Pertti Torstila new chairman of the FRC

Otto-Ville Väätäinen
Kimmo Holopainen
Otto-Ville Väätäinen
Otto-Ville Väätäinen
Otto-Ville Väätäinen

The new chairman of the Finnish Red Cross is Ambassador Pertti Torstila, former Secretary of State at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

At its General Assembly in Turku on 8th June 2014, the Red Cross elected Pertti Torstila chairman. In March, Torstila, 68, retired as Secretary of State at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

– It was clear to me that I wouldn't just do nothing in my retirement. By my example, I want people to see that retirees are not just shunted off to the back benches – we put them on the front bench.

For almost 44 years Pertti Torstila worked at the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and as an Ambassador in various parts of the world. At the Red Cross he wants to focus on activating and helping people.

– Retirement doesn't have to mean that you are rolled off and are no longer part of society. I personally feel that my long work and life experience makes it more or less a duty to share my knowledge and skills.

As chairman, Torstila wants to use his influence to make sure there is a balance between efforts made at home and abroad. For him "the centre for children and youth in Kotka is just as important as, say, a field hospital".

Blood donor and boy scout

Torstila describes the Red Cross as a giant of voluntary work and an organisation with a good reputation both in Finland and around the world. Torstila is a member of the Red Cross local branch in his old home town of Hämeenlinna and voluntary work is something he has known since he was a boy scout. Today, he is, among other things, a regular blood donor, and likes to contribute to fundraising collections.

Torstila says he has faith in the strength and meaning of every individual.

– Each one of us can help, but anyone and everyone can also find themselves the recipient of assistance. It all evens out, he adds.

Torstila says there is often an expectation that society should provide everything ready made, but in a recession there is less to go round and voluntary work becomes increasingly important.

Torstila, who lives in Helsinki, is grateful and excited to have been elected chairman. He is also confident that the job will allow him to spend time with his two grandchildren.

The board takes over

The election of a new chairman was not the only important decision made during the final day of the FRC General Assembly. New vice chairs of the FRC were also elected: Henri Backman and Otto Kari got the nod in addition to Christel von Frenckell-Ramberg, who was re-elected as vice chair.

Members of the FRC board are Eija Karine, Hannu Harri, Maria Pietikäinen, Markku Suokas, Alpo Tanskanen and Irmeli Metsänen. In addition, the General Assembly elected the members and alternate members of the FRC Council.

Two honorary memberships were also bestowed at the General Assembly. The news was kept secret until the Sunday and was a pleasant surprise for Kalevi Kivistö and Markku Niskala.

Kivistö was chairman of the Finnish Red Cross between 1999 and 2008. Niskala was Secretary General of the Finnish Red Cross in 1988–2003 and Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies from 2003–2008.

The new FRC Board convened their first meeting immediately after the General Assembly.