Born in 1861, Nansen was a scientist, a diplomat, a statesman and a humanist with a deep compassion for his fellow human beings.
Eager to learn, Nansen became a pioneer in the field of applied science ranging from zoology, marine biology, oceanography and geology to anthropology and sociology. While still in his twenties, he acquired fame by crossing Greenland on skis in 1889.
But it is for his pioneering work on behalf of refugees that Nansen is most fondly remembered. After the First World War, the League of Nations asked Nansen in 1920 to organize the repatriation of some 450,000 prisoners of war. He succeeded by enlisting the support of governments and voluntary agencies.¨In 1925, Nansen visited Armenia with a group of experts to help resettlement of Armenian refugees. In the picture above, Nansen tastes the food at a summer camp for orphans boys outside Alexandropol. Photo: The National Library of Norway
Recognized as a charismatic leader, he was made the first High Commissioner for Refugees in 1921 – a post specially created by the League of Nations.
He immediately undertook the formidable task of helping hundreds of thousands of refugees to survive, to acquire legal status and to attain economic independence. For the stateless refugees under his care, Nansen created the “Nansen passport,” which was ultimately ratified by 52 countries.Photo: UNHCR/The National Library of Norway
The International Red Cross and a number of governments then asked him to organize a relief programme for millions of victims of the Russian Famine of 1921-1922. Nansen won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1922. He was involved in the negotiations which led to the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne between the Greek and Turkish governments and later tried to help find a solution to the Armenian crisis. Nansen died in 1930.
2011 is the 150th anniversary of Fridtjof Nansen’s birth and therefore a special year for the award which is being commemorated by events in Geneva and Norway.