Uniting Nations for Peace: Ingrid Eide Interviewed by Stein Tønnesson

Ingrid Eide at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) in 1968. Photo: Henrik Laurvik / NTB / Scanpix

When people ask what peace is, I urge them to tell me what they associate with war. They answer death, destruction, battles, arms, hatred, uniforms, suffering, fear, anxiety, loss, misery, and much else, all of which are bad and sad. Then I suggest that peace could be the opposite: life, construction, debates, tools, friendship, a colourful dress, thriving, safety, serenity, gain, prosperity, all of which are good and enjoyable. The exact meaning of peace will differ from one person to the next, but it is always the opposite of war. This is how I saw it after the War, and this is how I see it today.

Ingrid Eide, interviewed by Stein Tønnesson

Ingrid Eide receives me at her home in Bjerkealléen (The Birch Alley) at Grefsen, Oslo, the neighbourhood where she grew up. She sits down in front of a painting of her mother, the teacher and peace activist Ragnhild Hjertine Haagensen Eide (1901–91), who also grew up at Grefsen. They resemble each other. I get a feeling of listening to both at the same time, speaking to me with a warm, firm, compelling voice.

Stein Tønnesson: When you say, ‘the War’, I suppose you mean the Second World War, when Germany occupied Norway. You grew up with that war. How did it form you as a sociologist and peace researcher?

Ingrid Eide: I had turned seven when the war came to Norway, and had started school at Grefsen. I was twelve before the war was over. Those five years gave me so many memories. I believe they were decisive for my later dedication to the mission of the United Nations and my enthusiasm for developing peace research.

In 1938, my family had moved from Bergen, where I spent my first four years, to Grefsen in what was then an Oslo suburb, with only some villas and many open fields. We had a garden full of apple trees. It helped feed us through an extremely cold winter and through the years that followed. We had many rabbits, and we cultivated as many vegetables and potatoes as we could in our garden, and in some of the open fields, which we shared with our neighbours.

My parents were decidedly anti-German. So were most of our family friends. When Norwegian teachers refused to comply with instructions to Nazify our schools, my father was among those arrested. He was interned along with his colleagues at Kirkenes in the Norwegian far north, near the Soviet border, but was released and sent back to Oslo with the others before Christmas 1942. I can still see before my eyes the skinny man who reappeared at our house, weighing 45 kilograms.

Shortly afterwards, it was my turn to be sent away. I was dispatched to Western Norway because I knew too much. One of my mother’s former pupils, Tore Gjelsvik (1916–2006), had taken up a central role in the Resistance. One day, he came running through rain and slush in his slippers and an unbuttoned jacket, and took refuge in our house. Unfortunately, I got to know his real name. Since I was just a child, the grown-ups couldn’t rely on me to keep it secret. Another former pupil of my mother, the geographer Tore Sund (1914–64), also came to stay with us.

I was dispatched to Western Norway because I knew too much. […] Tore Gjelsvik had taken up a central role in the Resistance. One day, he came running through rain and slush in his slippers and an unbuttoned jacket, and took refuge in our house. Unfortunately, I got to know his real name. Since I was just a child, the grown-ups couldn’t rely on me to keep it secret.

So, I was sent by train to Bergen with some dry bread to eat. One of my father’s sisters took me from Bergen up to Vadheim by boat. The boat sailed in a convoy with German naval vessels. They were not meant to protect us, it was the other way around: the Germans thought the British would hesitate to bomb their vessels if they were in the company of Norwegian civilian ships. From Vadheim I got on a bus to Naustdal, then boarded a truck, and was finally taken on a horse cart to a small farm, where I was received by my paternal aunt, my uncle, and four female cousins I had never seen before.

The rural society that instantly embraced me was so different from anything I had seen in Bergen or Oslo. There was running water in the house but no electricity, and the community did not even have its own church. Notably, there were no Germans around. Yet there was a small school, where my uncle was the only teacher. We received a mostly non-religious education, although we did sing psalms and pray in the morning before the lessons began.

In my later life, when working with development issues, I have often thought about the country life I experienced as a child at Fimlandsgrend in Sunnfjord, with dirt roads, animals, wells, toilets in the barn – and ancient customs. I was chosen to be Jonsokbrud (Midsummer Bride). The tallest boy in my class acted as priest and symbolically married me to a classmate, Morten Fimland. We walked in a procession from one farm to another, inviting everyone to celebrate our marriage. This was probably a kind of fertility rite.

I am grateful for having received this countryside experience, although it did not last long. After six months, I could go back to Oslo, at a time when my mother had taken over a post as teacher from the wife of General Olaf Helset (1892–1960). The General’s wife had been compelled to flee to Sweden. Now, my mother would pretend to be her.

Bestum school in the 1920s. Photo: Anders Beer Wilse / CC BY-SA / Oslo Museum

Bestum school, the one I first went to, was upper class. I think all the children had parents with some higher education, except Judith, who lived in an orphanage. At Christmas time, the whole class visited her home, so I got to see what an orphanage looked like. Then, when the Germans requisitioned Bestum school, we were taught in private homes.

I also got to know Lilleborg school, where my mother had once been a pupil, and where she was now teaching. That school was purely working class. To get to know so many different school environments between the ages of seven and twelve was enlightening. So, you see that my war time experience was instructive. I got to know some opposite sides of Norway.

What were your feelings during the Liberation in 1945?

I was euphoric. We had become used to seeing German soldiers marching in the streets, acting as if they owned the place. Now they were gone. We could tear down the blinding curtains and use them for a bonfire in a park. We saw hundreds of Norwegian flags being hoisted. People had kept them hidden for five long years. On the 13th of May, Crown Prince Olav (1903–91) returned from England and was sitting in an open car. We joined the crowd lining the streets to watch the Allied soldiers parade past us.

We threw flowers at them, and people whispered to each other to be careful to economize so we would have some flowers left for the Russians. After their release from captivity, they had been given a chance to clean themselves, and came marching in clothes made to vaguely resemble their former uniforms. Little did we know the fate that awaited these prisoners of war upon their repatriation to the Soviet Union. The Russian prisoners of war had been a part of our urban environment for the last three years. They did slave work at Grefsen railway station. Now, they would do slave work in the gulags.

Little did we know the fate that awaited these prisoners of war upon their repatriation to the Soviet Union. The Russian prisoners of war had been a part of our urban environment for the last three years. They did slave work at Grefsen railway station. Now, they would do slave work in the gulags.

These are just some glimpses of my war years. The war had a decisive influence on my life. It created an unshakable conviction in my mind that nothing similar must ever happen again. The world has to be organized in a different way, so that everyone can relate to each other as fellow human beings and form a common future in peace.

Return of Crown Prince Olav (future King Olav V) on 13 May, 1945. Photo: Unknown / CC BY-SA / Oslo Museum

Did you believe in the United Nations when the new world organization was established in 1945?

Yes, with fervour. After the war, I was part of a group of high school students who saw the UN as immensely important, so we contacted the new UN Association of Norway (FN-Sambandet) and created a UN Youth Group. Many children of Motdagists joined the group (Mot Dag was a group of young Marxist intellectuals who were active during the years 1921–1940. Many of its members joined the Resistance during the war and became resourceful members of the Norwegian Labour Party in 1945).

A particularly important member of our UN Youth Group was Berthold Grünfeld (1932–2007). He was among the Jewish children whom the psychiatrist Nic Waal (1905–60) was able to save when Norwegian Jews were collected by the Norwegian police in October–November 1942 and deported to the Auschwitz extermination camp. Berthold was an extremely talented and knowledgeable young boy who later became a professor of psychiatry. He had been brought to safety in Sweden, and had benefited from being part of the Swedish-Jewish community.

I became a member of this fabulous group of young people. We established study groups at Norwegian high schools, and in 1950, we initiated so-called Nansen camps (named after the scientist, explorer and humanitarian activist Fridtjof Nansen, 1861–1930). We met in various places, such as the Nobel Institute, where the UN Association of Norway had office space on the top floor. Our young group could meet there and do our homework in the library on the first floor, with its beautiful interior in carved oak.

Famous people like (the psychiatrist) Johan Scharffenberg (1869–1965) might come to the library and sit next to me, just like that. We formed a very special group of 16–17-year-olds who wrote our essays and looked stuff up in encyclopedias while witnessing intellectuals like (the physician, publicist and health director) Karl Evang (1902–1981) arrive on his regular visits to read the latest international newspapers.

While working in the library, I discovered (the American political scientist) Quincy Wright (1890–1970) and his book A Study of War (University of Chicago Press, 1942), which played a significant role for our thinking on war and peace.

The library of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, 1905. Photo: Elis Nilsson / The Norwegian Nobel Institute

The Nobel Institute had been the central place for Norwegian peace work and peace studies since the beginning of the 20th century, with Christian (Lous) Lange (1869–1938) as a key figure. Did you, when working and studying at the Nobel Institute, consider yourself to uphold an intellectual tradition from before the War, with emphasis on neutrality and bridge-building? Did you read about and discuss the successes and failures of the League of Nations?

We saw August Schou there (historian, 1903–84), who became Director of the Nobel Institute in 1946 (and kept the position until 1973), but I cannot remember that we studied the works of Christian Lange. As you may know, he was the father of Halvard Lange (1902–70), our foreign minister after the War. As for your question, I remember us as being engaged in something new – a new beginning, rather than a continuation of a tradition.

I do not recollect that any of us studied the experience of the League of Nations, but we were aware of its failure, and we understood that the UN Security Council, with its five veto powers, had been created in order to prevent the United States from failing once again to live up to its international responsibilities. The biggest weakness of the League of Nations had been that the US remained outside from the beginning. We were told that the veto system was a lesser evil than the risk of US abandonment.

Who do you represent when you say ‘we’, apart from yourself?

I mean the UN Association of Norway Youth Group, Berthold (Grünfeld) and the children of the Motdagists, and also some other pupils at various high schools, notably the Oslo Cathedral School. I myself went to the Grefsen High School.

Was Johan Galtung also a member of your ‘we’?

No, not yet. He was born in 1930, so he belonged to an older cohort and did not take part in any of the Nansen camps.

I did not know him at that point, but once I enrolled at the University of Oslo to take preparatory exams in philosophy, I met (philosophy professor) Arne Næss (1912–2009). He talked about Gandhi and non-violence.

In one of your publications you call the Cold War ‘the frozen peace’. Did you react against the east-west division of Europe?

The idea behind the Nansen Summer Camps was to match a group of Norwegian students with an equal number of students from abroad, and a special mission was to reconcile Norwegian and German youth. Hence, we invited many Germans, although mostly if not uniquely from West Germany (which became the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949). We intended to also include students from Eastern Europe, and I took part in meetings in Warsaw and Prague. We formed and engaged actively in a Committee for International Student Cooperation: Komiteen for internasjonalt studentsamarbeid (KISS).

The late 1940s and early 1950s were a rather special period for students in Oslo. Many young men and some women whose studies had been interrupted by the war came back to the university (which had been closed during 1942-45) to finish their education. We who were younger could thus enjoy the company of more mature students with a wide range of war time experiences. The Cold War, however, divided us. Our group wanted to stay in touch with Eastern Europe. Yet this was controversial.

We were sad to see that some prominent student leaders, many of whom would later take up key positions in the Norwegian government, decided to follow Labour Party guidelines, and refuse any contact with communist countries.

At this time, I personally developed a particular animosity towards Labour Party Secretary General Haakon Lie (1905–2009), who wrote a horrible book called Kaderpartiet (The Cader Party, 1954). Although I was “a political animal”, I promised myself and those close to me that I would not join the Labour Party as long as he held power. I kept my promise until 1969, when he was finally forced to step down. Then two of my friends, the Labour Party politicians Reiulf Steen (1933–2014) and Knut Frydenlund (1927–87) reminded me of my promise. I joined the Labour Party and have remained an active member ever since.

Why did you decide to become a sociologist?

After having passed the preparatory exams at the University of Oslo, I was accepted into the Teachers’ College (Oslo Offentlige Lærerskole). It was disappointing. I soon realized that the college’s pedagogy was outmoded. Graduates from that college would be ill-prepared for the challenges I had witnessed at the various schools I knew from the war years. I completed the Teachers’ College and then went back to the university and opted for the new discipline sociology.

I did a survey of my mother’s primary school Lilleborg, where for a short time I also practiced as a teacher. This led to my dissertation for the Magister degree: Noen skolesosiologiske problemer, en organisasjonsanalyse av en folkeskole i Oslo i 1959 (‘Some Pedagogical-Sociological Problems: An Organizational Analysis of a Primary School in Oslo, 1959’, Oslo, August 1962). I found through my survey that there was virtually no cooperation among the teachers, and that many of them underestimated their pupils. I also found massive support among the pupils for going to school. If they had been free to leave the school, they would not have done it, and the main expectation they had of their teachers was that they should be just.

In the mid-1950s, with your UN engagement, your participation in international student cooperation, your studies in sociology and psychology, and your interest in school reform, what brought you to take part in developing a programme for peace research? Even the term ‘peace research’ was new at the time. Wasn’t it?

Yes. This was a long and multi-faceted process where Johan [Galtung] played the central role. He joined the Committee for International Student Cooperation (KISS), which had grown out of the Nansen camps, with the aim of developing a science of peace. We formed a group around him. He had a great talent for writing, and he quickly published a book on non-violent defence, peace research and peace brigades, as we called them. Later on, they became the peace corps.

Our ideas, inspired by Johan, were disseminated through the peace movement. We met in the Galtung family’s dining room beneath the enormous portraits of his illustrious 17th century ancestors and wrote up radical programmes for a new peace-promoting science.

Who were the members of this group?

Above all Mari Holmboe Ruge (1934–) and Herman Ruge (1928–2019), and to some extent Per Schreiner (1932–2005). Johan had finished high school long before me and my friends. He did his obligatory service as a conscientious objector and met Herman. They had both specialized in the natural sciences. During Johan’s time as a conscientious objector, and also during his time in prison (after having refused to serve more than the twelve months that soldiers needed to serve), he had time to think through the principles of non-violence.

He got in touch with Arne Næss, and they decided to work together on Gandhi’s activist thinking. This led to their jointly written book, Gandhis politiske etikk (Gandhi’s Political Ethics, Oslo: Tanum, 1955). While they were working on the manuscript, we often went to Kolsås, west of Oslo, where Arne had a cottage. We spent the weekends there so Johan and Arne could work undisturbed. Through this I got to know Arne’s wife at the time, the psychologist Siri Næss, who remains a very good friend.

How did you define peace?

I began to conceive of peace as the opposite of war and all its characteristics, rather than its absence.

At first, I was chiefly concerned with avoiding war, while Johan was keen to promote freedom and justice through peace. Yet I shared his conviction that peace could not be only the absence of war. I began to conceive of peace as the opposite of war and all its characteristics, rather than its absence. I still find this to be a fruitful approach.

How did the new peace research find its first institutional homes?

Some of the meetings in the UN Association’s Youth Group were held at the Institute for Social Research (Institutt for samfunnsforskningISF) in Arbiens Street, close to the Nobel institute, and (the sociologist) Vilhelm Aubert (1922–88) was highly supportive. I got a position as research assistant at the Institute of Sociology, University of Oslo, and was asked to study the youth clubs that had recently been established in various parts of the city: did these clubs enable the youth to overcome divisions of class?

So, I split my time between the University of Oslo and the Institute for Social Research (ISF), which after some time got a delightful new building in Munthes Street, whose architects (Molle Cappelen, Per Cappelen, Trond Eliassen, and Birger Lambertz-Nilssen) are said to have been inspired by the European monastic tradition.

In the first years, however, from 1959–64, our peace research group was located at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute at Polhøgda, near the Fornebu airport west of Oslo. We had promoted Nansen’s ideals, so it felt natural for us to be located in what had been his home. The board of the property did not, however, appreciate an analysis Johan wrote of (Soviet leader) Nikita Khrushchev’s visit to Norway in 1964, so we were thrown out. This allowed us to get office space in Munthes Street. Later on, we moved to a big villa in Frognerseterveien, where there was enough space for a number of political science students.

Institute for Social Research (ISF) building in Munthes street, 1960. Photo: Unknown/ CC BY-NC/ The National Museum

Who were PRIO’s founders?

Apart from Johan, Mari and me, we must count Erik Rinde (1919–94) and Sigurd Rinde (1889–1972). They were the ones who made it possible for us to receive office space at the ISF. For a long time, Erik Rinde was the ISF Director and also served as chair of its board (1950–74, again from 1988), and as a member of PRIO’s Board (1966–1979). The role of Mari Holmboe Ruge was crucial. Johan and I had married in 1956, and we travelled a lot together.

Mari remained in place – held the fort, to use a military expression – and received letters from Johan with incredibly demanding requests concerning which students to help, whom to call, which prominent people to invite, funds to raise, publications to prepare, conferences to organize, etc., etc. Mari kept the institute alive.

So, the male founder travelled around the world in the company of his wife, and another female held the fort. How would you characterize gender relations in this innovative environment? Were you a feminist at the time?

Only in the sense that I wanted both women and men to play an active part in peace research, so it would not become a uniquely masculine enterprise. Still, Mari and I took up some traditionally female roles. We felt that someone had to take responsibility for the infrastructure, and while Johan’s publications quickly filled whole bookshelves, Mari’s and my writings remained limited in number.

We adhered to the principle of ‘peace relevance’. For me, that meant I wanted to do research on the work that the UN was undertaking in the field, and on how the idea of international solidarity was communicated to and accepted by the Norwegian population. Mari and I contributed a lot to seminars; we read and commented on people’s manuscripts, mimeographed our publications and walked around and around tables, collecting sheets of paper, combining them and stapling them into A4 booklets.

We shared a commitment to developing peace research. Peace researchers of both genders felt that we were doing something important together – and we hired a male secretary!

A male secretary, at that time?

Yes. We hired Erik Ivås (1937–2017), a man who had spent a long time in prison. He was a great asset for PRIO and stayed with the institute well into the 1980s.

How did PRIO affect your research?

It required relevance to peace, so I abandoned my research in Norwegian School Pedagogics and concentrated on my UN engagement. I wanted to study how the UN functioned in practice and how the idea of a shared effort for development was disseminated among a population. I felt that it was highly relevant from a peace research perspective to look at attitudes towards international cooperation, so this led me to write an article about technical assistance and public opinion in the first issue of the Journal of Peace Research. I also examined how UN experts interacted with each other, with the UN system and with national authorities, thus contributing to nation-building. We called this phenomenon the ‘international man’.

Subsequently, UNESCO undertook a massive research initiative under the headline East-West Major Project and collected evidence among students from three ‘Eastern’ countries studying in three ‘Western’ countries. This gave us a 3×3 matrix that was used for comparing how the students adapted themselves.

This became the basis for a book I edited during my time at PRIO: Students As Links Between Cultures: A Cross-Cultural Survey Based on UNESCO Studies (Oslo: Scandinavian University Books, 1970), with chapters by, among others, the Canadian psychologist Otto Klineberg (1899–1992), who was an important participant in PRIO’s research in the early period, and the British sociologist Thomas Humphrey Marshall (1893–1981), who played an important role in creating UNESCO. I myself wrote an analysis of the evidence collected from the students. This was a huge task since the material was quite disorganized. Yet the work was done; one finding was that the students from India both had the strongest collective identity and benefited the most from their studies in the ‘West’.

With Johan, you spent quite a lot of time in the US. What did you think of it?

During our first stay, I got a chance to work at Columbia University and could attend lectures by the most famous American sociologists. We lived on 118th Street, near Harlem at 125th Street. We had virtually no money at the time. I became pregnant, and in 1958, when it was time to give birth three weeks early, I went to our Jewish bookshop and asked where one could deliver a baby without paying, and I was directed to St. Luke’s, where I was given a bed in a huge room with women from all parts of the world.

When they offered anaesthetics, I said I did not want to get drugged, so they collected a group of students to watch a so-called ‘natural birth’, apparently a rare phenomenon. Afterwards they wanted to give me a number of pills, including one to inhibit lactation, which I refused, so I was the only woman in the hall who could breastfeed my child. Yet they insisted that I take with me a gallon of artificial milk when I left. So, this was how my son Andreas was born.

Did this form your image of the US?

Yes. The United States has this curious mix of freedom and coercion. There was no welfare state, yet the US society had some heavy means of social control. Later on, during 1987–89, I would work for two years at the New York headquarters of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), so I think I have spent some five years in New York altogether.

Something that also determined my view of the US was a research programme Johan developed about racial conflict. We went to Charlottesville at a time when the state of Virginia had decided to maintain segregation by closing public schools since the Supreme Court had decided that they were under obligation to accept black students.

It was a tough conflict. We interviewed a number of black people. This was at the time when I was pregnant, so at one point when I was walking down the street alongside a young black man, I felt a need to sit down and have something to drink. Then I realized that this was impossible. There was nowhere a white woman and black man were allowed to sit down together. We had to enter a grocery store, buy some water and drink it in the street.

You were married to Johan Galtung from 1956–68 (PRIO Director 1959–69) and then to Sverre Lodgaard from 1969–96 (PRIO Director 1986–1992), and have two children with Johan – Andreas (1958–) and Harald (1962–) – and one with Sverre – Christian (1972–) – so you have been able to closely watch two of Norway’s leading peace researchers for long periods of time. How do they compare?

I should first add that in later years, former Minister of Finance and Director General of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), Per Kleppe (1923–), has been a very special friend. We got to know each other when he was Minister of Finance and I was State Secretary in the Ministry of Ecclesiastic and Educational Affairs (1973–76) and while we were both members of the Labour Party’s Central Committee, and we became close friends after his wife of many years died. These are three rather interesting men, who have contributed to forming my life as an adult.

It is extremely difficult to compare Johan and Sverre. They are so different. Johan lived under the impression of his noble heritage. When I married him I was included in the Danish list of nobility. His ancestry gave him a self-assurance, allowing him to advocate a rather extreme form of democracy both nationally and internationally. As an aristocrat he would represent the downtrodden. We lived with that ambivalence.

When we married it was unthinkable that I could keep Eide as my family name. I had to become a Galtung (with Eide as just a middle name), and when we divorced it was just as evident that I had to give up the Galtung name and become Eide again, although I had two children by the name of Galtung. There could be only one Mrs Galtung: his new Japanese wife.

Johan [Galtung] lived under the impression of his noble heritage. […] His ancestry gave him a self-assurance, allowing him to advocate a rather extreme form of democracy both nationally and internationally. As an aristocrat he would represent the downtrodden. We lived with that ambivalence.

Sverre’s background was almost the opposite. He came from a small-holder farm in the countryside and his father was a carpenter. Sverre was a highly respected colleague and also very young and attractive, and since I knew that he did not belong to anyone else, we became a couple, we married and we had a child together: Christian Eide Lodgaard.

In the beginning, we lived in that house over there [Ingrid points at a neighbouring house, where a nephew lives today]. While I was married to Johan, we had renovated and enlarged the house, which belonged to my parents, so we could have a big seminar room. An infinite number of international conferences and seminars were organized in that house during my first marriage.

Perhaps understandably, however, Sverre soon got tired of living in a house constructed for my marriage with Johan, so we moved to an apartment higher up on the hill, where I felt insanely miserable. So did my son Harald. (Andreas had gone to live with the Ruge family). It worked out for as long as Harald was a child, but when he became a teenager he left the apartment to live with my parents.

Then I decided that I needed another place to live with all my children. This was at a time when Sverre moved to Stockholm to work at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). I was then a deputy member of parliament (meeting permanently 1979–81), so I got a five-year contract on a parliament apartment on Fritzners Street. Then I could have all my three sons under one roof for a period of almost five years.

Let me now return to the beginning. After Norway’s liberation from Nazi occupation, you saw the United Nations as a means to create a world of peace. Has your belief in the UN faded over the years, or have you retained your identification with the UN while getting to know it from the inside?

I remain a strong supporter. Just look over there [she points at the wall]: I keep the UN flag in my home next to our Norwegian flag. This is the same Norwegian flag my family had during the occupation. As you can see, it is now rather faded. To keep those two flags next to each other is of symbolic importance to me.

During my first period in New York, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) contacted me and appointed me as its representative to the UN headquarters. It was a charmingly open time. I drove our wreck of an Oldsmobile into the UN garage, walked the corridors with my little name tag and could have access everywhere and to each and everyone. I met Eleanor Roosevelt (1884–1962; US liberal activist and widow of president Franklin D. Roosevelt). We tried to assist the governments of newly decolonized states in learning how to operate within the UN system.

Years later, we also engaged the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in supporting the new international peace research community. PRIO undertook some projects funded by UNESCO. UNESCO had supported the Nansen camps, and now PRIO did research on racial conflict and strategies of integration. In the 1960s, Johan also engaged in UNESCO-funded cooperation with the Latin American School of Social Sciences (Facultad latinamericana de sciencias socialesFLACSO) and this put us in touch with a fascinating world of radical Latin American intellectuals.

The flag of the United Nations. Photo: sanjitbakshi / CC BY / Flickr

My early UN experience made me well prepared for serving as Director of the UNDP’s programme for Women in Development (WID) during 1987–89. I used my directorship to promote the role of women across the board and raise a number of women’s issues. At the end of my term, I was elected to UNESCO’s Executive Board 1989–93, and subsequently served as leader of the Norwegian National Commission for UNESCO 1991–98.

My election to the Executive Board required heavy lobbying not just through formal networks but also through my own informal ones and those of the (liberal politician and former member of the Executive Board) Gunnar Garbo (1924–2016). So yes, my UN engagement has remained with me, and I was given a chance to work for the UN in many capacities.

The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) […] appointed me as its representative to the UN headquarters. It was a charmingly open time. I drove our wreck of an Oldsmobile into the UN garage, walked the corridors with my little name tag and could have access everywhere and to each and everyone.

Your mother Ragnhild passed away in 1991. At the funeral you spoke lovingly about her, and your speech was later printed in a book that Mari Holmboe Ruge edited for your 75th birthday. Your mother is right there behind you on the wall as we speak. You were always close to her, weren’t you?

Yes, I was. When I taught at Lilleborg school, where my mother had gone to school herself and later taught, there were some who called me Ragnhild, since they thought I resembled her. I liked that.

Ingrid Eide. Photo: Private

My parents, both my mother and father (Olav Martin Eide, 1902–85), were always supportive. Both of them had studied natural sciences and remained teachers all their working lives, but they did not oppose my choice of sociology. They were always tolerant and supportive. When Johan was out travelling and I stayed at home, they helped me take care of my children. Without their help I could not have completed my studies so quickly.

In the late 1960s, when my mother retired from her job as a teacher at Berg high school, she told me that she wanted to use her time and her administrative skills to work for the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. So she did for the rest of her life. She and Dagny Skauge (1911–2004) from Eidsvoll kept the League alive through a difficult period, at a time when it lost its office and funding. There were many meetings in this room where we are sitting. My mother also engaged herself in Grandmothers for Peace.

My mother’s sister Ingrid died at the age of 17. Mother never stopped thinking about Ingrid’s unlived life. I was named after her. Mother and I shared the same sisterly engagement for peace until the day she died, and then I moved into her house.

Thank you very much, Ingrid.

Share this: