Statement by Dr. Gerrit Jan van Heuven Goedhart, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, for International Red Cross Day, 8 May 1952
None of those gathered on the 8th of May 1948 in the little Swiss village of Heiden to pay tribute to the tribute to the memory of Henri Dunant, who spent the last days of his life there, could have foreseen that three years later "International Red Cross Day" was to be observed in 51 countries at the four corners of the globe. This year even more countries may participate, as Red Cross Societies today are to be found in 68 different States. It is a most encouraging development. It proves that millions can be inspired by the initiative of one, it proves that humanitarian work has a tremendous impact on humanity, it proves that good unites more than evil divides.
"International Red Cross Day ... proves that millions can be inspired by the initiative of one, it proves that humanitarian work has a tremendous impact on humanity, it proves that good unites more than evil divides."
The work of the Red Cross is more than "good". Not only the millions of men, women and children who in the course of nearly ninety years were helped by the Red Cross benefited form its work, but so did the millions of members of the Red Cross Societies themselves. Nothing makes human beings feel better than to help other human beings. That is why Henri Dunant by his great initiative opened the door to happiness for both the helped and the helpers.
"Nothing makes human beings feel better than to help other human beings."
Every 8th of May should remind the whole world of the existence of that door and invite more people to join hands to help those who are in need and distress. Among these latter are hundreds of thousands of refugees. As a matter of fact, the constituent meeting of the League of Red Cross Societies, in April 1919, included refugees in its programme. This was two years before the League of Nations appealed to another great European, Dr. Fridtjof Nansen, to come to the aid of the Russian and Armenian refugees. Ever since, the Red Cross has taken various actions for the benefit of those who sacrificed all they had for the sake of what they believe.
As a servant of people who suffer, as one who is privileged by being called upon to work for others, I can only hope that the spirit of Henri Dunant will become the spirit of all human beings, for there are still tremendous areas of distress, and millions of people in need. The founder of the Red Cross never allowed himself to be discouraged. He believed in humanity. The success of his initiative expresses itself on the 8th of May 1952 in the existence of 68 Red Cross Societies with millions and millions of members who, like Henri Dunant, simply believe in humanity. They form the army of neighbourly love, which every human being is called upon to join, not only on the 8th on May, but every day of the year. That, to my mind, is the message of "International Red Cross Day".