The British Red Cross and our auxiliary role to government

What is an auxiliary role?

The British Red Cross has a special support function to the UK government. This is known as an ‘auxiliary role’, and helps authorities meet humanitarian needs in peace and in war.

Any National Red Cross or Red Crescent Society must be named as an auxiliary to its government in the humanitarian field by law. 

This is part of their membership of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

What does this mean?

We have an auxiliary role because of the British Red Cross’ unique legal status. We are:

  • a private organisation with certain recognised public functions
  • neither part of government nor a non-governmental organisation (NGO).

We have a standing invitation to provide public humanitarian services in the UK.

How do we work with the government?

Being an auxiliary gives the British Red Cross an automatic relationship with central government, the governments of the UK nations, and local councils and authorities.

This relationship helps us coordinate with officials on humanitarian issues and meet humanitarian needs during times of crises. This is particularly important when fast-moving events leave little time to create new ways of working.

Protecting our autonomy as a Movement

As an organisation, our work is guided by the fundamental principles of the Movement, and they remain our highest priority.

Our principle of independence acknowledges that while an auxiliary to the public authorities, a Red Cross Society must be able to act in accordance with our other fundamental principles at all times.

Governments of all countries have agreed to respect the Red Cross’ autonomy. This means that the UK government will not ask us to carry out activities that go against our fundamental principles or humanitarian mission.

As a result, the auxiliary role remains a balanced relationship, based on mutual trust, respect, dialogue and support. This brings mutual benefits, opportunities and responsibilities.

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