Cover Image
close this bookBasic Rules of International Humanitarian Law, (ICRC, 26 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentForeword
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentComponents of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement
View the documentFundamental Principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement
View the documentThe distinctive emblem and its value
View the documentFundamental Rules of International Humanitarian Law applicable in Armed Conflicts
View the documentSome Rules of International Humanitarian Law applicable for First Aiders
View the documentMedical Personnel
View the documentSome examples of tasks in which First Aiders could be involved during a conflict
View the documentConclusion
View the documentBibliography
View the documentBack Cover

Fundamental Principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement

adopted at the International Conference of the Red Cross, Vienna 1965 and Geneva 1986.


The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, born of a desire to bring assistance without discrimination to the wounded on the battlefield, endeavours - in its international and national capacity - to prevent and alleviate human suffering wherever it may be found. Its purpose is to protect life and health and to ensure respect for the human being. It promotes mutual understanding, friendship, co-operation and lasting peace amongst all peoples.

Founded on the respect of the human being, this is the highest principle inseparably linked with the idea of peace, the principle that sums up our Movement's ideal and on which all the other principles are based. To see and share the suffering of others, prevent and alleviate it in the face of violence is life-giving work. It is the first step on the road to preventing and eliminating war. Humanity is an essential factor of true peace between men and nations: "Per humanitatem ad pacem" - Through humanity to peace.


It makes no discrimination as to nationality, race, religious beliefs, class or political opinions. It endeavours to relieve the suffering of individuals, being guided solely by their needs, and to give priority to the most urgent cases of distress.

This positive principle of helping others without discrimination reminds us that no distinction should be applied to people in distress. It is the opposite of the feelings of superiority, or acts of discrimination which are at the origin of so many conflicts.


In order to continue to enjoy the confidence of all, the Movement may not take sides in hostilities or engage at any time in controversies of a political, racial, religious or ideological nature.

For the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, neutrality is a means and not an end. Neutrality does not imply indifference to suffering nor acceptance of war. It is an indispensable condition for effective humanitarian action dependent on the confidence of all.


The Movement is independent. The National Societies, while auxiliaries in the humanitarian services of their governments and subject to the laws of their respective countries, must always maintain their autonomy so that they may be able at all times to act in accordance with the principles of the Movement.

The independence of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies from public powers is essential for their humanitarian activities in the respect of the Fundamental Principles. It allows that spirit of peace which is characteristic of our Movement to reign in the hearts of the men and women comprising it. Without isolating the Red Cross and Red Crescent from others, it gives them the necessary autonomy for their humanitarian work, which makes them a unifying force amongst all peoples.

Voluntary service

It is a voluntary relief movement not prompted in any manner by desire for gain.

To bring relief to one's fellow man, voluntarily and unselfishly, bespeaks the generous spirit of service and the fellowship that opens the door to reconciliation.


There can be only one Red Cross or one Red Crescent Society in any one country. It must be open to all. It must carry on its humanitarian work throughout its territory.

The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement unites all people within each country's borders and so is a factor of internal peace.


The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, in which all Societies have equal status and share equal responsibilities and duties in helping each other, is worldwide.

Our Movement's universality stems from the attachment of each of its members to common values. One of its characteristics being the duty to help one another, it makes for the propagation in all countries of these values, thereby promoting friendship and peace among men.