The Geneva International Conference of 1863 was the founding Conference of the Red Cross and gave the impetus to the development of the humanitarian laws of war embodied in the Geneva Conventions of 1864, 1906, 1929 and 1949 and in the Additional Protocols of 1977. This great humanitarian movement was initiated by Henry Dunant, a citizen of Geneva, who, in 1859, was an eyewitness of the battle of Solferino where thousands of wounded died without care who could have been saved if sufficient medical services had existed. In 1862, Dunant published his famous book "A Memory of Solferino" in which, after an impressive description of the battle, he proposed to set up in time of peace relief societies in each country for the care of the wounded in time of war. He also proposed the adoption of an international agreement to protect medical staff and the injured. The book aroused much discussion all over Europe.
The Geneva Society of Public Welfare, under the presidency of Gustave Moynier, took up Dunant's ideas and, on 9 February 1863, appointed a committee consisting of General G.H. Dufour as president, Gustave Moynier, Henry Dunant, Theodore Maunoir and Louis Appia. The task of the committee was to consider the idea of recruiting voluntary male nurses to serve the armed forces in the field. Though a private group, the "Committee of Five", which gave itself the name of "International Relief Committee for Injured Combatants", and in 1875 adopted the name International Committee of the Red Cross, convened an International Conference in Geneva on 26 October 1863 at which 16 states and 4 philanthropic institutions were represented.
The Conference adopted Dunant's and the Committee's proposals for the creation of national committees and decided that a red cross on a white ground should be the distinctive sign of the medical personnel. In addition to the Resolutions, the Conference also recommended that governments extend their patronage to relief committees and to the medical corps, ambulances and military hospitals.