OVIEDO, Spain – The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement was named on Wednesday as this year’s recipient of Spain’s Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation.
The jury hailed the world’s largest humanitarian network’s “mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering, protect life and health and ensure respect” for people’s dignity, “especially in times of armed conflict and in situations of crisis and need.”
It said it prized the movement’s recent performance during armed conflicts in Syria, Libya and Somalia and in the wake of natural disasters in Haiti, Indonesia and Japan.
The Prince of Asturias Foundation noted that the movement is present in 187 countries and supported by more than 100 million volunteers and is composed of the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and 187 National Societies.
Each component of the movement has its independent legal identity, structure and mandate, although they all share seven basic principles: humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality, the foundation said.
The history of the Red Cross dates back to 1859, when Swiss businessman Henry Dunant witnessed the horrific aftermath of the Battle of Solferino in northern Italy and organized people to help thousands of wounded soldiers lacking medical care.
Since its founding, the humanitarian network has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on three occasions – 1917, 1944 and 1963.
Spanish Red Cross spokeswoman Mercedes Babe said after the jury’s decision was announced that the award should encourage new volunteers to join the movement and help make the world “a little better.”
In statements to Efe, Babe said the movement is fully committed to helping victims of armed conflict and natural disasters, but that its responsibilities also include assisting people suffering the daily effects of economic crisis in countries such as Spain, whose unemployment rate is nearly 25 percent.
Past winners of the Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation include the World Health Organization, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, erstwhile Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The honor carries a cash award of 50,000 euros (about $63,000), a sculpture by Joan Miro that represents and symbolizes the awards, a diploma and an insignia bearing the Prince of Asturias Foundation’s coat of arms.
The international cooperation prize is one of eight Prince of Asturias Awards given out annually.
The awards for the arts, social sciences, communication and humanities, technical and scientific research and literature were bestowed earlier this year, while the winners of the prizes for sports and concord have not yet been announced.
The prizes, which Spain’s crown prince will hand out at a ceremony in the fall in Oviedo, are regarded as the Ibero-American world’s equivalent of the Nobels. EFE