There are today 191 recognized National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the world. National Societies are independent relief organizations that carry out their own humanitarian activities and support the public authorities in their own countries as auxiliaries in the humanitarian field. Each National Society is made up of volunteers and staff who provide a wide variety of services according to the needs in the country. This can include health programmes, first aid, disaster relief, social services, assistance to victims of war and natural disasters, and restoring family links, as well as the promotion of international humanitarian law and the principles of the Movement.
A volunteer of the Red Cross Society of the Democratic
Republic of Congo distributes Red Cross messages.
© ICRC/LEMBRYK, Wojtek
All activities of National Societies must strictly follow the seven Fundamental Principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (the Movement): humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality. According to the Movement’s Statutes, the National Societies "carry out their humanitarian activities in conformity with their own statutes and national legislation."
Generally, the name of a National Society refers to the name of its own country and the emblem under which it operates.
To be a full member of the Movement a National Society must first be recognized by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and then admitted to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (the Federation).
The role of National Societies in Restoring Family Links
As members of the Family Links Network of the Movement, National Societies play a crucial role in helping people who have become separated from members of their families or are without news of them as a consequence of armed conflict, other situations of violence, natural or man-made disasters, or migration as well as in other situations of humanitarian need.
They search for family members, restore contact between family members and, if possible, help reunite families. These activities may extend well beyond the end of a conflict or a natural disaster.
Each National Society has the responsibility to organize Restoring Family Links services within their Society as needed. It cooperates with the Central Tracing Agency of the ICRC in Geneva and with other National Societies. National Societies help each other when searching for separated family members across borders, share experiences and sometimes support each other in the development of the services.