The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has two globally recognized emblems – the Red Cross and the Red Crescent – set on a white background within a red rectangle. These are symbols of assistance in times of conflict or disaster, and have worldwide recognition in national and international law under the 1949 Geneva Conventions.

The Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols are international treaties that contain the most important rules limiting the barbarity of war. They protect people who do not take part in the fighting (civilians, medics, aid workers) and those who can no longer fight (wounded, sick and shipwrecked troops, prisoners of war).

The Third Protocol additional to the Geneva Conventions, adopted in 2005, established the Red Crystal as an emblem that can be used by states that have difficulty with either the Red Cross or the Red Crescent because of perceptions that they may have religious significance. Although there are no religious associations with either of these emblems, the Red Crystal offers an alternative for states that are unable to use the other emblems.

In 2006, the Red Crystal became an approved emblem that can be used by a National Society as a member of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

Under the Third Protocol, a National Society that uses the Red Crystal can use its own historic emblem, in certain circumstances, for its work in its own country, and can use that emblem within the frame of the Red Crystal for work in other countries.

The IFRC works with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and all National Societies to protect the emblems against misuse and abuse, as it is essential that they stand unchallenged as symbols of neutral and independent assistance at all times, and as guarantees of protection in times of conflict or emergency. Governments have accepted an obligation to prevent misuse and abuse, and in many countries the misuse or abuse of the emblems can lead to prosecution.