It is not secret that the High North sees an exodus of young workers. – We need a reason to remain, says Jolanda Magga (20) of the Barents Regional Youth Council.
Finnish Jolanda Magga (20), Victoria Instanes Markussen (19) from Norway and Anastasia Oparina (21) from Russia are all members of the Barents Regional Youth Council. They have clear ideas about what it will take for young people to remain in the north.
- People in the north often share the same challenges, first of all considering the serious climate changes. However, I believe that factor is not really taken into account if young people have the opportunity to personal development, social protection and good job expectations. We have to feel security regarding the future and in particular see our own potential in the future in order to remain. We are in a cold region, but we have warm hearts, says Oparina.
The Barents Regional Youth Council is an organized gathering of 14 young people from Russia, Norway, Sweden and Finland aiming to promote the opportunity to live in the north and at the same time facilitate dialogue and cross-border contact.
- Youth in the High North must have the opportunity to do whatever is important for people their age; they must have arenas on which they can meet others, they must be able to study what they want, have hobbies, attend and experience concerts etcetera, Magga says. She adds: - Yet the most important factor is the opportunity to study. All my friends who have moved south, have done so in order to study. We need a reason to stay.
School, job and health
Markussen argues that the opportunities for youth in the High North is too poor compared with big cities.
- I believe the key to making young people stay in the north is about offering an everyday life and opportunities that are at least as good as those of the bigger cities, she says.
She argues that it is therefore important to facilitate new company startups, a wide range of study offers and not to mention a satisfactory health service.
- We need access to good infrastructure, schools, leisure activities and a job market that matches the interests of young people. Young people will not remain up here if there is no infrastructure, or if the job market is limited to the local grocery store and a nursing home. We must be able to attract companies to establish up north, so that exciting opportunities are created, and we have to have satisfactory access to health services, Markussen says.
Cooperation is important
A good network enables young people to share experiences and create something together. That is why it is crucial for these youth to have an international arena such as the BRYC.
- Cooperation in the Arctic has always been subject to discussion. Good networks enables us to share experiences and create something together. Or to bring new ideas to our home regions. We need to help each other, and I believe joint efforts are what can eventually lead to change and development, Oparina says.
She points to an example from Russia where cooperation has led to engagement in Arctic questions.
- My university organizes a ‘Traveling university’ project every year – a scientific project where people from different countries who share an Arctic interest go on an expedition in order to explore nature and then solve problems related to the Arctic environment, she says.
All three agree that the situation is similar for young people across all the Barents countries.
- Youth in the Barents region face many of the same challenges. Through cooperation we can find solutions that are better than what we may have thought of on our own. It also creates a stronger feeling of community when we solve challenges together. I believe international cooperation can influence young people to either stay on or return to the Barents region, Markussen says.
Joint arena – stronger influence
It is important to Magga, Markussen and Oparina that organisations such as the BRYC are maintained and have a strong position across the borders.
- BRYC gathers the young Barents generation through organizing us through various events and meeting arenas. We are allowed to make a difference. In BRYC, we try to find solutions to the problems Barents youth face, and our voices are heard, Magga says.
She argues that the BRYC is needed and that the organisation ties youth in the High North together.
- And who knows better than us what young people want? My dream is to be able to influence in a way that provides Barents youth with opportunities near their home place and that they have a genuine opportunity to succeed in the High North, Magga says.
For Markussen, it is vital to provide a voice for youth across the borders.
- I believe our work carries significance for the future of the Arctic when we are heard. Not to mention the fact that we are shaping the leaders and politicians of tomorrow, she says.
Oparina argues that BRYC is an arena promoting self-realization for young people in the Barents region.
- Our goal is to help young people communicate across borders. Through BRYC we make it easier for people to participate in international events and relevant projects, we broaden people’s understanding of different cultures, and we share information about all the opportunities that exist in the Barents region, Oparina says.
She argues that it is important for Arctic cooperation to take place also between young people, as she argues this age group is an important source of change and innovation.
- A strong cooperation, feeling that you are part of something, both culturally, scientifically and economically, allows young people to contribute to creating the life they want to live in the Barents region. The Barents Regional Youth Council is an arena turning this into a genuine opportunity, Oparina says.
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