Green Cross International’s roots can be traced back to President Mikhail Gorbachev’s time in office as Head of State of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, a period during which he spoke repeatedly about the interrelated threats humanity and our Earth face from nuclear arms, chemical weapons, unsustainable development, and the man-induced decimation of the planet’s ecology.
In October 1987, five years before the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Mikhail Gorbachev addressed a gathering in the Arctic city of Murmansk, and for the first time linked the concepts of environmental protection, nuclear disarmament, broader security concerns and development.
On 19 January 1990, in Moscow during an address to the Global Forum on Environment and Development for Survival, Mikhail Gorbachev suggested creating an “international Green Cross that offers its assistance to States in ecological trouble.” In other words, the world needed a body that would apply the medical emergency response model of the International Committee of the Red Cross to ecological issues, and expedite solutions to environmental problems that transcend national borders.
On 6 June 1992, six months after leaving office, the Rio Earth Summit civil society delegates appealed to Mikhail Gorbachev to create and launch Green Cross International. At the same time, Swiss National Council parliamentarian Roland Wiederkehr, founded a “World Green Cross” with the same objective. The organizations merged in 1993 to form Green Cross International.
Green Cross International (GCI) was formally launched in Kyoto, Japan, on 18 April 1993. On the invitation of Mikhail Gorbachev, many renowned figures joined and continue to serve on its Board of Directors and Honorary Board.
To gain practical traction, it is important that Green Cross International established national offices, which enjoy the autonomy to conduct national projects, while also participating in at least one of GC's international programmes: Water for Life and Peace, Environmental Security and Sustainability, Social and Medical, Smart Energy and Value Change.
The first Green Cross National Organizations (GCNOs) formally joined GCI in The Hague, The Netherlands, in the Spring of 1994. These included Japan (President Shoo Iwasaki), The Netherlands (President Awraham Soetendorp), the Russian Federation (President Nikita Moiseev), Switzerland (President Donald Hess), and the United States (President Diane Meyer Simon).
Today, the Green Cross network operates in more than 30 countries.
Green Cross International enjoys consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. GCI is an admitted observer organization with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. It also cooperates directly with the UNEP/OCHA Environmental Emergencies Section, UN-HABITAT and other international organizations.