Arctic, Barents and Baltic regions face together the challenges of climate change, resiliency, and sustainability. On the 30th September 5 young people from the Arctic and Baltic gathered at the workshop “Baltic meets Arctic: Young people in the heart of a sustainable change” to discuss the future of the region. The workshop was arranged as a part of the 11th Annual Forum of the EUSBSR EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region
The goal of the workshop was to give young people of the European Arctic and Baltic an opportunity to share their perspectives and views about an economic and social sustainable future. The youth panel consisted of Anni-Sofia Niittyvuopio, Julia Orluk, Tim Andersson Rask, Juho Kähkönen and Ingvild Brox Kielland, who all have an interest in youth engagement and regional development. The topics discussed during the workshop captured what young people see as the main challenges in the region's development and what values they find important. The focal points of the discussions were:
Regional identity and values
The panelists discussed regional and local identities and whether regional identity is important for youth nowadays. The region is home to many cultures and identities, and yet we find ways to connect over our geographical location. How do you define yourself - as a northerner, a Barents citizen or something else?
Listen in on the discussion on our YouTube:
Unequal regional development and the issues with urban-rural division
A big but sparsely populated area such as the Arctic region experiences the backsides of urbanization. Many of the panelists argued that urbanization as a political tendency should be counterbalanced; the focus should be on achieving equal regional development and create opportunities for youth to live a fulfilled life even outside the major cities. Instead of measuring regional development with economic growth as the parameter, focus should be shifted to the value of a good life - what does a good life look like in different places and for different cultures and how do we achieve it?
The panelists also discussed the use of the word “peripheral” in the different countries. The word “periphery” is easily used to describe areas outside of cities in a negative perspective, and discussions easily turn into an urban versus rural, either/or thinking. This is something we can all reflect on; which words do you use to describe areas outside major cities? What underlying values affect your choice of words? Do you see the city as the norm for a good life?
Sustainable change and conserns about green growth
Climate change is a disruptive force that already affects the Arctic areas and the political climate. The panelists discussed the need for a shift in mindset from traditional economic growth to de-growth and downscaling of our lifestyles and resource needs. Technological advancement to reduce carbon emissions alone will not be enough; a systematic change in our mindset towards a less consumption-oriented society is needed. Investments in green energy in the north, for example wind farms, creates concern for increasing green colonialism and yet another source of distress for indigenous communities.
The panel discussion showed that there needs to be more work done on capturing youth perspectives on regional development and get more insight on what young people value and prioritize in life. Because of the similar, global challenges in the Arctic-Baltic region, cross-border exchange on youth perspectives is valuable for both youth and decision makers. New concepts such as de-growth and downscaling are taking more space in the discussions, which indicates new priorities and perspectives on development. The main concern during the discussions was that not enough concrete actions are taken to ensure a good future in the region. However, there is hope and optimism that change can happen.
The workshop was organized by City of Oulu with Arctic Mayors Forum, Regional Council of Oulu, Regional Council of Lapland, Arctic Centre -University of Lapland and International Barents Secretariat. The results from the workshop will be presented at the 11th Annual Forum of the EU strategy for the Baltic Sea Region on the 20th October 2020. More information at www.annualforum2020.eu and https://www.oulu2026.eu/balticmeetsarctic/