Consequences for National Societies, ICRC and the International Federation

1. How can an emblem be used?

The emblems recognized by the Geneva Conventions have two uses: a protective use and an indicative use.

The first use is as a visible sign of the protection conferred by international humanitarian law on persons, vehicles and structures of the medical services of the armed forces, medical staff from National Societies and persons, vehicles and structures of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. This is the protective use of the emblem.

The second use of the emblem identifies persons, vehicles or structures linked to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. This is the indicative use of the emblem.

The most common indicative use of the emblem is the logo of National Societies, displaying the emblem, accompanied by the name or initials of the National Society and used to identify activities, persons and objects linked to the National Society.

2. Who decides whether the additional emblem will be used in a State?

As the red crystal, like the other emblems, is established by a treaty, the government of a State takes that decision. It is possible for a State to decide to adopt the additional emblem as the exclusive emblem to be used on its territory. It is also possible for the government to lay down rules governing the way the red crystal can be used for temporary or emergency purposes, in accordance with the Protocol. This is its own decision, taken in accordance with its own national laws.

3. What will happen to the emblem now in use in my country?

There will be no change unless the State wants to change. States and National Societies that currently use and want to keep using the red cross or the red crescent will continue to do so.

4. Will it be possible to incorporate the red cross, the red crescent or another emblem inside the red crystal?

For indicative use only, National Societies may choose to incorporate, inside the red crystal, a distinctive emblem recognized by the Geneva Conventions or a combination of such emblems. A National Society could therefore adopt the red crystal emblem without abandoning its 'traditional' red cross or red crescent emblem.

The Protocol also provides for new opportunities, allowing National Societies to include a combination of these emblems inside the red crystal. This flexibility will help some National Societies working outside their own territory in countries where their own emblem is not well known or respected.

5. What will be the situation in Israel?

The Protocol enables Magen David Adom in Israel to continue to use its red shield of David as its sole emblem inside Israel. When working outside Israel the Society will need to work according to the requirements of the host country. Normally this would mean that it could display the red shield of David incorporated within the red crystal, or use the red crystal alone.

6. What happens if a National Society operates in another country?

When Societies want to use their name and emblem in another country or territory they are always subject to the laws of that country and to the agreement of the National Society of that country, as well as to agreement from any countries of transit. This rule has been in place since 1921, and has been reaffirmed by the Protocol.

7. Will the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies or the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement change their names or current emblems?

No. The preamble of the Third Additional Protocol notes the determination of the international components of the Movement to retain their current names and emblems.

However, the Protocol also enables ICRC and the International Federation to decide to use the additional emblem, temporarily and under exceptional circumstance. This would be in complex situations where local circumstances suggest that it would provide additional protection and safety for victims, staff and operations.