Sitemap x

Humanity in Times of War


The International Committee of the Red Cross has assisted vulnerable people in war zones and conflict areas for more than 150 years.

Its delegates go to some of the most remote locations and in the middle of bloody conflicts seeking to ensure adherence to international humanitarian law of which the Geneva Conventions are a part.

The Geneva-based organization primarily uses its protection mandate in hospitals and prisons – with the aim of ensuring that prisoners are treated humanely and preventing human rights violations. This is one of the most important duties of the ICRC.

Neutrality and confidential dialogue with all parties to a conflict help the ICRC to go where sometimes no other aid organization has access.


Population8 million (2012)
Official languageGerman, French, Italian, Rhaeto-Romanic
Life expectancy82.2 years
GDP per capitaCHF 74,010 (2012)
Geneve rCongo

President Peter Maurer

Peter Maurer

Peter Maurer has been president of the ICRC since July 2012. In this role, he is responsible for the organization's external relationships and represents the ICRC at the international level.


Local people


Many ICRC staff in Geneva have themselves worked as delegates in conflict zones. What are their concerns and needs? What do they enjoy about their work and what makes them happy? These topics are discussed by Fitore Pula, Aude Hirschy, Jean-Luc Joliat, Kelnor Panglungtshang, Ione Ramel, Anabelle Batista as well as ICRC president Peter Maurer.

What do you have in your pocket?

What are you proud of?

When are you happy?

What do you worry about?

How do you imagine your children’s future?

The History

A modicum of humanity in times of war – that is what the ICRC has advocated for more than 150 years.

The four Geneva Conventions and their three additional protocols have been signed and ratified by most countries around the world.

They form the core of international humanitarian law and serve to protect people who do not or no longer take part in armed conflicts.

Timeline of major events

1859 Battle of Solferino Battle of Solferino
Businessman Henry Dunant witnesses the Battle of Solferino in northern Italy. Austria and France fight a brutal war.
1863 Founding of ICRC and of the Red Cross Movement Founding of ICRC and of the Red Cross Movement
At the beginning of the year, a group of Geneva citizens under the leadership of jurist Gustave Moynier establish the "International Committee for Relief to the Wounded", now known as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
1901 First Nobel Prize First Nobel Prize
Henry Dunant – impoverished and occasionally homeless – receives the first ever Nobel Prize along with Frédéric Passy.
1949 Four Geneva Conventions and universal validity Four Geneva Conventions and universal validity
Shortly after World War II, representatives of 63 countries from around the world gather at the diplomatic conference of 1949 and write the four Geneva Conventions. In doing so, they create an international legal framework under which countries undertake to adhere to humanitarian principles in times of war.
1977 Additional protocols Additional protocols
The manner in which war is waged has changed significantly since the rules on international humanitarian law were set out in the Geneva Conventions.
1979 Boom in aid organizations Boom in aid organizations
Following the fall of the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia, hundreds of thousands of people flee the guerilla tactics of the Khmer Rouge and seek shelter at the Thailand-Cambodia border.
1990 Non-Swiss delegates Non-Swiss delegates
In order to ensure its political neutrality, the ICRC, in a longstanding tradition, only sends Swiss civilians into the field as delegates. This strict rule is not eased until 1990. Initially, the change is met with resistance.
2005 Third protocol, the protection symbols Third protocol, the protection symbols
The Red Crystal is established as an additional protective symbol of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.


It is difficult to get a full overview of all the current conflicts and other situations of violence around the world.

"We can't prevent war, but we can help alleviate the suffering of people, and that's what motivates me everyday."
Peter Maurer, ICRC president
Afghanistan Colombia Israel Dem. Rep. of Congo Switzerland
Hector Cordoba Lozano - Wann sind Sie glücklich?