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Fridtjof Nansen

The difficult is what takes a little time, the impossible is what takes a little longer.

Born in Norway in 1861, Fridtjof Nansen excelled as a scientist, polar explorer, diplomat and humanitarian. Today, his courage and compassion remain an inspiration.

Nansen is best known for his visionary work on behalf of refugees. As Europe struggled to rebuild after World War I, he directed the League of Nations’ first major humanitarian operation – the repatriation of 450,000 prisoners of war. His intellect, valour and charisma proved instrumental in winning the support of governments and voluntary agencies.

Nansen served as the League’s first High Commissioner for Refugees from 1920-1930, helping hundreds of thousands of refugees to return home. His efforts enabled many others to become legal residents and find work in the countries where they had found refuge. When he died in 1930, aged 69, UNHCR established the Nansen Refugee Award in his honour.