The reincarnation of the spirit of the Red Cross of Montenegro

Published: 20 November 2007 0:00 CET

At 132 years old, the Red Cross of Montenegro (RCM) found itself in the unusual situation of being officially admitted into an organisation younger than itself. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies accepted its 186th member at the opening of its General Assembly in Geneva on 20 November.

Founded in 1875, the RCM first operated in the context of Yugoslavia and later, of the Union of Serbia and Montenegro. In an interview on the day of his Society’s official admission, President Prof Dr Asim Dizdarevic expressed his delight:

“I like to joke that it is like the reincarnation of the spirit of the Red Cross of Montenegro as we are being admitted now into an organisation that is actually younger than us!” The 67-year-old said it was an exciting day for the Society: “I have a positive feeling of happiness. Our relations were good with other organisations but now being equal with all the other members brings fulfilment and pride to all those who work for the Red Cross of Montenegro.”

Dr Dizdarevic, who has been a Red Cross member since 1961, thanked all the friends and National Societies who “have shown their goodwill and trust by their willingness to admit us” to the Federation.

He described how being officially recognized meant the RCM had a greater level of responsibility being part of the Federation. But he added that the RCM had fulfilled the criteria for entry which showed that it had matured and grown as a National Society.

“We are an open National Society which wants to cooperate with all parts of the Movement,” he said. “I look forward to our young volunteers continuing to work together with other National Societies.”

With 30,000 active volunteers, the RCM’s activities focus on medical care for the most vulnerable people, including refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, as well as HIV programmes, first aid, and psychological support. The RCM has also been made an auxiliary to the Montenegro government, with public powers conferred to it such as voluntary blood donations.

One of the biggest tasks that has faced the RCM has been the volume of refugees and displaced people due to conflict in the Balkans. Dr Dizdarevic described how in 1999, the population of Montenegro was 640,000, with 145,000 displaced people or refugees – amounting to 22 per cent of the population.

“But 90 per cent of those displaced were accommodated in the homes of people in Montenegro, as is our tradition,” he said. Asked if the Montenegran delegation will celebrate their admission, Dr Dizdarevic revealed that they had brought some bottles of the national drink, a type of brandy, called grappa. “I think we will have a toast with it to celebrate this special day!”