The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies deeply mourns the loss of its friend and former leader, Markku Niskala from Finland.

“Markku was a great humanitarian and an inspiring leader,” said current Secretary General Elhadj As Sy. “It was a proud moment in 2008 when the IFRC made him an Emeritus Secretary General. We honour his commitment to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement – in Finland, in Africa, and worldwide.”

Markku Niskala was a moving force behind the “Federation of the Future” process which continues to inform much of the IFRC thinking and planning.  He engendered a strong sense of collective belonging across the IFRC membership, and oversaw the entry of several new members of the IFRC, most memorably in 2006, the welcoming of the Magen David Adom of Israel and the Palestine Red Crescent Society into the Federation.  This was a real demonstration to the entire world of the power of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Fundamental Principles to unite people in the cause of human dignity.

He led important initiatives in combating HIV-AIDS, promoting disaster risk reduction, and providing emergency shelter in disaster situations.  He made  the  IFRC Global Programme for Africa happen, and important initiatives in humanitarian diplomacy, such as the adoption of the definition of the auxiliary role during the International Conference in 2007. But, from an operational point of view, perhaps he is most remembered for his leadership tackling the big challenges the IFRC and the National Societies faced triggered by the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2005.

Markku gave 48 years of dedicated and distinguished service to the IFRC. He was Secretary General from 2003 to 2008 and Emeritus Secretary General from 2008 until his passing on 21 February 2018. He will be remembered by all who met him as a truly great humanitarian.

For any external partners and colleagues who would like to send messages, a dedicated email address has been created:  All messages will be collated in the memorial book which will then be shared with Markku’s family.