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Fridtjof Nansen Memorial Lecture Series
Photo courtesy of Norwegian Embassy

Introduction

The Fridtjof Nansen Memorial Lecture is held annually in a number of capitals around the world to commemorate the birth of the Norwegian explorer, scientist, humanist and Nobel laureate, Fridtjof Nansen (1861–1930). Fridtjof Nansen was an eminent Norwegian explorer and scientist, diplomat, statesman and humanitarian who, in addition to exploring the Arctic regions, headed large-scale humanitarian relief operations in the wake of the Russian revolution and World War I. This won him the gratitude of millions of refugees and displaced persons, as well as the Nobel Peace Prize in 1922. Nansen was also a founding father of the League of Nations and was its first High Commissioner for Refugees.

2010

Climate change and loss of nature's diversity: new actions and alliances in response to key global challenges

Erik Solheim

Erik Solheim
Minister of the Environment and International Development, Norway

Erik Solheim, Norway's minister of the environment and international development, delivered the 2010 Fridtjof Nansen Memorial Lecture at UNU Headquarters in Tokyo on Wednesday, 27 October 2010. UNU rector Konrad Osterwalder warmly welcomed Minister Solheim and thanked him for coming to UNU to deliver the lecture on the occasion of his visit to Japan. Mr. Solheim is attending the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties of the UN Convention on Biodiversity in Nagoya. In his opening remarks, Norwegian ambassador to Japan Arne Walther highlighted the accomplishments of Fridtjof Nansen, the prominent Norwegian statesman, humanitarian and explorer after whom this lecture series is named. Minister Solheim's speech, entitled "Climate Change and Loss of Nature's Diversity: New Actions and Alliances in Response to Key Global Challenges," called for a new commitment to international cooperation and compromise in today's multipolar world.

Minister Solheim opened his lecture by noting many positive developments throughout the world such as recent increases in life expectancy, the spread of democracy, and the rise of a global middle class. However, the world also faces many challenges, such as the financial crisis, global poverty, and climate change. One country alone lacks the power and ability to address these matters unilaterally. As such, these issues demand a new global collective approach whereby individual states should work together to forge common positions.

Individual countries, however, can still have a positive impact. Minister Solheim stressed that a country like Norway has an important role to play in dealing with threats like climate change. The economic growth facilitated by Norway's oil extraction allows the country to fund important overseas environmental projects. By supporting rainforest conservation programmes in Brazil and Indonesia, for example, Norway is able to use its economic strength to play a significant role in global conservation efforts. The challenge for the United Nations member states is to act collectively and not solely unilaterally.

Minister Solheim predicted that COP 16 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change will serve in that regard, as a significant assessment of states' abilities to compromise with each other. The ability to act unilaterally should not serve as a substitute to global cooperation. There are lessons to be learned from COP 15, which took place in Copenhagen in December 2009, where the world's most powerful countries were somewhat reluctant to accept the need to compromise. Nevertheless, Minister Solheim hopes that we can find ways to reconcile our differences in order to achieve the universal and lasting goal of environmental preservation.

Video Webcast

Interview with Erik Solheim, Norway’s Minister of Environment and International Development

Minister Solheim reflects on global environmental governance in our multipolar world and puts forward the ability to compromise as a necessary step to achieve a legally-binding global climate deal, while stressing the interim benefits that unilateral and bilateral initiatives can provide. This interview was recorded after Minister Solheim delivered the 2010 Fridtjof Nansen Memorial Lecture at UNU in Tokyo on 27 November.

Video of interview with Erik Solheim, Norway's minister of the environment and international development

2007

Nansen's Compass: A Global View on Human Security Challenges

Jonas Gahr Støre

Jonas Gahr Støre
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Norway

Jonas Gahr Støre, the Norwegian Foreign Minister, delivered the 5th Fridtjof Nansen Memorial Lecture. Minister Støre's speech was entitled "Nansen's Compass: A Global View on Human Security Challenges" and in it he began by outlining the humanitarian values which animated Nansen's careers — he was an explorer, scientist, statesman, and diplomat (and recipient of the 1922 Nobel Peace Prize) — and showed how those values are more relevant and essential than ever. Nansen, said Minister Støre, "would have been a staunch supporter of the Geneva Conventions as they took shape during the last century."

Minister Støre spoke on several critical issues confronting all societies including climate change, non-proliferation and disarmament, and the undiminished need for multilateralism.

"Just as in the 1920s, most diplomats today prefer to focus on issues of ‘hard power — war and peace, economics and trade — rather than ‘soft issues' — the environment, health and hunger," he said. "Yet we know that the very notion of ‘soft' is misleading because these issues have hard ramifications on national economies and international stability."

Read the full text of the speech:

Nansen's Compass: A Global View on Human Security Challenges (64 KB PDF)

Webcast

2003

Challenges for Peace and Reconciliation in the 21st Century

Kjell Magne Bondevik

Kjell Magne Bondevik
Prime Minister of Norway

"The challenges to peace that we face in the twenty-first century have their roots in the situation after the end of the cold war. Yet, with history as our guide, we know that many conflicts trace their origins much further back in time.

"Since the 1990s, we have witnessed a large number of conflicts that have been a threat to regional stability. Apparent "internal" conflicts are seldom any longer confined to one nation.

"To promote peace is an international responsibility. We need alliances and partners to play reinforcing roles to reach common goals. No individual country is strong enough to bring about peace alone. No individual country carries the political support or the economic strength to shoulder that responsibility."

Bondevik's speech was published as a UNU Public Lecture:

Bondevik_challengesForPeace.pdf (96 KB PDF)

2001

State Security – Human Security

Sadako Ogata

Sadako Ogata
Former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

"Today, a new source of threat has manifested itself in the form of international terrorism, as proven by the devastating attacks that took place on September 11 against the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon. Terrorism as such as a tool of the weak against the strong has always existed.

"The end of the Cold War signified the decline of state- sponsored terrorism. While the leftist terrorist groups showed signs of considerable weakening, ethnic separatist organizations began resorting to terrorist means to pursue autonomy and/or independence. Religiously-based groups, identified both with major religions and with new cults, emerged on the scene.

"Of notable significance was the growing impact of terrorists linked to Islam, particularly among those who gained skills and experiences in the course of their involvement in the mujaheddin war against the Soviets and the Soviet-sponsored regime in Afghanistan. The danger of a failed or weakened state providing hotbeds for terrorism became a proven reality in the Afghan case.

Ogata's speech was published as a UNU Public Lecture:

Ogata_stateSecurity.pdf (96 KB PDF)

1999

Preparing for the Worst: Can We Give Hope to Victims in Complex Emergencies?

Gro Harlem Brundtland

Gro Harlem Brundtland
Director-General, World Health Organization

"Would [Nansen] have approved of the progress we have made during the seven decades since he passed away? Both yes and no, I think. Yes, because through science and good work we have been able to drastically reduce disease and lengthen the healthy life span of the majority of the world's population.

"But also no, because poverty has been eating away at many of the health gains. In absolute numbers, there are considerably many more poor people living today than during Nansen's time. More than 1.3 billion people are living in extreme poverty, which means they have to survive on less than one US dollar per day. Another nearly 2 billion people scrape along on just twice that amount. Almost one third of all children are undernourished.

"I believe Nansen would be appalled by how little the rich world spends on helping to overcome these inequalities. Only four out of the richest countries live up to their obligation of providing at least 0.7 per cent of their GDP for development assistance. The average is falling towards a record low 0.2 per cent. This is—in my view—a shame, and all groups in civil society committed to development should hold their leaders to account."

Brundtland's speech is available on this web archive page:

Preparing for the Worst: Can We Give Hope to Victims in Complex Emergencies?

1998

The Humanitarian Challenge in a World of Conflict: The Plight of Land-mine Victims
1998

Astrid Nøklebye Heiberg

Astrid Nøklebye Heiberg
President, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

"One of the most formidable obstacles to international action on land-mines has been the belief in military circles that the mines are an essential weapon of high military value and that their military value outweighs their human cost. No analysis of this belief was made, however, until the International Committee of the Red Cross brought together a group of senior military officers to examine the question. These experts unanimously found that what little material is available on the use of anti-personnel land-mines does not substantiate claims that the mines are indispensable weapons of high military value. On the other hand, their value for indiscriminate harassment when used by irregular forces can be high. Their use for population control has regrettably been all too effective.

"The military reviewers also concluded that the cost to forces using anti-personnel mines in terms of casualties, limitation of tactical flexibility and loss of sympathy of the indigenous population is higher than has been generally acknowledged. Their overall conclusion was that the value of anti-personnel mines is questionable (the group underscored this in their report). They found that the limited military utility of anti-personnel mines is far outweighed by the appalling humanitarian consequences of their use in actual conflicts. On this basis, the military experts said, their prohibition and elimination should be pursued as a matter of utmost urgency by governments and the entire international community.

Heiberg's speech is available on this web archive page:

The Humanitarian Challenge in a World of Conflict

1995

Norway as International Peacemaker

Jan Egeland

Jan Egeland
State Secretary of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Jan Egeland has served as the state secretary in the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs since February 1992. He has been integrally involved in the recent Middle East peace negotiations having co-initiated the "Oslo Channel" between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1992 which led to the peace agreement of September 1993. Prior to his present post, Mr. Egeland served as political advisor to the minister of foreign affairs, as head of the International Department and head of information of the Norwegian Red Cross and as a research coordinator at the Henry Dunant Institute in Geneva, Switzerland. He is also a former radio and television reporter.

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