Small fishing communities like this once dotted the Labrador coast. (larger version)
Globalization, advanced technology and the virtual decrease of geographical distance are opening new opportunities for the North Atlantic for improved partnership and increased cooperation amongst affected regions. These opportunities necessitate effective discussion and sharing of information and must be facilitated if sustainable development is to ensue for local communities, particularly small coastal communities.

Discussions regarding potential cooperation between the Nordic region and the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador have been initiated over the past year. In February 2005 NORA, Nordic Atlantic Cooperation invited Canadian participation at a NORA Conference in Rekjavik, Iceland. In September, discussions took place between officials of the Provincial Government, Memorial University and visiting representatives of Nora. These discussions focused on opportunities for cooperation, particularly in the tourism and fishery sectors.

At the same time a NORA project -- Destination Viking, supported by Newfoundland's Viking Trail Tourism Association and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency -- held meetings and Viking animation in St John's, L'Anse aux Meadows and Gros Morne. About twenty representatives from the Nordic countries attended. In late March 2006 nine aquaculture farmers from the Nordic countries attended the Newfoundland Aquaculture Association Annual Meeting and visited several local projects.

The September discussions raised many common challenges in economic development and identified a shared priority concern with the crisis of small coastal communities in all North Atlantic regions. The NORA Board of Directors discussed this concern and asked that the next NORA Conference address the Future of Small Coastal Communities and that Canada be invited to host this conference. The Board further requested that the conference be hosted in Labrador if possible.

NORA's intention is for this conference to serve as a starting point for further discussion and action around the issue of regional cooperation and partnership and for the conference to provide recommendations that will initiate action and continued follow-up.

SmartLabrador has been chosen as the host organization because of its expertise in innovative solutions for small remote coastal communities and it experience in hosting similar conference events. The Harris Centre of Memorial University has been chosen as a strategic partner because of its expertise in North Atlantic issues and in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Conference participants will be a small but representative group of leaders who can ensure that positive sharing of best practices and clear direction for new approaches will be achieved.

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