The extensive work of Fridtjof Nansen to get highlighted at Nobel Peace Center

A polar explorer and humanitarian, the exhibition celebrates the 100th anniversary of Mr. Nansen receiving the Nobel Peace Prize

Fridjtof Nansen with orphaned children

Fridtjof Nansen visits a summer camp for orphaned boys in the town of Kumajri in Chirac, Armenia, in the summer of 1925. ©The National Library of Norway

June 13, 2022: As the world still grasps to understand the horrors of the unwarranted war between Ukraine and Russia, HRH Crown Prince Haakon of Norway opens a new exhibition about Fridtjof Nansen on World Refugee Day (June 20, 2022), who received the Nobel Peace Prize 100 years ago for his humanitarian efforts.

“Is there a member of this assembly who is willing to say that rather than helping the Soviet government, he will allow 20,000,000 people to suffer starvation?” Mr. Nansen had once said to the League of Nations Assembly in Geneva in 1921.

“Fridtjof Nansen is best known as a polar explorer and scientist, but he was also a real pioneer of humanitarian work with refugees and victims of famine,” says Nobel Peace Center Executive Director Kjersti Fløgstad. “With this exhibition, we want to show the enormous importance of Nansen's humanitarian efforts and how he continues to inspire those who help displaced people.”

Fridtjof Nansen

Fridtjof Nansen, 1926. ©The National Library of Norway

Mr. Nansen received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work with prisoners of war, starving people and refugees after the First World War. In the exhibition ‘Compassion in Action: The Legacy of Fridtjof Nansen’, the Nobel Peace Center highlights Mr. Nansen's humanitarian work using original documents and photographs. The exhibition also tells the story of five winners of the Nansen Refugee Award, which is awarded by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to individuals or organizations that go above and beyond the call of duty to protect displaced people.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and UNHCR will also participate in the exhibition opening event.

“For the first time, the number of displaced people the world has exceeded 100 million. The vast majority of them receive far too little attention and support. We must now be inspired by the work Nansen did by speaking out on behalf of the most vulnerable and securing the rights of refugees and stateless people,” says Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council. “Norway as a nation of peace and an important humanitarian player must be conscious of how we manage the legacy of Nansen.” 

Fridtjof Nansen in Ukraine

The farewell at the railway station in Kharkov, Ukraine, after Fridtjof Nansen's visit to the Nansen Mission, March 1, 1923. ©The National Library of Norway

Mr. Nansen was commissioned by the League of Nations to lead the work of returning prisoners of war after the First World War, and his enormous aid operation transported 450,000 prisoners home. He became the League of Nations' first High Commissioner for Refugees and introduced the “Nansen passport”, which gave hundreds of thousands of stateless people the opportunity to cross national borders. He later worked for the famine-stricken in Soviet Russia, driven by a strong desire to help after seeing their suffering with his own eyes. He worked diligently to finance the relief work, using his own pictures of starving children during lecture tours to raise money. 

Several of the photos Mr. Nansen took on his travels are displayed in the exhibition at the Nobel Peace Center. 

“Nansen was also a pioneer in the sense that he was one of the first to use photographs to create sympathy and raise money for people in crisis. His pictures still arouse strong emotions, and their connection to today’s situation in Ukraine makes them even more disturbing to see,” says Ms. Fløgstad. 

Fridtjof Nansen 1922

Fridtjof Nansen with Greek refugees in Thrace, Greece, around 1922. ©Keystone-France/Getty Images

The exhibition ‘Compassion in Action: The Legacy of Fridtjof Nansen’ will run until December 31, 2022.

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