representatives. Presided from 1973 by Antonio Quirino, a judge related to a former head of state, followed in 1976 by General Romeo Espino, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, the PNRC is tightly controlled by the dictatorship. After losing one of its managers, Faustino Mercado, in a plane crash in 1967, it helps to contain the uprising of Muslim minorities in the south (Mindanao) and Communist guerrillas in the north (Luzon). It thus supplies “strategic” hamlets where peasants are watched and forced to group to deprive the rebels of popular support, while local leaders seize this opportunity to grab the land left vacant. Intensified fighting leads the ICRC to establish a regional delegation in Manila in January 1982, and to develop a more sustainable partnership with the PNRC. The Geneva Committee, which had briefly assisted Huks imprisoned at Makati in Manila in 1959, focus its activities on three areas: conducting visits to political prisoners, helping internally displaced persons, and aiding Vietnamese boat people who land in Morong near the American Subic Bay military base in Bataan province. After martial law was declared in 1972, ICRC delegates were authorised to conduct regular inspections of detention centres throughout the country. Except in 1975 and 1979, they return each year to visit prisoners of conscience, a mission they will continue even after the dictatorial regime falls in 1986. From December 1980 onwards, they are also authorised to assist detainees held in military camps, in addition to civilian prisons. In 1978, the Geneva Committee makes the PNRC responsible for distributing aid to displaced families, especially in Mindanao where the organisation supplies about 700,000 individuals that year alone. Such operations occasionally touch northern Luzon in 1986, as well as Samar in 1980 and Negros in 1989, two islands of the Visayas archipelago. Fighting makes access to the field difficult, especially in Mindanao where the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) struggles for independence. On 5 May 1987 in the province of Lanao del Sur, a team of two ICRC delegates and five PNRC nurses are kidnapped but quickly released. Three years later in Buldon, also on Mindanao Island, another delegate of Geneva, Walter Berweger, and his Philippine Red Cross counterpart, Juanito Patong, are killed. As for the Communist New People’s Army (NPA) in the north, it refuses until 1990 to let the ICRC visit prisoners under its control. Fortunately, peace negotiations advance and the overall situation improves when a new government is elected in 1986, after the fall of dictator Ferdinand Edralin Marcos. In a declaration dated 15 August 1991, Luis Jalandoni, the National Democratic Front’s (NDF) vice president of international affairs, expresses the NPA’s desire to respect the Geneva Conventions. In August 1998, the government too decides to give the Communist combatants “warring party” status. Yet negotiations in Mindanao with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), that begin in October 1996, are blocked because of the very same issue: whether to apply the Geneva Conventions to the rebels. In April 2000, the government resumes hostilities against Islamist guerrillas who, unlike the MNLF, refuse to lay down their arms. As a result, the ICRC, which had transferred its relief activities to the PNRC in 1991, returns to Mindanao and opens an office in Davao. As they return from Patikul Prison in Jolo in the Sulu region, three of its employees, a Swiss (Andreas Notter), an Italian (Eugene Vagni) and a Filipino (Marie-Jean Lacaba), are kidnapped by Islamic militants from the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf on 15 January 2009. Meanwhile, the PNRC changed a lot to become more professional since it created an operations department in 1977 and built new administrative headquarters for the 24th International Conference of the Red Cross in Manila in 1981. As internal evaluations of 1985 and 1989 highlighted shortcomings in matters of sanitization, training first-aid workers, and health education, the organisation decides to develop programmes for psychosocial relief, rather than focusing on emergencies and material aid only. After an earthquake that kills 1,050 people in Luzon Island on 16 July 1990, for example, the PNRC tries to find long-term solutions by building primary schools, water systems, and houses in Baguio and Caranglan. The organisation also becomes more democratic and less militarized as it begins to give to homeless children and poor families a social welfare package that used to be reserved for the army. In the same vein, the PNRC helps civilian demonstrators who take the streets of Manila to demand the end of Ferdinand Edralin Marcos’ dictatorship in February 1986. Three volunteers are then hurt while they try to aid victims during two separate coup d’état attempts in January 1987 and December 1989. From an institutional point of view, the PNRC renews its workforce and shortens its presidents’ terms of office after being led for 20 years by Romeo Espino: to an activist, Mario Nery from 1996, succeeds a judge, Leonorines Luciano from 1998, a general, Jaime Canatoy from 2002, and a former mayor of Olongapo (the city devastated by Mount Pinatubo’s eruption in 1991), Richard Gordon from 2004. This evolution also affects the organisation’s secretary generals, with Gloria Balbin Senador from 1990, Celso Samson from 1993, Lourdes Reinoso Loyala from 1996, Victor Liozo from 2004 and Corazon Alma de Leon from 2006. From a gender point of view, the leadership of the PNRC is quite balanced too, with female presidents like Geronima Pecson from 1961 and Leonorines Luciano from 1998. The key secretary general position is often occupied by women: a nurse, Gloria Balbin Senador; a social worker, Lourdes Reinoso Loyala; and a civil servant, Corazon Alma de Leon. With 94 regional branches in 2007 (against 85 in 1999, 83 in 1989, 78 in 1979 and 59 in 1969), the PNRC has also a core staff of 700 compared to 500 during the 1997 financial crisis, which led to a hiring freeze. Grasroots develop. In the mid-2000s, the organisation claims to have more than 100,000 volunteers and hopes to mobilise a million by 2009. Although these figures are inflated because they include blood donors and inactive members, the PNRC certainly becomes more independent of the government, which funds half of its budget in the mid-1980s, compared to only a quarter to one-third in the 1990s. Unlike other Red Cross societies in Asia, which remain very dependent upon government subsidies, the PNRC is able to attract donations from the private sector by developing its fundraising capacity from 1998 onwards. Thanks to a better management, its overhead ratio varies between 20 and 15 percent since the end of the 1990s, and its overall budget increases from 17.8 million PHP in 1983 to 28.5 in 1984, 28.4 in 1987, 37.8 in 1988, 117.7 in 1996, 167.9 in 1997, 188.8 in 1998, 231.4 in 1999, 243.5 in 2000, 308.4 in 2001, 312.3 in 2002, 319.7 in 2003, 440.7 in 2004 and 526.9 in 2005. Structurally, however, the PNRC remains close to the powers that be, regardless of the regime in place. It is still sponsored by the head of state and its president Richard Gordon is a former nationalist opponent who became a senator and joined the dominant party in 2004. As for the government, it continues to appoint six of the 30 members of the PNRC’s board, the others being co-opted or elected for four-year terms by regional delegates during biennial conventions.
 
-From 1902, Canada: After the Anglo-Boer War in South Africa, where it intervened in 1900 and 1901, the Canadian Red Cross Society (CRCS) returns to its previous lethargy. Founded in 1885 by a military surgeon, George Sterling Ryerson (1855-1925), during the North West Rebellion of Louis Riel, the organisation’s first members were doctors such as Norman Bethune (1822-1892), who helped Henry Dunant to take care of survivors at the Battle of Solferino in Italy in 1859. But George Sterling Ryerson politicized the CRCS as a conservative, anti-Catholic, pro-British member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario between 1893 and 1898. Although the organisation was established as a chapter of the British Red Cross in 1896 and presided by John Morrison Gibson until 1914, it remained inactive until 1899, despite some attempts to send relief abroad during the Spanish-American War in 1898. Officially recognised by the Canadian government in 1909, it becomes more operational during World War One. Led by Lieutenant Colonel Noel Marshall until 1920, it assists troops sent to the European front in 1914, especially in Boulogne sur Mer, France. The organisation’s budget increases from £141,000 in 1915 to £257,000 in 1916, £386,000 in 1917 and £388,000 in 1918, excluding non-monetary donations. Although a francophone branch was set up in Quebec in 1912, the CRCS remains mainly Anglo-Saxon: based in Toronto, it is presided by Doctor George Sterling Ryerson from January 1914 to January 1916, Princess Louise Margaret of Prussia (wife of the governor of Canada, later known as the Duchess of Connaught) from February 1916 to July 1917, and Colonel Noel Marshall from September 1920 onwards. After the war, James Robertson takes over leadership, but it is not until 1927 that the CRCS is recognised by the ICRC as an autonomous organisation, accepted into the League of Red Cross Societies in 1929. The Canadian Red Cross finally earns its stripes during World War Two, when a quarter of the Canadian population joins as active members.
 
-1903, Macedonia:  The ICRC does not respond to calls from insurgents who, led by Gotse Delchev and supported by Sofia, are fighting for independence against the Turks. It prefers to fund relief efforts through the intermediary of established aid societies: in this case, the Bulgarian Red Cross, and not the Ottoman Red Crescent, which is to be presided by General Faik Pacha Della Sudda from 1906. Nearly a century goes by before the ICRC recognises, in 1995, the Macedonian Red Cross, three years after this organisation got independent from the Yugoslavian Red Cross constituted in 1945.
 
-1904-1927, China:  A national society of the Red Cross, called Tchoung-kano-loung-tsou-shitz-homi, is established on 29 May 1904. Made up of foreign missionaries, it is not recognised by the ICRC because it does not cover the whole territory and has no support from the Emperor, who has not yet signed the Geneva Convention. After the proclamation of a republic by Sun Yat-sen on 1 January 1912, the organisation is barely operational when China joins the Allied Forces against Germany in August 1917. It is also too small to handle the casualties of the battles between General Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalists and Mao Zedong’s Communists from August 1927 onwards.
 
-1905, Namibia, Morocco:  like Gustave Moynier, who never protested against Belgian abuses in Congo, the ICRC makes no comment on the 1904 genocide of Herero people in the colony of “German South West Africa”. On the contrary, it congratulates relief workers from the Deutsches Rotes Kreuz (DRK) who were deployed alongside German troops and did nothing to help the local population. In the same vein, the ICRC does not attempt to check German allegations about atrocities by British and French colonial troops during World War One. Reflecting racist views of the times, the International Bulletin of the Red Cross, in its issue of June 1916, compare them to the pogroms led by Turkish Muslims against Christian Armenians. As a matter of fact, the Geneva Committee is biased and pays no interest to massacres committed by imperialist powers to “civilize” the African continent. From July 1921 to May 1926, the Rif War in Morocco is a perfect example. Pablo La Porte notes that, as late as July 1924, the ICRC still denies that a conflict even exists. Asserting that it does not have enough information and that it is an “internal” issue pitting Abdelkrim El-Khattabi’s rebels against Spanish and French colonial forces, the Committee simply sends one delegate, Raymond Schlemmer, in November 1924. Yet it is not authorised to go beyond the international zone in Tangiers, where the British Red Cross already cares for the wounded. Focusing its diplomatic efforts on Madrid and Paris, the ICRC bypasses the Moroccan sultan, who nevertheless remains sovereign leader of the country. It also ignores requests for aid by Abdelkrim El-Khattabi, which are transmitted in May 1925 by British Captain Gordon Canning. Despite the increasing pressure of Western public opinion, and contrary to its response to the Irish crisis in April 1923, the Committee does not try to force cooperation from the local Red Crosses that block all attemps by Geneva to intervene. In the November 1925 issue of its International Bulletin, the ICRC claims to have never received any requests for aid on behalf of the rebels. The lies are soon exposed by the Swedish press and the institution is forced to react: in May 1926, it sends Raymond Schlemmer to the French zone of the Rif, where the conflict has spread to in April 1925, and from where the delegate of Geneva is soon to be expelled. In any case, it is too little, too late. The conflict ends without the ICRC attempting to provide any relief to the rebels or denouncing the use of mustard gas by colonial troops. According to Irène Hermann and Daniel Palmieri, it is not until 1968, during the Nigerian Civil War, that the Committee will begin to show any interest in the fate of African victims. In the meantime, its advocacy against genocide is selective. In 1915, it favours Armenian Christians as Turkish Muslims joined forces with Germany, while the ICRC’s president, Gustave Moynier, sided with France. But despite protests by some individual delegates who are empathetic towards the victims’ suffering, the institution will keep a much lower profile regarding Jews in Germany in 1944 and the Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994. With such a racial prejudice, it will thus continue to regard Africa as a backward continent. During an official tour in February-April 1962, for instance, the ICRC’s president, Samuel Gonard, spoke only with colonial authorities and never attempted to talk to the indigenes.
 
-1906-1907, Switzerland:  A revision of the 1864 Geneva Convention eliminates Article 5, which exempted homes from being requisitioned by the army when they were used to care for the wounded. No longer protected by their neutrality, relief workers are now placed under military and governmental control to keep civilian personnel away from the battlefield. Geoffroy Best, a specialist in the law of war, notes that national Red Cross societies, once they became official annexes to the armed forces, employ those who, because of their age, social condition, or gender, could not fight directly but who serve their country just as well by caring for wounded soldiers. The following year, the 1864 Geneva Convention is again modified to incorporate maritime war law according to the third and tenth Hague Conventions, developed from 1899.
 
-1907-1932, France: As decrees of 1878, 1884, and 1889 made the Red Cross the only army health services’ auxiliary, a central committee is created on 21 January 1907 to combine the Society for relief to the war wounded (Société de secours aux blessés militaires) with other organisations that train nurses during peacetime to intervene on battlefields. According to a memorandum signed on 20 January 1913, the SSBM is therefore compelled to coordinate its operations and share 50% of street fundraising during times of conflict. In the ICRC’s eyes, however, France shows blatant disregard for the principle of only one Red Cross society per country. Made up of royalist aristocrats, the Société de secours aux blessés militaires is indeed in competition with a secular, republican, upper class Association of French ladies (Association des Dames Françaises), and a Union (Union des Femmes de France) which is an offshoot of the latter and which aims at including women of lower social class. Founded in 1879 and 1881, respectively, these two groups are not recognised by the ICRC and are not invited to the International Conferences of the Red Cross. Feminist in nature, a large number of their members are Catholic and Nationalist fundamentalists who want to prove that the “weaker sex” can play a role in military affairs. Using the emblem of Jeanne d’Arc, Red Cross brochures also call on women to join the war effort, comparing their patriotism to a “sacred duty” and a Christian sacrifice. Thus uniformed nurses have to sign up for a call of duty and they accompany the French army’s colonial expeditions, as in Morocco between April 1911 and October 1913, where two of them succumb to illness. Generally speaking, the Red Cross contributes to the Empire’s expansion. Institutes in Oran and Saigon are opened to train nurses in 1894 and 1932 respectively. Likewise, the Société de secours aux blessés militaires supports colonial troops during the conquests of Tunisia in 1881, Tonkin from 1882 to 1886, Dahomey in 1890, Madagascar in 1895, and Morocco and Algeria from 1904 to 1907. During the repression of the Chinese Boxer Rebellion in 1900, for example, it provides the Navy with two mobile clinics that, at the end of the hostilities in 1901, are officially transfered to colonial authorities to establish a French hospital in Beijing. Ties to the military are even tighter during World War One, during which the organisation looses 212 employees according to Bernard Chevallier. The Société de secours aux blessés militaires, in particular, suffers 31 nurses wounded, 118 who die from illness and 13 killed on the front. In addition, the Union des Femmes de France looses 60 volunteers. In total, claims Frédéric Pineau, the three components of the French Red Cross have 351 nurses out of 63 850 killed between 1914 and 1919, including 105 because of bombing and 246 because of illness. The conflict shows how important the women’s auxiliary organisations are. As a matter of fact, the Croix-Rouge française (CRF) does not just care for troops. Along with its Belgian, American, and British counterparts, it organises childcare activities while mothers work in munitions factories on the home front. A book published for the 100th anniversary of the CRF describes the society as “the Soldier’s Friend”. The organisation then continues to participate in military operations during the occupation of the German Ruhr in 1923 and the Rif War in Morocco in 1925. Signalling its militarisation, its president from 1918 to 1932, Paul Marie César Gérald Pau (1848-1932), is a general who lost a hand during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 and who replaces 1907 Nobel Peace Prize winner and jurist Louis Renault, who had greatly contributed to the elaboration of the 1906 Geneva Convention.
 
-1908-1939, Italy: The American Red Cross (ARC) intervenes to help victims of the Messina-Reggio earthquake on 28 December 1908, which caused more than 75,000 deaths and left half a million homeless people in Sicily and Calabria. Having already learned from the San Francisco earthquake on 18 April 1906, the Americans deplore the slowness and lack of coordination of Italian relief efforts. But their desire to professionalise responses to natural disasters lessen as the organisation re-focuses its activities on the military when the United States send their army to Mexico in 1912, then to France and Italy in 1917, during World War One. After an earthquake that devastates Tokyo on 1 September 1923, it is Senator Giovanni Ciraolo who takes up the issue. President of the Italian Red Cross since 1919, he had lost a part of his family during the Messina tragedy of 1908. In 1915, he proposed to set up an International Relief Union for the victims of disasters, including armed conflicts, political upheavals, and revolutions. But the timing was wrong, in the middle of the war, and the project faced opposition from the ICRC, the League of Red Cross Societies, the British Red Cross, and the ARC, which succumbed to the growing isolationist attitude of post-war Washington, and which favoured private rather than states initiatives. The institution that finally emerges is not part of the League of Nations. The League of Red Cross Societies, which establishes its own office for handling natural disasters in 1923, fears competition and stops providing a free secretariat for the International Relief Union. As for the ICRC, it worries that such a project would favour the supremacy of the national societies and require a revision of the Geneva Conventions. In order to counterbalance the influence of the League of Red Cross Societies, it makes sure the International Relief Union is accessible to other NGOs such as Save the Children and the Order of Malta. To maintain its exclusive position, the ICRC also torpedoes Senator Giovanni Ciraolo’s first project, which planned to help victims of armed conflict with the League of Red Cross Societies. Although the Geneva Committee officially supports the International Relief Union, it undermines it whenever possible and opposes for instance its intervention during the Spanish Civil War in 1936. States are reticent too: while Washington simply refuses to adhere to the League of Nations, Paris doubts the feasibility of victims’ compensations based on a mutual insurance system, and London, which suspects a manoeuvre by Italian fascists, pays no interest in natural disasters, especially earthquakes. As a result, Giovanni Ciraolo’s project is gutted of any substance. It is no longer about reconstruction but first and foremost about emergency relief. And it does not cover natural disasters such as famines and floods because they are recurrent. All that remains are “exceptional” events considered as instances of “force majeure”. In July 1927, the convention which founds the International Relief Union is eventually amended and removes all references to mutual aid between states. Operational from December 1932, the organisation remains underfinanced and ineffective until it disappears with the League of Nations in September 1939. Indeed, governments are slow to ratify its convention and reluctant to pay compulsory contributions. Furthermore, the organisation is not allowed to intervene without the approval of countries affected by an “exceptional” disaster. Thus, it is not called in to help during floods in China and Poland or during earthquakes in Greece and Italy. Even India feels it does not need international assistance for victims of the Bihar-Orissa earthquake on 15 January 1934. Generally speaking, governments do not wish an international union to coordinate relief efforts, preferring instead to manage their own humanitarian affairs. Historian John Hutchinson concludes that, under the guise of prevention, they are actually preparing for war by financing health departments for their soldiers. As for the ICRC and the League of Red Cross Societies, they will formally pull out of the International Relief Union in 1948, two years before its dissolution by the UN and the transfer of its research department (the only that ever worked) to UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation).
 
-From 1909, Switzerland: Following mounting pressure from the ICRC, a 1909 federal law confirms the exclusivity of the Swiss national society recognised by the Geneva Committee. At the time, both Protestants and Catholics attempt to take control of the movement and set up their own Red Cross societies. Competition is fierce. Some Sisters of the Red Cross (Sœurs de la Croix-Rouge) are established in Zurich, while a pastor, Louis-Lucien Rochat (1849-1919), launches in 1877 a religious Blue Cross to advocat abstinence and combat alcoholism. In the 1880s and 1890s, the ICRC also complains about pharmacies and dubious organisations that use its emblem to attract clients or collect donations. The most interesting humanitarian initiative is that of a pastor from Zurich, Walter Kempin Spyri, who launches a Red Cross in 1882 to rival another, official organisation, the Association for relief to Swiss military personnel and their families (Association de secours aux militaires suisses et à leurs familles). Based in Berne and presided by Federal Councillor Karl Schenk (1823-1895) from 1866 until his death, the latter was only active after the retreat of General Charles Bourbaki’s troops at the end of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871. Afterwards, it existed only on paper because its cantonal committees disappeared one after the other. So it is Pastor Walter Kempin Spyri who re-launches the Red Cross movement in Switzerland. As president of the Zurich Red Cross from December 1881 until his resignation in December 1885, he attempts to develop activities during peacetime. His ideas eventually take hold. From 1893 onwards, the Croix-Rouge suisse (CRS) thus expands its activities to cover public health, particularly nurse training, an area previously reserved for Catholic nuns and Protestant deaconesses. Along the same lines, it is joined by the Swiss Society of Health Brigades (Société suisse des troupes sanitaires) and the Swiss Samaritan Alliance (Alliance suisse des Samaritains), two organisations created by Sergeant Major Ernst Möckli in 1881 and 1888 respectively. Officially recognized in June 1903 by a governmental decree amended in January 1942 and June 1951, the CRS is however militarized like other national societies in Europe. Just before World War One, it changes its status to become an auxiliary service to the army, under the authority of an officer in case of mobilisation. Moreover, it participates in military training exercises for nurses and logistics. Initially presided by Zurich mayors like Heinrich Haggenmacher (from 1902 to 1905) and Hans Konrad Pestalozzi (who dies during his term), then by a pastor, Edmund von Steiger (until 1909), the CRS is finally to be controlled by high-ranking officers. From 1910 and throughout World War One, it is led by colonels: first a state councillor, Isaak Iselin, who is replaced in 1919 by the organisation’s doctor in chief, Karl Bohny, followed in 1929 and 1930-1939 by two doctors from Lausanne and Zurich, Alfred Kohler and Anton von Schulthess. Paradoxically, the organisation is demilitarized during World War Two. Although the CRS is presided from 1939 to 1946 by Colonel Johannes von Muralt, its charter is revised by the government in 1942 to transfer leadership to civilians. A reason for this is that Switzerland pulled out of the League of Nations in 1938 to restore its neutrality and prevent the possibility of a German invasion. After the war, the CRS is eventually led by academic professors from the university:  Gustav Adolf Bohny from 1946, Ambrosius von Albertini from 1954, and Hans Haug from 1968 to 1982.