Frequently asked questions


1. What is the relationship between the International Federation and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)?

In conflict situations ICRC takes the lead role and directs the work of its partners. In natural disasters, it is the International Federation that takes the lead role. 

2. What is the Movement?

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the 186 National Societies form the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. All organizations within the Movement share the same common fundamental principles, but are not linked hierarchically.

3. What are National Societies?

 National Societies act as auxiliaries to the public authorities of their own countries in the humanitarian field and provide a range of services including disaster relief, health and social programmes, and assistance to people affected by war.

4.How many National Societies are there?

 There are currently 186 National Societies.

5. Why do some countries use the cross and some countries use the crescent?

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies uses two globally recognized emblems – the Red Cross and the Red Crescent – set on a white background within a red rectangle. The Federation's member National Societies use one or other of these emblems – either the cross or the crescent. In some conflicts, the cross or the crescent has been interpreted as having a religious significance. Neither has a religious significance, but some countries feel more comfortable using one rather than the other.

6. Why was an additional emblem, the red crystal, adopted by States party to the Geneva Conventions ?

The emblems recognized by the Geneva Conventions of 1949 are the red cross, the red crescent and the red lion and sun. According to the Conventions and the rules of the International Movement, a National Society had to use one of them to be recognized as a Movement member. Since 1980, only the red cross and red crescent emblems have been in use. These are used in more than 190 countries. Unfortunately, the red cross and red crescent emblems are sometimes wrongly perceived as having religious, cultural or political connotations. This has affected respect for the emblems and has diminished the protection the emblems offer to victims and to humanitarian and medical personnel. The solution, which has been endorsed by governments and national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, involved the adoption, in December 2005, by States party to the Geneva Conventions, of an additional protocol to the Geneva Conventions, creating an emblem additional to the red cross and red crescent. The additional emblem, known as the red crystal appears as a red frame in the shape of a square on edge, on a white background, and is free from any religious, political or other connotation. It will have the same international status as the existing emblems, a status enshrined in the Geneva Conventions. The adoption of the additional emblem enables National Societies that find it difficult to use either the red cross or the red crescent to become members of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. It will also provide protection in cases where neither the red cross nor the red crescent is respected as neutral. Find out more about the emblems.

7. How many volunteers do you have?

There are approximately 100 million volunteers worldwide.

La Federación Internacional de Sociedades de la Cruz Roja y de la Media Luna Roja es la mayor organización humanitaria del mundo, con 189 sociedades miembros. Siendo uno de los componentes del Movimiento Internacional de la Cruz Roja y de la Media Luna Roja, nuestra labor se rige por los siete principios fundamentales: humanidad, imparcialidad, neutralidad, independencia, voluntariado, unidad y universalidad.