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 Gorgui Wade NDOYE
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 M. Alioune TINE
 Ms Anoushka RAI
 UIP
 Zeid Ra'Ad Hussein

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« Nansen, Explorer and Humanitarian”, Marit Fosse and John Fox’s book that was published earlier this year on humanitarian Fridtjof Nansen, describes Nansen’s many accomplishments throughout his life.  Through a chronological order of events, we learn about the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s journey from an adventurous explorer to becoming a symbol of hope for refugees and prisoners of war. We learn about how he created the “Nansen Passport” for stateless people “under his responsibility” and his fight for providing a secure homeland to those in need. In today’s world, where refugees are more desperate than ever, this book encourages us to reflect about the hardships that refugees endure and to believe that with devotion and initiative solutions are indeed possible.

Fridtjof Nansen was an intelligent young man who was raised according to old Norwegian traditional values. This old society had maintained a long tradition of public service. He was a talented boy, with a diverse range of interests. His talent in skating, swimming, skiing and hunting provided him with an excellent physique that had great endurance levels and psychological self-reliance. These proved fruitful during his two successful polar expeditions, which had never been done before in such a way. He was the mastermind behind both, and thought of everything from transportation, survival food, survival equipment and navigation. He became a national hero.

Then, after a few years, Nansen turned his interest to politics. After becoming a Norwegian ambassador in London, Fosse and Fox state that he “became more and more interested in the relations between individuals and nations”. After becoming a member of The League of Nations, formed during the First World War, Nansen became concerned with the lack of food and starvation and famine crises of Russian citizens. He was not initially impressed with The League of Nations, which gave up after encountering obstacles rather than fighting to help the Russian people. He gave speeches declaring that international unity cannot happen by itself and that “ We must do things in order to create it”. Nansen used The League of Nations as a platform to become involved in humanitarian work on a huge scale. He then began to try to free the prisoners of war in Siberia and became the High Commissioner for The League of Nations. With help from the governments of Finland and Estonia, Nansen ensured that the prisoners of war returned home and were freed from the German camps. But only after months of meetings, voyages, financial planning, and planning of routes home. He remained devoted to his mission.

In 1920, The League of Nations moved its headquarters to Geneva. In his speech at the first annual Assembly, Nansen stated that he had never in his life seen so much suffering. And that such suffering was an inevitable result of war. He stressed that it was important to prevent such events from reoccurring again. Although some prisoners had been freed, there were still many who were in captivity. But by February 1921, 280,000 prisoners of “all nationalities had been returned to their respective countries”.Progress was being made and Nansen achieved a great deal for many of the prisoners.

The Russian Revolution and its aftermath provided another landmark for Nansen. There were many refugees in the face of the aftermath. He began to work on the crisis, searching for funds, negotiating with many governments and demanded that there should be host countries for the refugees. Even when The League of Nations failed to deliver, Nansen and his co-workers continued to provide food and shelter for the Russian and Jewish refugees. He also tried to place as many of them in schools and universities as possible. According to Fosse and Fox, he was “always concerned that children and young people should receive education. He proposed that all the governments of The League of Nations should accept Russian students and maintain them at universities”. Although initially responses at The League of Nations assembly were disappointing to accept refugees into other countries, Nansen persisted. He then accorded certain rights to stateless refugees by creating the “Nansen Passport”, which gave rights to those who possessed no identity documents.

Nansen also significantly helped to combat the turmoil in the Near East and the Caucasus. He sought to give the Armenian people a homeland and give many refugees a homeland.

Therefore Fridtjof Nansen is a man of example for the governments and people of today. The current refugee crisis is devastating. Despite initial reluctance from countries and governments to help the refugees, Nansen’s determination provided shelter, education and relief to those in need. Hopefully, if more people and countries became as devoted as Nansen and demonstrated the same level of empathy, the refugee crisis can be significantly reduced.

About Nansen

Visionary, explorer, researcher, diplomat, humanistR13;Fridtjof Nansen was no ordinary man. Nansen was a dedicated scientist who made an outstanding contribution to marine zoology and oceanography, an audacious adventurer who pushed our knowledge of the Arctic to new frontiers, and an indefatigable savior of human beings displaced by conflict. As a young man Nansen led two successful polar expeditions and became a national hero, participating in the birth pangs of his countryR13;Norway. As a respected international elder statesman he began a new career in 1919 by bringing home hundreds of thousands of prisoners-of-war from the remotest corners of Europe and Siberia. He created the “Nansen Passport” for stateless people under his responsibility and sought to give the Armenian people a secure homeland. For his efforts in favor of prisoners of war, famine relief and Russian refugees, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1922.

The authors:

Marit Fosse, editor of Diva International and John Fox a former publications officer for the BBC and UNESCO and co-author of The League of Nations: From Collective Security to Global Rearmament, have signed an interesting book about Nansen.

« 
Nansen, Explorer and Humanitarian”, Marit Fosse and John Fox, ed. Hamilton Books.

By Anoushka RAI, under the supervision of Gorgui W.NDOYE