Red Cross and Red Crescent around the world: Unique Societies, same principles  

Every day, members of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement respond to emergencies and disasters around the world. Each Red Cross or Red Crescent National Society is distinct from each other but linked together by the same guiding principles.  

So how does this all work? 

All Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies follow Fundamental Principles - principles that shape the work we do and offer guidance on how that work should be done. The Fundamental Principles are humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality.  

While we follow the same Fundamental Principles, each Red Cross and Red Crescent Society is unique from each other. That means that we don’t have authority over each other, or a say in what the other Societies offers – for example, the British Red Cross wouldn’t tell the Canadian Red Cross how to offer Psychological First Aid in Canada.   
A man in a Red Cross jacket carrying a black and white dog on his shouldersBecause Societies are unique, they offer different kinds of supports and services based on what is needed in their country and communities. For example, the Mexican Red Cross has search and rescue dogs that can help find people after disasters – recently they sent some of those dogs and their handlers to help in the response to the earthquakes in Syria and Türkiye.  
In addition to National Societies working in their own countries, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) both support those impacted by emergencies and disasters. The IFRC works to coordinate and support the work of National Societies, while the ICRC provides humanitarian assistance and protection for those impacted by armed conflict and other situations of violence. 

Sharing expertise and resources 

Just because we are separate from each other, doesn’t mean we have to go in alone. The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is the largest humanitarian network in the world, filled with different expertise and specially trained staff and volunteers.

We’re on the ground in our communities, with existing relationships and programs before a disaster or emergency hits. This means the local Red Cross or Red Crescent often already understands where help may be needed, and can help in the days before, like distributing supplies ahead of an anticipated storm to those who may need them.  
A woman in a Red Cross vest carrying a white bucket with Red Cross logo looking at a fallen treeWhen responding to a disaster or emergency, a Red Cross or Red Crescent Society may need additional resources, so they can ask for help from the rest of the Movement.

Sometimes this support looks like the Canadian Red Cross sending an emergency health clinic to help meet needs that arise due to an event like the Nepal Earthquake in 2015. Assistance can also mean sending staff and volunteers to help make sure there are enough people on the ground, like the Canadian Red Cross workers who helped in North Carolina after Hurricane Florence.  

Providing support 

There are times when extra workers aren’t what is most helpful for a Red Cross or Red Crescent Society., Local personnel know their communities best, but sometimes just don’t have the supplies or funds needed to help. That’s why you may not always see Canadian Red Cross workers on the ground in another country, but we are still working to help respond to a disaster by sending the kind of support the impacted National Society needs most.  
A group of people wearing masks standing together behind a table with a cake on it.Outside disasters and emergencies, Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are able to share their skills with each other. The Canadian Red Cross helps offer trainings for our colleagues to help build their capacity and use some of the tools we have found helpful. This is another way that we can use our humanitarian network as a benefit.  

While Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies operate independently from one another, our strength is in our belief in the same Fundamental Principles and our commitment to help where it is most needed.  

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