Making the Barents Cooperation more efficient: the youth cooperation enters a new era

 The many working groups in the Barents Cooperation are often criticised for being namely too many. However, they constitute a crucial part of the very foundation of the cooperation. That is where experts meet, plans are made and many decisions are taken. The working groups are all launched as a response to potentials for improvement in various fields through cross-border cooperation identified by decision makers and experts. The field of youth cooperation is by no means an exception. Between 2002 and 2004, four actors focusing on youth were established that have taken the youth cooperation to what it is today: a well established cooperation and well maintained network among the young residents and decision makers on various levels in the Barents Region. Now, they are looking into how to become more efficient by merging structures and looking at the division of labor between the different actors.

Looking at the well established youth cooperation in the Barents Region today, it seems surprising that it was not part of the Barents Cooperation already when it was initially launched in 1993. In 2002, the Working Group on Youth Policy was started, focusing on cooperation on national level between the ministries responsible for youth issues. The cooperation was then additionally strengthened when the Regional Working Group on Youth Issues was established one year later.

In 2002, the Barents Youth Cooperation Office (BYCO) was established in Murmansk for communication and to support the youth groups. In 2004, the cooperation expanded with even one more structure, through the establishment of the Barents Regional Youth Council (BRYC).
The two levels – national and regional - have been working closely together and in 2009 the cooperation developed into a discussion on merging them into one. In March, 2011, the decision to merge into a Joint Working Group on Youth before the end of the year was finally taken.

During the spring the process of combining the platforms of the two working groups started. Barents Youth Stakeholders meetings were arranged, gathering the different players within the youth field of the Barents cooperation. The proposal to merge was approval in October 2011 by the Committee of Senior Officals of the Barents Council as well as the Regional Committee.

The first meeting of the Joint Working Group on Youth (JWGY) took place in November 2nd-4th 2011 in Oslo.
– We have had a good cooperation between the two youth working groups for several years and it was a natural step to merge. This gives us an opportunity to coordinate the efforts from the national and regional sides even more. BRYC, for example, will be strengthened by this. Now they have only one working group to talk to and they will reach the full Barents youth cooperation through this one channel, adds Bjørn Jaaberg-Hansen, Senior Adviser Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion.
– This is very good for the regional side. We will be in direct contact with the national level, but also BYCO. It increases our ability to reach out to relevant players in the Barents cooperation, says regional co-chair of JWGY, Lars Miguel Utsi, also Indigenous Peoples’ Adviser at the International Barents Secretariat, who will continue to represent the indigenous peoples in the group for one more year.
The two co-chairs conclude that there is a lot to do after the first meeting. One of the tasks will be to update the web pages, but there are other tasks coming up too. The next meeting of the JWGY will be coordinated with BRYC. We will sit down and discuss how our new working group can improve the youth cooperation in the Barents Region, says Mr. Jaaberg-Hansen,

The national chairmanship was transferred from the Swedish national Board of Youth Affairs, to Norway and the Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion on the JWGY meeting in Oslo in November 2nd-4th.

BarentSaga continues to follow the youth cooperation and also recommends the article about BRYC in this issue.



The Youth cooperation stakeholders meet in September, 2011, in Kirkenes, to plan for merging the two working groups
From right: Lars-Miguel Utsi, Laila Dalhaug, Eva Theisz, Maria Petrova, Ylva-Maria Pavval, Julia Lapshina,
Lotta Rössner, and Bjørn Jaaberg-Hansen.  Photo by Anna Lund