The Nansen Approach to Dialogue

This is part of a series of blog posts written by the 2011 Peace Scholars, as they complete their summer program in Oslo, Norway. This post was written by Claire Bergren, a Peace Scholar from Augsburg College.

Last week I had the amazing opportunity to visit Nansen Academy in Lillehammer before heading back to Oslo for the next six weeks. The academy and city are truly beautiful, and over the course of the week we were introduced to the philosophy of Nansen “dialogue,” and to other young people from the Western Balkans and Caucasus regions that will also be attending the International Summer School in (ISS) Oslo.

The Nansen Academy is one of ten locations in the entire Nansen Dialogue Network.  Steinar Bryn (our host) and many other skilled mediators gather opposing groups of people in current conflict to sit with each other and tell their stories. Instead of debating facts, numbers, and lives lost, those involved will hopefully dialogue with each other and learn that their experiences are not so different from one another. In this way, the Nansen Dialogue Network creates peace in the midst of conflict. Most of their work has been centered in the Balkans region, usually (but not always) between Serbians and Albanians in Kosovo. If you attended the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Forum at Luther College, you may have seen Steinar Bryn’s engaging presentation on the concept of international dialogue.

We also had the chance to explore the city of Lillehammer and enjoy its beauty. On Tuesday, we drove to the top of the Lillehammer Ski Jump used in the 1994 Winter Olympics and walked the length down- the view was amazing! Many of us went to the Lillehammer Art Museum and visited an extensive collection of work from Fridtjof Nansen, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, the Nansen Academy’s namesake, and the man voted as the most influential Norwegian of the 20th century in 2000. We also celebrated Midsummer’s Night Eve at Maihaugen Museum by gathering around Breisjøen Lake and watching a traditional fire lighting ceremony.

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