Henry Dunant: The Visionary Behind the Geneva Convention

The Dark Shadow of War and Abuse: A Call for Change

In the midst of this global turmoil, ongoing conflicts such as the situation in Ukraine and the issue of Palestine further highlight the challenges faced in upholding human rights. These conflicts serve as stark reminders of the consequences of unchecked power and the erosion of fundamental principles that safeguard the dignity and well-being of individuals. 

In Ukraine, the conflict has resulted in widespread human rights abuses, including violence against civilians and the displacement of populations. Similarly, the long-standing Palestinian issue continues to be marked by violations of human rights, including restricted access to basic necessities and the denial of self-determination.

The Geneva Conventions hold immense importance in the context of human civilization as they play a vital role in promoting a peaceful world. These internationally recognized treaties establish a framework for the protection of individuals affected by armed conflicts, emphasizing the principle of humanity even in times of war. 

💻 Table of Contents:

  1. The Global Acceptance: 194 Countries Ratify the Geneva Convention
  2. Henri Dunant: A Swiss Social Activist's Response to War's Horros
  3. The Modificaiton of the Geneva Convention

Henry Dunant: The Visionary Behind the Geneva Convention
Napoleon III at the Battle of Solferino

By setting clear guidelines for the treatment of prisoners of war, civilians, and the wounded, the Conventions aim to mitigate the suffering inflicted during armed conflicts. The Geneva Conventions serve as a powerful reminder that even in the midst of conflict, compassion and respect for human life must prevail for a more peaceful and just world.

The Global Acceptance: 194 Countries Ratify the Geneva Convention

The Geneva Convention refers to a series of diplomatic meetings that resulted in agreements known as the Humanitarian Law of Armed Conflicts. These agreements consist of a set of international laws that aim to ensure the humane treatment of military personnel who are wounded or captured, as well as medical personnel and non-military civilians during times of war or armed conflicts. The initial agreements were established in 1864 and underwent significant updates following the conclusion of World War II in 1949.

The Geneva Convention came into effect on October 21, 1950, after being ratified by Yugoslavia on April 21, 1950. Following its entry into force, a certified copy of the Convention was sent to the UN Secretariat for registration and publication on November 2, 1950. The Secretariat provided the depositary with a certificate of registration, which is now stored in the archives of the Swiss Confederation. In 1977, two additional protocols, known as Protocols I and II, were added to the existing Conventions of 1949. Protocol I aimed to enhance protections for civilians, military personnel, and journalists during international armed conflicts. 

It specifically prohibited the use of weapons that cause excessive injury or unnecessary suffering. Additionally, the protocol recognized the need to safeguard the natural environment by prohibiting the use of weapons that could cause widespread, long-term, and severe damage to the environment. As of June 27, 2006, 194 countries have ratified the Geneva Convention. Nauru was the last country to ratify the Convention.

Henry Dunant: The Visionary Behind the Geneva Convention
Battle of Solferino

Henri Dunant: A Swiss Social Activist's Response to War's Horros

After the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, Italy's influence in Europe grew, and subsequent events like the Crimean War and the Battle of Solferino in 1859 resulted in numerous casualties among soldiers and civilians. In 1862, a small book titled "Memory of Solferino" was quietly circulated among a few friends in Geneva. It recounted the aftermath of the Battle of Solferino, witnessed by Henry Dunant (a Swiss Social activist), and his efforts, alongside some locals, to alleviate the suffering caused by the conflict. Despite its limited distribution, the book would have a profound impact. 

After publishing his book, "Memory of Solferino," Henry Dunant envisioned the creation of a neutral organization that would provide care to wounded soldiers in future conflicts. He distributed the book to prominent political and military figures across Europe, garnering positive reception.

Dunant embarked on a journey throughout Europe to promote his ideas. The President of the Geneva Society for Public Welfare, Gustave Moynier, recognized the significance of Dunant's book and its suggestions. In a meeting held on February 9, 1863, the organization discussed Dunant's recommendations, leading to their favorable assessment.

Motivated by the potential impact of Dunant's proposals, a five-person Committee was formed to explore the feasibility of their implementation. Dunant, Moynier, Swiss army general Henri Dufour, and doctors Louis Appia and Théodore Maunoir were appointed as members. The committee's inaugural meeting on February 17, 1863 is now recognized as the founding moment of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

In 1864, the Swiss government extended invitations to the governments of European nations, as well as the United States, the Empire of Brazil, and the Mexican Empire, to participate in a formal diplomatic conference. On August 22, 1864, the conference officially adopted the inaugural Geneva Convention. In recognition of his significant contributions, Dunant and Frédéric Passy were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1901.

The Modificaiton of the Geneva Convention:

The Geneva Convention, a landmark series of international treaties, has played a crucial role in improving the safety and protection of individuals affected by armed conflicts. Over time, subsequent conventions were convened to address specific aspects of conflict-related humanitarian concerns. The updated Geneva Convention of 1949 introduced essential provisions to safeguard the lives and dignity of individuals caught in the midst of war. It extended protection to various groups, including medical personnel and their equipment, wounded and sick civilians accompanying military forces, military chaplains responsible for supporting the living, caring for the wounded, and honoring the fallen, as well as civilians who take up arms to resist invading forces.

The Geneva Convention's evolution reflects a collective commitment to prioritize the well-being and humanitarian treatment of all individuals, irrespective of their role or status, during times of war. While it cannot eliminate all instances of violence and suffering, the Convention stands as a vital framework for mitigating the devastating impact of armed conflicts on innocent lives.

Henry Dunant: The Visionary Behind the Geneva Convention
Work of the Red Cross and medical staff

As conflicts continue to arise in different parts of the world, it becomes increasingly important to uphold and respect the principles enshrined in the Geneva Convention. By doing so, we can strive to create a world where the safety, dignity, and rights of all individuals, including civilians and combatants, are respected and protected, even in the most challenging of circumstances.


Unfortunately, inhumane behavior continues unabated in various countries, and it appears that the more powerful nations are often directly or indirectly involved in a competition to exhibit disregard for international agreements. By May 2023, over 110 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide, marking the highest annual increase ever recorded by UNHCR. The war in Ukraine and other conflicts are major factors behind this rise. 

Henry Dunant: The Visionary Behind the Geneva Convention
Image Source: Google, Image By: Wikimedia Commons

This staggering figure represents the largest annual increase in forced displacement ever recorded by the UNHCR. The conflicts in Palestine, Ukraine, Myanmar, Syria, and other deadly confrontations have been major contributing factors to this crisis. However, merely signing these agreements is insufficient; there must be a resolute commitment to uphold the principles outlined within them. Only through such unwavering dedication can we hope to ensure lasting world peace.