Markku Niskala honoured by Finnish Red Cross

Published: 12 June 2008 0:00 CET

Markku Niskala, secretary general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), has been awarded the Cross of Merit, which is the highest distinction given by the Finnish Red Cross. ssssssMr Niskala received this decoration from Finnish Red Cross President Mr Kalevi Kivistö and Secretary General Ms Kristiina Kumpula during the organization’s General Assembly, which was held on June 8 in the city of Oulu.

The event happened a few days after Mr Niskala announced he would retire at the end of the June 2008 after five years at the head of the largest humanitarian organization in the world.

The Cross of Merit is only ever awarded to prominent personalities such as Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, minister Pär Stenbäck and Mr Cornelio Sommaruga, former president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Mr Niskala has a first hand knowledge of the Finnish Red Cross. Before coming to the IFRC in Geneva and supervising major emergency response operations following disasters such as the tsunami, the Pakistan earthquake and the Myanmar cyclone, he served as secretary general of the Finnish society from 1988 until 2003.  

The Finnish Red Cross Society is one of the largest civic organizations in Finland. It has approximately 95,000 members, tens of thousands of active volunteers, more than 200,000 blood donors, 12 districts and 550 local branches throughout the country. Founded in 1877, it has been a member of the IFRC since 1921.

“I am deeply honoured to receive this decoration in my home country,” said Mr Niskala, who has also been named IFRC’s Secretary General Emeritus for his commitment and leadership over the years.

The week before, on a trip to Tokyo, Mr Niskala received The Golden Order of Merit, the highest decoration awarded by the Japanese Red Cross Society.