8.5.2013: World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day

Article, 08.05.2013

8 May is World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day and also the anniversary of the birth of its founder and Nobel laureate, Henry Dunant. This year, 2013, when several special organised events have also been included in the calendar to commemorate 150 years of the ICRC, Switzerland is setting out to pay tribute tothe partners who are keeping its humanitarian tradition and commitment alive. The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) is taking the opportunity offered by the 8 May to emphasise the excellent relations that Switzerland has with the Swiss Red Cross (SRC) and the close cooperation that exists between them.

The Swiss Confederation has recognised the SRC as the sole Red Cross society in the country, and it is an important and preferential partner of the public authorities in accomplishing humanitarian tasks both nationally and internationally. On the ground, Switzerland and the SRC work together closely both operationally and strategically in matters of shared priorities. The SRC provides Switzerland with support in exercising its responsibility to provide humanitarian aid and to disseminate international humanitarian law and the fundamental principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. The SCR is a traditional partner of the Confederation’s humanitarian aid and particularly of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

The SDC supports the SRC’s international cooperation by making an annual programme contribution of approximately CHF 10 million to fund its programmes for the promotion of health and the reduction of disaster risks. Every year, the SRC provide emergency humanitarian aid to the victims of natural disasters and armed conflicts in some twenty countries. Taking the Syrian crisis, for instance, the SDC has worked together with the SRC to supply winter survival kits to the Syrian refugees living in the camps along the border between Turkey and Syria (with the practical implementation being handled by the Turkish Red Crescent Society). In addition, the SDC provides support to the SRC through an annual appropriation amounting to CHF 2.5 million to reinforce its capacity to provide a rapid response in an emergency or disaster situation abroad. Moreover, like the Confederation's humanitarian aid, the SRC is one of the partners in Swiss Rescue. The latter can rely on the SRC to deliver and distribute emergency and survival supplies at the beginning of the operation. The reinforcement of the Red Cross’s role in assisting the Confederation is illustrated in particular by the complementary nature of the two parties' national and international activities.

In the context of the special relations that exist between the public authorities and the SRC, the latter performs functions domestically that have been assigned to it by the Federal Council, such as the supply of blood and blood products throughout the land and support for the military medical services by the Red Cross Service. However, the partnership between public bodies and the SRC, with its more than 70 000 volunteers and 500 000 members within Switzerland, goes way beyond that. The 24 cantonal associations of the Red Cross work together closely with cantonal and communal bodies to take some of the workload off the public social and health service. Examples of this are the services provided to support individuals and families, and also relatives with care responsibilities, and so on. Thanks to the training provided to Red Cross care assistants, they are able to help combat the domestic shortage of care personnel in the country. In the context of support in the community for the elderly, the Federal Social Insurance Office provides annual contributions of approximately CHF 11 million to support services offered throughout the country, such as the Red Cross transport service and its emergency telephone.

The Federal Office for Migration and the Federal Office of Public Health work closely with the SRC in matters of integration. The SRC provides specific services in the public-health field intended to ensure that individuals in stressful situations can also manage to find access to the services of the health-care system and that they are empowered to take care of their own health. In the area of asylum, the SRC (acting in part on behalf of the cantons) is active in the provision of services for the benefit of asylum seekers, recognised refugees and provisionally admitted foreigners, including the provision of advice to voluntary returnees. Public offices and the SRC work closely together in the interests of the efficiency of the asylum system.

A close partnership also exists between public offices and the SRC in the provision of rescue services in Switzerland. Cantonal and communal rescue services rely on sharing operations with and being backed up by the Red Cross rescue organisations (Swiss Samaritan Alliance, SSB, Swiss Rescue Society, SLRG SSS, Swiss Air Ambulance Service, Rega, Swiss Association of Sniffer and Rescue Dogs, REDOG, and the Swiss Military Medical Service Society SMSV/SSTS). The Red Cross rescue organisations working with volunteers are the first link in the rescue chain on land or in and around water and are partially integrated in the official rescue machinery and civil protection.

Switzerland also wishes to mark today, 8 May, by reiterating its support for all the constituent organisations of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, including the ICRC and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.