Young enthusiasm bubbling under the official Barents cooperation

The youth council works in many arenas, from bringing young voice into official meetings to organizing international activities for young people.

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Photo (Barents Press Sweden): Young Swedish journalists on an excursion to North-West Russia in October 2016

December is freezing cold and pitch-dark in the village of Yb in Komi Republic, Russia. But 60 youngsters from all corners of Barents have been looking eagerly forward to getting there for months. Barents Regional Youth Council is organizing a 5-day event on healthy lifestyle in the woods, 50 kilometres from the regional capital Syktyvkar.

21-year-old student Lumi Koivisto from Lapland, Finland is excited.

– I’m looking forward to making friends during the event. We’re going to have a great time! I think that intercultural communication and cooperation is very important. It teaches the young people intercultural values and motivates them in their language studies. It also makes them interested in the world outside their home countries.

“Youth are the future of Barents” is a catchphrase you can hear in every high-level Barents meeting – and the youth are considered an essential to the cooperation. The Barents Regional Youth Council consists of 13 regional and one indigenous representative, exactly like its big brother, the Barents Regional Council. The youth council is an official part of the cooperation, and its purpose is to promote good life in the north for youth. Many northern young people head south for education and jobs, but there is a vast array of opportunities in the High North, too.

The youth council works in many arenas, varying from bringing young voice into official meetings to organizing international activities for youth. This year they have coordinated numerous projects where participants get to see Barents and exchange experiences with peers from all around the region.

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Photo by Barents Press Sweden

UnCapitals tour brought young artists and media professionals to a semi-abandoned industrial city of Olonets in Murmanskaya Oblast, Russia. The project highlights the decentralization issues in the northern sparsely populated areas, providing the participants with new kind of professional experience and bringing together different artists from all four Barents countries for creative collaboration. Next year the Uncapitals tour will continue – stay tuned and check their website!

The message from these projects is clear: the young are not only the stakeholders of tomorrow, but also those of today. For example, in order to enhance their professional understanding of Russia, a group of young Swedish journalists went on a field trip to North-West Russia in October. The project “Robota” was managed in cooperation with Barents Regional Youth Council and Barents Press. Broadening horizons and understanding what is generally considered as “the Other” in one’s country is the key to being a skilled and versatile journalist – and person.

Lumi, among dozens of others, will open the door to Barents understanding and identity in a small Komi village on December the 14th. Nordic Pulse, the youth council’s annual event, is an international opportunity for anyone between 16 and 30 years and with basic English skills. They will spend five days together, taking part in workshops varying from yoga to leadership. They’ll get a chance to make friends, overcome their prejudices and fears and to catch a glimpse of each other’s cultures and habits.

It’s not easy to measure the success of an international youth project. How valuable are life-long friendships, broader horizons and choosing one’s own path to adulthood?

Text: Sunna Kokkonen

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Barents Euro-Arctic Council official website 2017