International agency concerned with the alleviation of human suffering. Its founder, the Swiss philanthropist Henri Dunant (1828–1910), horrified by the suffering he saw at the Battle of Solferino, proposed the formation of voluntary aid societies for the relief of war victims. In 1863 the International Committee of the Red Cross was established and in the following year twelve governments signed the Geneva Convention. This drew up the terms for the care of soldiers and was extended to include victims of naval warfare (1906), prisoners of war (1929), and, 20 years later, civilians. Its conventions have now been ratified by almost 150 nations. Its flag is a red cross on a white background. In Muslim countries the cross is replaced by a red crescent. The International Red Cross was awarded Nobel Peace Prizes in 1917 and 1944.
Subjects: Warfare and Defence.