Tag: <span>Fridtjof Nansen</span>

Edmond Privat Rapprochement of Cultures.

Edmond Privat: The Inner Light.

Featured Image: Esperanto World Congress, Vienna 1924. Prominent group of participants, from left to right: Lidia Zamenhof, Edmond Privat, Klara Zamenhof (1924). By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

17 August is the birth anniversary of Edmond Privat in 1889 − a leading world citizen of the first wave of world citizen action closely associated with the League of Nations.  It was natural for Privat, a citizen of Geneva, to be drawn to the efforts of the League of Nations.  He served from 1923 to 1927 as the vice-delegate for Iran.  In the early League days, many States did not have a permanent representative to the League and so named an “intellectual personality” to represent the country. 

The Interpreter and Orator.

Privat also worked at different times at the League as an interpreter from English to French.  In those days, there was no simultanious interpretation but only consequtive interpretation. The interpreter, standing near the speaker had to convey some of the same drama in his voice. Privat was an experienced orator, one of the first to make regular radio broadcasts and so was much appreciated as an interpreter. At the time, the League Secretariat staff was small, and there was a good deal of interaction among the staff and the government delegates.  Thus Privat, already a political journalist, could follow closely world events and the League efforts.

Privat served as an interpreter for Fridtjof Nansen, whose work for World War I refugees and relief to Russia after the Revolution, marked Privat who developed a life-long concern for refugees and relief from hunger.

Fridtjof Nansen is a model for Erik Werenskiold’s bust of him in the artist’s studio. Half figure. By National Library of Norway, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Romain Rolland and Gandhi.

Privat was a close friend of Romain Rolland who lived during the 1920s and 1930s at Villeneuve near Geneva.  Romain Rolland was one of the first in Europe to write about the philosophy-in-acts of Mahatma Gandhi.  Gandhi had gone to London in 1931 for a government roundtable on the future of India.  Romain Rolland invited Gandhi to Villeneuve and asked Privat to translate for him and to organize two public talks for Gandhi. Privat was much impressed with Gandhi, and Privat and his wife left shortly afterwards for India to report on Gandhi’s efforts, resulting in a book Aux Indes Avec Gandhi.

Romain Rolland, Nobel laureate in Literature 1915. By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Through Rolland and Gandhi, Privat became interested in Indian philosophy and shared Gandhi’s views that there was an inner light that was  a common core of all the world’s religions.  

As Privat wrote :

The Inner Light opens us to the sense of the universal and the eternal. The Inner Light can recognize no frontier and can exclude no one. The Inner Light can make no distinctions of race, color or social condition. Love can not be bound by passports or visas. The Inner Light is seen not in words but in attitudes and acts.”

Mahatma Gandhi. By Elliott & Fry (see [1]), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Esperanto Congress.

Privat had a life-long passion to promote the universal.  He looked for ways to build bridges among peoples and had learned Esperanto from childhood. As a secondary school student, he attended the first universal Esperanto congress in France in 1905. He then took on the task to organize the next Esperanto congress in Geneva in 1906.  Privat had a talent as an organizer and virtually to the end of his life in 1962, he was organizing conferences, creating committees as well as writing articles.

During the First World War, he was sent as a war correspondent to Poland where he met Ludoviko Zamenhof, the creator of Esperanto.  Later Privat wrote a biography in Esperanto Vivo de Zamenhof, translated into many languages.  From his observations in Poland, he became a champion for the liberation of Poland from Russian influence.   In 1918, Privat published L’Europe et l’Odyssée de la Pologne aux XIX siecle.

L. L. Zamenhof  (1859–1917). Universala Esperanto-Asocio. By L. L. Zamenhof, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

World Wars.

Privat’s observations of the First World War and its consequences confirmed his earlier conviction that war was evil and the result of narrow nationalism.  To overcome war, there was a need for a cosmopolitan – world spirit.  People needed to think of themselves as citizens of the world.  He saw the League of Nations as a first step toward a federation of the world.  After the Second World War, he worked actively for a stronger United Nations and the creation of a “Second Chamber” to which people would be elected rather than being appointed by governments as is the case for the UN General Assembly. He published Trois experiences federalistes (USA, Suisse, S.D.N.) on federalism as an approach to a stronger world structure.

Privat’s vision of the unity of the world included a strong emphasis on the equality between women in men − this in a country where, at the time, women could not vote or hold public office.

Today, much of the cosmopolitan-world citizen emphasis is on understanding the forces leading to world integration. Not all “globalization” works for the benefit of all people.  Nevertheless, trends are to ever grater interaction among the representatives of governments, transnational corporations, and non-governmental organizations – social movements. There is less emphasis on a common language of communication such as Esperanto.  It is likely that English plays the role that some hoped that Esperanto would become, although Esperanto still has its chanpions.  Privat is an important symbol of those who worked between the two World Wars for new positive attitudes and strong inter-governmental structures that would create a climate of peace.  The tasks still  face us today.

o: Edmond Privat, drawing, 1925 (made during the UK in Geneva), photo archive of AdUEA, BHH of eo: UEA. By Oszkár Lázár (1890–), Geneva, Rue Lévrier 3, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Rene Wadlow, President, and a representative to the United Nations, Geneva, Association of World Citizen.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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Nansen Passport Rapprochement of Cultures.

The First Nansen Passport: The League of Nations and…

With the need to increase legal protection for the increasing number of refugees in the world; it is useful to recall the first Nansen Passport created by Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930).

The Leader of a Nordic-North Pole Exploration.

Fridtjof Nansen was thought of as a Norwegian; although he was born before the creation in 1905 of an independent State of Norway.  His family had historically been living in Copenhagen, Denmark; before his grandfather moved to Norway; then a part of the Kingdom of Denmark.  His family were traditionally lawyers; often involved in diplomacy. 

Fridtjof, however, as a young man; was not interested in law; but rather in the “great outdoors” and the natural sciences.  From 1893 to 1896; he was the leader of a Nordic-North Pole exploration. His account of the North Pole became a “best seller”  and gained for him international recognition.

Fridtjof Nansen is a model for Erik Werenskiold’s bust of him in the artist’s studio. Half figure. By National Library of Norway, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

An Independent Norway.

         Although he was never interested in participating in electoral politics; he was a strong supporter of an independent Norway separate from the Kingdom of Sweden; an independence which was granted in 1905. In 1906; he was appointed as Ambassador of Norway to London to negotiate a treaty of guarantees for the independence of Norway; thus setting out on a path of diplomacy which he never left; although in the public mind he was always the North Pole explorer.

         The First World War −1914-1918 − saw the disappearance of two major multi-ethnic empires: the Ottoman Empire and the Austria-Hungarian Empire; leaving millions of people “Stateless” − their States having disappeared.  They were usually unwelcome minorities in the States created  by the break up of the two empires. 

In addition; there was the 1917 Russian Revolution; which led to civil wars which lasted at least until 1922. There was also an issue of prisoners of war from the First World War stranded in Russia unable to be repatriated; and at least a million refugees from Russia scattered all over Europe. 

The Origins of Totalitarianism.

The break up of the Ottoman Empire led to war between the newly created Turkey and Greece in 1922; with a massive exchange of populations. There was also some 300,000 Armenians displaced by the 1915 genocide.  As Hannah Arendt wrote in The Origins of Totalitarianism:

“Once the refugees had left their homeland, they remained homeless, once they had left their State they became Stateless, once they were deprived of their human rights, they were rightless.”

         The League of Nations Secretariat; encouraged by the International Committee of the Red Cross; turned to Fridtjof Nansen in 1921 and said “Do something”; giving him the title of High Commissioner for Refugees; but very little money to “do something”.  Nansen depended heavily on the funds and expertise of private voluntary organizations.  In 1922; he set up an Advisory Committee consisting of 16 private organizations; which helped draw up a number of plans to solve  the refugee issues and to encourage non-governmental action.

The Nansen Passport.

         Due to the lack of legal protection which negatively affected most refugees from Russia, in July 1922, Nansen created a special certificate of identity for Russian refugees, commonly called the “Nansen Passport.” The document, valid for one year, certified that its holder was a Russian national by origin. 

It contained no general definition of a refugee and no specification of the motivation for flight.  It served as a form of “certification” that provided the refugee with enough legal status to enable its holder to travel to countries where he or she would be more likely to find work.

A proofprint of the «Nansen Passport» published in France. The passport was issued to Russians, and later on to other refugees who were unable to get ordinary passports. The Nansen Passport was issued on the initiative of F. Nansen in 1922, and was honored by the governments in 52 countries. By National Library of Norway, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The individual refugee and the Nansen Certificate.

In 1924; the Nansen passport was made to cover Armenian refugees as well; and then in 1928 to Assyrian refugees from the former Ottoman Empire.  As the US journalist Dorothy Thompson wrote in her book Refugees :

There is no doubt that by and large, the Nansen certificate is the greatest thing that has happened for the individual refugee. It returned his lost identity.  The refugee could never be sure whether he would get a labor permit by means of the Nansen certificate, but he could be sure that without the Nansen certificate he would never get it.”

The Nansen Office.

         Nansen died in 1930. The title of High Commissioner for Refugees was abolished.  However; the work continued under the title of the Nansen Office. It operated until 1938 and the effective end of the League of Nations.  The title of High Commissioner  for Refugees was re-established in 1951; when it became clear that refugees would continue on the world scene.

         Nansen’s outstanding personality and his strong and creative leadership have left a lasting impression on world refugee policies; as well as a foundation for cosmopolitan thought. 

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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