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Photo: MFA.Photo: MFA

The Dream of Peace

In the United Nations Office at Geneva Library – the largest of the UN libraries – hangs the painting «The Dream of Peace» by the Norwegian painter Henrik Sørensen. It was given by the Norwegian government to the UN in 1939, at the outbreak of the Second World War. Today, «The Dream of Peace» still remains highly relevant, reminding us of the determination in the UN Charter «to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind».

The library in Palais des Nations in Geneva dates back to the establishment of the League of Nations in 1920. It became the UN Library at Geneva in 1946, when the League of Nations’ assets were transferred to the United Nations. The building that houses the library has remained almost unchanged since the 1930s, and comprises six floors. The library contains 1,500,000 volumes, 4,000,000 UN documents, 70,000 electronic journals, 70 databases and 46,000 meters of books and periodicals. It has three primary functions: knowledge provider, memory keeper and dialogue facilitator.  

The UNOG library has several Norwegian connections. In its archives you can find an important collection of Fridtjof Nansen’s documents from his time as the first High Commissioner for Refugees. From 2001 to 2003, the National Archives of Norway (Riksarkivet) digitalized half of the UNOG library’s Nansen collection, with support from Fritt Ord.

The painting «The Dream of Peace» hangs in the library’s main hall, and Henrik Sørensen partially painted it in this room. The painting was given to the UN by the Norwegian government in 1939, a time when the painting’s title could seem both naïvely utopian and at the same time highly relevant. The painter’s strong engagement for pacifism and disarmament also gave him quite some media attention in Norway. It can also be mentioned that the painting for several years was covered by a curtain. The hall’s acoustics was said to be the reason for this. However, «raison de moral» might have been just an as important reason, due to the painting’s depiction of nudity. Luckily, «The Dream of Peace» can still be seen in the UNOG Library today, reminding us of the aspiration to world peace, still highly relevant.


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