Kickstarting the Barents Border Dialogue

Rune Rafaelsen from the Norwegian Barents Secretariat signs a project contract and a Memorandum of Understanding with Aaron Presnall and the Jefferson Institute as part of the Barents Border Dialogue initiative.

The agreement includes the Jefferson Institute’s development of project software and training programs. The Jefferson Institute is an independent research and education organization with unique expertise within the fields of data visualization and data journalism. It is based partly in Washington DC, partly in Belgrade, Serbia.

The Barents Border Dialogues project is part of the two organizations’ plans for enhanced cross-border news and information work in the Barents Region, as well as other European border regions. The initiative is supported with project financing from the Norwegian MFA and the U.S. National Science Foundation. The Barents Border Dialogues project was formally launched in a conference in Kirkenes, early February.

- This project will help improve the availability of key social and economic data from the region, and consequently prepare the ground for an enhanced understanding of local and regional developments”, says Rune Rafaelsen, leader of the Secretariat.

- It is part of the Barents Secretariat’s growing emphasis on cross-border information work”, he adds.

- Ultimately, the aim is to empower viewers to learn more about their own community, and to place their community into the context of intuitively similar and dissimilar places nationally and across borders and to see how those places are doing, says Aaron Presnall from Jefferson Institute.

Data visualization and data journalism are key points in the Barents Border Dialogue project. Existing and comparable social and economic data, including key data on trade, border crossings, visa, infrastructure, living conditions and more, will be assemble and made available for the public. Included in the project is the development of a data portal specialized in data visualization, as well as the development of distance learning courses in data journalism. The project also includes a component of cooperation between the neighboring countries’ statistical authorities.

The two organizations also sign a Memorandum of Understanding, outlining an intention to promote similar initiatives in other European border regions.

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The Norwegian Barents secretariat aims at improving the Norwegian-Russian relations by promoting cross border cooperation.

The Secretariat is also a center of compentence for Norwegian-Russian relations and for regional cross border cooperation.