|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Secretary-General Hails Renowned Explorer, Humanitarian Fridtjof Nansen
as Hero Who ‘Helped Give Birth to Our Modern Collective Conscience’
Following are remarks by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the event marking 150th anniversary of the birth of Fridtjof Nansen, in Oslo, Norway, today, 10 October:
Today we celebrate Fridtjof Nansen — a great Norwegian — a great global citizen.
Some may doubt whether there is such a thing as a “collective conscience”. They are wrong. We see it when natural disaster strikes, and the world rushes to help. We see it when people rise up demanding justice and human rights, and their cry is echoed across the oceans. We see it in the faces of the poorest and most vulnerable, when international aid brings hope.
Our collective conscience springs from a basic human instinct for solidarity — the recognition that we are one human family on this one planet Earth.
Gaze on the face of Fridtjof Nansen. It is the very embodiment of strength and human fortitude. The man was a hero, to be sure. He climbed high mountains and traversed the arctic vastness.
For those of us at the United Nations, however, he is a hero for the larger and enduring example he set. Like few others, he helped give birth to our modern collective conscience.
Amid the revolutions and conflict of the last century, he was there — the first High Commissioner for Refugees at the League of Nations. When Jews and other stateless refugees fled the Nazi persecution, the Nansen Pass was a ticket to survival.
Today, the United Nations feeds and shelters a new generation of the homeless and unwanted. We do so in the name and spirit of Fridtjof Nansen. We do so in the name of our collective conscience.
You experienced your own trauma, here in Oslo three months ago. On behalf of the world community, I offer you my sincere and humble sympathies.
Let me also, humbly and sincerely, salute your fortitude. The greatest barriers in life are not walls around buildings, but walls around hearts.
Norway responded to this terrible tragedy as Nansen himself would have done: with strength; with unshaken confidence in the principles of tolerance and equality; with faith in yourselves, your place in the global community, and your efforts to build a better future for all.
This great explorer helped map the way to a better world. Together, let us continue the journey.
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