IRRC No. 155

Possibilities and Limits of the Red Cross

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A survey, over a period of time, of what the public thinks of the Red Cross as reflected in the spoken, written and audio-visual media, has led to astonishing conclusions: two diametrically opposite trends have steadily emerged. On the one hand, at national and international level, the Red Cross, whose activities over the past few years have developed to a surprising extent, has received great praise, in fact too much praise. Yet at the same time bitter criticism has constantly been levelled at the Red Cross. A study of the causes of that praise and criticism, however paradoxical this may seem, shows that both stem from the very same facts and events!Obviously they have been due to the viewpoint held, the hopes pinned on Red Cross action, and one's idea of Red Cross possibilities. While those who are realistic in their appraisal of the Red Cross express their appreciation of the results, however meagre they may be, others show keen disappointment because they have assigned the Red Cross tasks and achievements far beyond its field of activity. In addition, all manner of personal considerations, financial and otherwise, weigh the balance this way and that. Yet by taking a closer look at things we realize that the very factors that make for the strength of the Red Cross and determine its possibilities also set its limits, even though the attempt to exceed those limits may have no untoward effect on practical activities.

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