190 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 78 PART 2 MARCH 2020
What the conference passed established the Red Cross and was the precursor
of the first Geneva Convention.
Independent of the resolutions, the conference made three recommendations:
(a) that Governments should extend their patronage to Relief Committees
which may be formed, and facilitate as far as possible the
accomplishment of their task;
(b) that in time of war the belligerent nations should proclaim the neutrality
of ambulances and military hospitals, and that neutrality
should likewise be recognized, fully and absolutely, in respect of
official medical personnel, voluntary medical personnel, inhabitants
of the country who go to the relief of the wounded, and the
(c) that a uniform distinctive sign be recognized for the Medical Corps
of all armies … and, that a uniform flag also be adopted in all countries
for ambulances and hospitals.
These recommendations were the seed from which all the Geneva Conventions
that were to follow eventually blossomed.
FIRST GENEVA CONVENTION
The Committee of Five set about arranging a conference to endorse the
three recommendations at the same time as encouraging those who were
establishing relief societies in many of the European states. In January 1864
Prussia endeavoured to seize the Danish border states of Schleswig and Holstein,
so the Committee sent delegates into the war zone, wearing the red
cross armband and requiring them to report back. Several states, including
Prussia, established relief societies. Austria declined, largely because its old
enemy Emperor Napoleon III was an enthusiastic supporter of the cause.
The British, prodded by Florence Nightingale, loftily claimed that, since
they had undertaken extensive reforms of their own medical military
administration following the Crimean War, there was no need for the formation
of a relief committee. Nightingale’s fear was that governments bent on
making war would welcome the formation of the relief societies and treat it
as an excuse from having to provide medical care for their own wounded.
The objections of the French high command were brusquely overridden by
The Swiss agreed to host the forthcoming conference, which was set for
August 1864 in Geneva. Invitations were sent to all European states, the
United States, Mexico and Brazil. Japan, they decided, was too remote to
warrant an invitation. Moynier and Dunant drew up a draft convention for
circulation among the delegates.