Norwegian Fridtjof Nansen pioneered international refugee action. When appointed by the League of Nations as the first High Commissioner in 1920, he was responsible for defining the legal status of those displaced by the civil war in Russia and arranging for their integration into the host countries or their repatriation.
He created what would become the basic structure of UNHCR and organized an international conference which resulted in the creation of the “Nansen passport”. Until his death in 1930, his responsibilities also covered Greek, Turkish, Bulgarian, Armenian, and other refugees. In 1922, Nansen’s work was rewarded with the Nobel Peace Prize.
Since 1954, UNHCR has awarded the Nansen medal annually to individuals or groups of people who have provided exceptional services for refugees, perpetuating Nansen’s courage and compassion as inspiration.