Fresh money for international youth cooperation
– I have good news for you. We have followed up your proposals from the youth panel, says Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide to Martin Gamst Johnsen (23).
Last year, young people from Nordland and Troms and Finnmark were invited to provide input to the Government's strategy for the High North and the Arctic. Johnsen was on the youth panel.
Since Johnsen himself has been involved in several Barents projects, it was important for him to put international youth cooperation on the agenda.
– I remember the first time I traveled to Arkhangelsk. It was absolutely magical. The background for my proposal was that I wanted more people to get that same opportunity. I am extremely grateful that you saw the potential in the idea, he says to the minister.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs met with the youth politician in Kirkenes to convey the good news: Cooperation projects between young people in the Barents region are earmarked for an extra two million NOK a year for the next four years in the government's proposal for the state budget presented on 13 October.
– You described two sides that are very important; downscaling differences and building trust. You see it clearly in a context where young people participate and how it can help to create attractive local communities, the minister explains.
The money will, among other things, be used to grow the international youth network in the north and strengthen young people as project managers.
Johnsen has traveled a lot and has good friends around the Barents countries. He is sure that good experiences in adolescence help to create a sense of well-being and belonging. It's about thriving in your own home place.
– Then you get ownership to your hometown. It's a place that's yours for ever. And you may want to share it with your children if the opportunity arises, he says.
Barents cooperation has undoubtedly helped to create good memories across all borders since it was formalized in 1993. Johnsen says that he was lucky enough to stumble upon the opportunities it offers. It started with the 23-year-old traveling to Arkhangelsk for a chess tournament "many years ago". Since then, there have been several trips to Russia.
– The beauty of the Barents cooperation is that it gives you the opportunity to do exactly what you want. You just have to want to do it on a larger scale than what is possible in Norway, says Johnsen.
Johnsen has initiated and participated in several Barents projects. He hopes the money on the state budget will make it possible for even more young people to take part in the Barents cooperation.
The head of the The Norwegian Barents Secretariat completely agrees:
– This is the right area to focus on. We look forward to getting good project ideas, and then we will take care of the boring and bureaucratic stuff, says Lars Georg Fordal.
The Norwegian Barents Secretariat is looking forward to receiving new project applications from young people!
Learn more about Barents Regional Youth Council at http://www.barentsyouth.org/