Promoting the Fundamental Principles and humanitarian values

In a world with increasing isolation, tension and recourse to violence, it is clear that the Red Cross Red Crescent must champion the individual and community values which encourage respect for other human beings and a willingness to work together to find solutions to community problems.


The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, born of a desire to bring assistance without discrimination to the wounded on the battlefield, endeavours, in its international and national capacity, to prevent and alleviate human suffering wherever it may be found. Its purpose is to protect life and health and to ensure respect for the human being. It promotes mutual understanding, friendship, cooperation and lasting peace amongst all peoples. Read more about the principle of Humanity.


It makes no discrimination as to nationality, race, religious beliefs, class or political opinions. It endeavours to relieve the suffering of individuals, being guided solely by their needs, and to give priority to the most urgent cases of distress. Read more about the principle of Impartiality.


In order to continue to enjoy the confidence of all, the Movement may not take sides in hostilities or engage at any time in controversies of a political, racial, religious or ideological nature. Read more about the principle of Neutrality.


The Movement is independent. The National Societies, while auxiliaries in the humanitarian services of their governments and subject to the laws of their respective countries, must always maintain their autonomy so that they may be able at all times to act in accordance with the principles of the Movement. Read more about the principle of Independence.

Voluntary service

It is a voluntary relief movement not prompted in any manner by desire for gain. Read more about the principle of Voluntary service.


There can be only one Red Cross or one Red Crescent Society in any one country. It must be open to all. It must carry on its humanitarian work throughout its territory. Read more about the principle of Unity.


The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, in which all Societies have equal status and share equal responsibilities and duties in helping each other, is worldwide. Read more about the principle of Universality.

50 years of the Fundamental Principles

With a view to preparing the 50th anniversary of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement Fundamental Principles in 2015, the Movement has embarked on a 'Fundamental Principles initiative'. The initiative seeks to celebrate the importance and relevance of the Red Cross Red Crescent Fundamental Principles, while critically reflecting together on their application in today’s humanitarian contexts.

The aim is to influence the behaviour of the people we work with, through a better understanding of the Fundamental Principles and humanitarian values.

The main priorities for this area of work are:

  • Developing a better understanding internally. 
    Initiatives have been developed to ensure that Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers and staff understand and act on the basis of the Fundamental Principles in their work with vulnerable people in times of peace, disaster or armed conflict.
  • Raising awareness of public and private authorities. 
    Ensuring that partner authorities understand how Red Cross Red Crescent works will facilitate better cooperation. Informing these groups about operational procedures, National Societies' auxiliary status, and the need to respect the emblem, for example, are all important elements in building good working partnerships.

Influencing behaviour in the community

By applying these principles and values in our work with communities and vulnerable groups, we can show their importance. Based on experience and operational capacity, Red Cross Red Crescent can be a catalyst for change and make a difference in the way people behave towards each other.

Principles in action

"Volunteering gave me confidence." The story of an Ebola responder in Sierra Leone

“If I don’t do it, who will?” asks Red Cross volunteer Mustafa Gamanga

Burying Ebola’s victims with dignity: If we don’t do it, who will?

Mamadi Kourouma, a volunteer with the Red Cross Society of Guinea, is extremely busy this morning

Our Principles in Action

By Elhadj As Sy, Secretary General, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent...

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world's largest humanitarian organization, with 190 member National Societies. As part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, our work is guided by seven fundamental principles; humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality. About this site & copyright