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The founders’ legacy

One hundred years ago this year, two founders of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, Henry Dunant and Gustave Moynier, passed away. Although they died only a few months from each other, they did not die as friends. In fact, these two key Movement architects — the visionary and idealist Dunant and the “builder” Moynier — were deeply at odds.

Their disagreements ranged from principled debate over the Movement’s role and direction to petty squabbles over tactics and jealousy over public recognition — often expressed in snippy pen-andink exchanges, commencing curtly with “Monsieur”.

Still, without both of these men, the Movement as we know it would probably not exist. This year, the contributions of the two men and the relationship between them are being commemorated with a series of events and exhibits (see article on pages 22-23). After last year’s celebrations in Solferino, in which we feted Dunant’s inspirational role, 2010 offers a chance to reflect on the particular contributions of Moynier.

Building on Dunant’s inspiration, Moynier’s dogged persistence, political skill and extreme work ethic ensured that the International Committee for Relief to the Wounded (as it was then known) had a permanent and prominent place both in global forums and on the battlefield.

The 100th anniversary of Dunant and Moynier’s deaths may also be a good time to reflect on the role of debate and diversity within the humanitarian sector and the Movement, as well as in this magazine. If two Movement founders can disagree so strongly and still leave such a powerful legacy, then the diversity of views and approaches evident in the humanitarian field is in fact a sign of strength. We may not stop warfare, natural disasters, famine and disease in the next 100 years, but through debate, discussion and disagreement we will learn from mistakes, improve our response and expand our humanitarian impact.

In a recent survey of Red Cross Red Crescent magazine readers, many said they would like to see more diversity of view reflected in the pages of this magazine. Among other things, they would like us to do less Movement self-promotion and more articles that ask tough questions and bring more external viewpoints. In this edition, this is reflected in several stories that raise important questions:
• Are we losing ground in the fight against HIV?
• How do we ensure universal access to first aid when even many developed countries are far from reaching this goal?
• How can the Movement fulfil the strategy of assisting migrants “irrespective of status” given the complex and vast nature of the problem?

And in coming issues, we will have stories that examine whether the very humanitarian action inspired by Dunant and Moynier sometimes causes unintended harm — prolonging conflict, creating dependencies or competing with local economies.

One hundred years after the death of Dunant and Moynier, these questions are as relevant as ever as we continue to refine our role and our relationships with other players within a complex and growing humanitarian space. RCRC magazine can become an important forum for discussions of these issues in the Movement and we welcome your comments about our coverage along the way.

Malcolm Lucard is Red Cross Red Crescent Editor

 

 


One hundred years
after the death of
Dunant and Moynier,
these questions are
as relevant as ever
as we continue to
refine our role and
our relationships with
other players within a
complex and growing
humanitarian space.


 

 

 

 


Henry Dunant, the visionary who inspired the Movement
©Frédéric Boissonnas/ICRC

 

 


Gustave Moynier, the ‘builder’ who had the political skill and determination to make the Movement work.
©Pierre George/ICRC

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