Following recent historiography, the chapter calls into question the overlapping of the foundation of the Red Cross and the origins of humanitarianism. At the same time it explains why the birth of the ICRC marked a turning point: it led to the completion of acts that were already in progress, it catalysed the different forces in action and it intercepted shared opinions and feelings. In the first instance the new organisation directed aid and treatment work towards war victims, marking for a long time the main boundaries of humanitarian action. As well as this, the initiatives promoted by the Genevan committee as early as the beginning of the 1860s for soldiers struck down by enemy fire or illness encouraged an interpenetration between humanitarianism and warfare. This took a leap forward in the Franco-Prussian War and then again in the First World War. At the same time, Europe became the centre-stage for humanitarian operations.
took a leap forward in the Franco-Prussian War and then again in the First World War. At the same time, Europe took centre stage for humanitarianoperations. This principally Eurocentric perspective lasted for around a century, intertwining itself with the redefinition of both the geopolitical map of Europe and the international balance of power.
We can identify in the path of action followed by the Genevan committee certain elements that, in the ensuing decades, characterised the development of the international aid system. One element was the emergence of
: Macmillan, 1930), p. 4.
59 Davide Rodogno, ‘Non-state Actors’ HumanitarianOperations in the Aftermath of the First World War: The Case of the Near East Relief’, in F. Klose (ed.), The Emergence of Humanitarian Intervention: Ideas and Practice from the Nineteenth Century to the Present (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), pp. 185–207, at p. 191.
60 Ann Marie Wilson, ‘In the Name of God, Civilization, and Humanity: The United States and the Armenian Massacres of the 1890s’, Le Mouvement Social , 2 (2009), pp. 27–44.
led to their flight, could now ask for the recognition of their refugee status on the grounds of religious, political or racial persecution.
Assistance for the refugee population was also one of the main problems in Vietnam, where humanitarianoperations were an integral part of the United States’ participation in the conflict. The big US NGOs, which already had a special relationship with the Washington authorities for the post-war reconstruction programmes in Korea, played a major role in carrying out relief work for Vietnamese civilians. The most
representing ‘the greatest failure in the history of ICRC’ 20 the Holocaust opened a deep wound in the very way in which humanitarianism had been thought of and enacted by one of its main interpreters. The significance of this wound reached far beyond the individual organisation’s issues.
At any rate, the implications of the wartime experience were manifold and in certain ways changed the characteristics of the humanitarianoperations and their main players. The war catalysed the circuits of transnational solidarity that already existed and gave an impulse to
’ expenses (for example the costs of peacekeeping or humanitarianoperations) is not based on the principle of sovereign equality either, it being accepted that it would be unfair for institutional law to recognise that the financing of IGOs should be shared equally. In most IGOs, financial contributions from member states are based on their capacity to pay, so that a poor state will pay far less than a rich one. A tension then arises for the richer states may well argue that they should be entitled to more privileges and more voting power. It can be seen from this
intergovernmental agencies. In 1970, the UN declared a second Decade of Development (the first had been inaugurated in 1961) and the increasingly central role of Third World countries within the General Assembly significantly influenced the definition of its new aims. Over the decade, however, emergency relief once again imposed itself as a priority for humanitarianoperations.
1 Harry S. Truman, ‘Inaugural Address’, 20 January 1949, at http://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/50yr_archive/inagural20jan1949.htm (accessed November 2018).