Swiss Red Cross

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The Swiss Red Cross (Schweizerische Rote Kreuz, or SRC / SRK) is the national Red Cross society for Switzerland.

It was founded in 1866 in Bern, Switzerland. In accordance with the Geneva Red Cross Agreement and its recognition through the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, it is a member of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The SRC is Switzerland's oldest and largest relief agency, made up of 24 cantonal leagues, five rescue organizations, three foundations and two societies.


Foundation and first year[edit]

Gustave Moynier
Guillaume-Henri Dufour
Medal issued by SRC to raise funds for "soldiers and their families" circa 1919

The Swiss Red Cross was established on 17 July 1866 at the instigation of Federal Councillor Jakob Dubs and the Red Cross members Gustave Moynier and Guillaume-Henri Dufour. After its foundation, the SRC named itself as an "aid organisation [Hülfsverein] for Swiss soldiers and their families".

Building the national organisation was, however, full of difficulties. For one thing, there was very little consistency in the organisation of Switzerland at the federal level at this time, and for another the organisation was hindered by political and confessional arguments. Also, Switzerland's neutrality and the existence of the International Committee of the Red Cross as an institution in Swiss civil-society posed further difficulties.

In 1882 the Zurich Pfarrer Walter Kempin founded the "Centralverein des Schweizerischen Roten Kreuzes" (Central Verein of the Swiss Red Cross), and was its leader until 1885. It lasted until the start of the 20th century, with the appointment of the doctor Walther Sahli as standing Central Secretary in 1898 from the Centralverein and with the Hülfsverein founded by Dubs, Moynier and Dufour beginning to consolidate the SRC structures. As a result, cantonal and local sections were established, Red Cross nursing organisations formed and transport sections set up. In 1903 the official role of the SRC was codified in a decree of the Federal Assembly, as a promoter of the nursing and in the service of the army.

With the invasion of the Bourbaki army in March 1871, the SRC saw its first action as an auxiliary arm. It counted, interned 85,000 for six weeks in Switzerland to furnish member of the French army medically.

First World War[edit]

In the First World War, the SRC was responsible for the social and material support of soldiers, such as by specially-equipped Sanitätszüge for the repatriation of approximately 80,000 wounded soldiers to their own countries, and for treatment of wounded soldiers in Switzerland. A further focal point in the SRC's activities was helping in the efforts against the Spanish flu epidemic, raging in Switzerland and throughout Europe in 1918.

Inter-war years[edit]

In the inter-war years, the SRC delivered - among other things - food aid to other countries, such as to Vienna in 1919 and to Russia (suffering from famine) in 1922.

Second World War[edit]

During the Second World War, the SRC provided for the support of the civil population and the army with material and auxiliary personnel and organized a blood donation service. It also promoted nursing training. It provided for 180,000 children to come to Switzerland in the form of the "Kinderhilfe" and provided for civilians and soldiers interned in Switzerland. In almost all the countries of Europe, it had own aid programmes or was involved in those set up by others.

After 1945[edit]

The SRC had its national and international meaning strengthened by both world wars and so from 1945 it expanded its scope and gained new recognition both at home and abroad, shifting its focus from military to civilian aid. It made a large contribution to forming the Swiss public health system, establishing and running a blood donation service and helping in outpatient care and occupational therapy. Helping with transport and house visits, and training carers, the SRC is also engaged in the social-medical area, and was also in large part responsible for the increasing professionalization of hospitals, nursing and rescue-work.

The SRC also actively supports refugees, asylum seekers and migrants and works in reconstruction and aid work. In international development, it is a partner of Switzerland's "Direktion für Entwicklung und Zusammenarbeit" (direction for development and collaboration) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and is well known in the Red Cross movement as being one of the most active national societies on the international scene.


In accordance with Switzerland itself, the Swiss Red Cross is a federally structured association based in Bern. In 2007 it had 4.814 employees, with 2.518 in full-time positions, as well as 50,000 volunteers who work about 1.36 million hours.

Its central organ is the "Red Cross Assembly", made up of 64 delegates from the Cantonal Associations and 33 members of the rescue organizations. The 9-member "Red Cross Council" deals with strategic decisions and is supported through the offices of the SRC. The President (since 2001 the lawyer and former State Councillor René Rhinow) represents the SRC and the "Red Cross Council", as well as being ex officio vice-president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Since 2008 the SRC's director is the economist, legal and social scientist Markus Mader.

20% of the SRC's funding comes from private donations, over 50% from the health services it provides, 13% from the public purse, and the remaining 17% from other sources. In 2007 the SRC's income was 750 million Swiss francs, with a balance of 1.7 million Swiss francs.

SRC Headquarters[edit]

The SRC offices in Bern and Wabern handle the day-to-day business of the SRC at national level. They carry out the instructions of the Red Cross Assembly and the Red Cross Council and are the centre of expertise and services for the whole SRC Group. The SRC Headquarters are divided into four departments: International Cooperation (disaster relief -within Switzerland or abroad-, reconstruction, development cooperation), Health & Integration (health, integration, SRC Outpatient Clinic for victims of torture and war, asylum, vocational training, fundamentals & Development, Red Cross Service), marketing & Communication, finance, human resources & logistics. The Management Services comprise the Management Secretariat, the Legal Service, the Delegate for International Relations, a Competence Centre for Youth and a Competence Centre for Voluntary Work, and Institutional Development.

Cantonal Associations[edit]

Similar to the federal structure of Switzerland, the SRC is a decentralized organization, with 24 cantonal associations throughout Switzerland. The 24 cantonal associations adjust their work to the needs of the local population in their catchment area. They are independent associations and rely on the commitment of more than 2,000 staff and over 10,000 volunteers. The cantonal associations mainly provide services in the health promotion, support and integration sectors. The services are intended for the elderly and the sick, the housebound and their family carers, families with children, and children and teenagers. For issues of nationwide significance, the cantonal associations work together. Their collaboration is coordinated by the National Conference of the Cantonal Red Cross Associations and the National Conference of Cantonal Association Managers. The governing body of the cantonal associations is the Executive Committee. The cantonal associations have their National Secretariat in Bern. The National Secretariat of the cantonal associations carries out the organizational and administrative work for the governing bodies of the cantonal associations.

The Rescue Organisations[edit]


In certain sectors, the SRC has founded organizations that operate under private law (foundation or joint stock company) or civil law (association).

Other features[edit]


Presidents of the SRC and its precursor organisations:

External links[edit]