Green Cross International (GCI) grew out of a January 1990 address in Moscow by then-Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev to the Global Forum on Environment and Development for Survival. At that event, Gorbachev proposed the creation of an organization that could apply the medical-emergency response model of the International Red Cross to ecological and environmental problems that transcended national boundaries. In June 1992, delegates at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro mandated Gorbachev (whose Soviet Union had by then dissolved) to create and launch such an organization. At the same time, Swiss National Council MP Roland Wiederkehr founded a “World Green Cross” which had a similar objective. The two groups merged in 1993 to form GCI, which was formally launched in Kyoto on April 18 of that year.
GCI’s mission is “to respond to the combined challenges of security, poverty and environmental degradation to ensure a sustainable and secure future.” Calling for a “concerted” international effort to “use sustainable sources of energy,” the organization contends that fossil fuels “are at best a transitionary source of energy due to their finite quantity as well as their harmful effects on the environment, which in turn will affect the security and economies of all nations.” Therefore, GCI and its national affiliates – which are active in more than 30 countries – collaborate on projects designed to “lower the cost and enhance the efficiency of sustainable energy sources such as solar power in order to compete with fossil fuels.” (GCI’s American affiliate is known as Global Green USA.)
In an effort to change people’s attitudes regarding energy use and conservation, GCI has established the so-called Earth Dialogues, public forums designed to “raise awareness and promote solutions worldwide by providing an opportunity for uninhibited conversation about many of the most pressing economic, environmental social and security issues in the world.” GCI also seeks to influence the public through its Education for Sustainable Development program, which aims to “infuse children and adults with a positive awareness of and responsibility for the environment.”
In addition to its pursuit of resource sustainability, GCI has established a number of initiatives under the rubric of “environmental security.” Most notably, the Legacy Program promotes “responsible destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles, cleaning of nuclear and chemical contamination, and the conversion of military bases for civilian use.” The Social Medical Care and Education Program provides psychotherapy, support groups, and educational opportunities for people afflicted with serious mental, physical, economic, and social problems “due to nuclear contamination and relocation.” This initiative focuses predominantly on affected areas of Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine – the latter being the site of the infamous 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident. Finally, the Post-War Environmental Analysis Program seeks to “push for greater understanding and awareness of the environmental damage caused by wars and conflicts.” Further, it lends humanitarian assistance aimed at promoting the “environmental rehabilitation of areas and regions that have been affected by conflicts.”
GCI has been granted consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council and with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. It is also an admitted observer organization with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
GCI’s leadership includes a number of prominent figures from such varied fields as business, academia, jurisprudence, politics, entertainment, religion, environmentalism, and philanthropy. A noteworthy member of the organization’s board of directors, for instance, is Mario Soares, who co-founded the Portuguese Socialist Party and later served as President of Portugal from 1986-1996. Among GCI’s honorary board members are Wangari Maathai, Robert Redford, David Suzuki, and Ted Turner.