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Vidar Helgesen was born in Bodø in the County of Nordland on 21 November 1968, and grew up at Nøtterøy in the County of Vestfold. Helgesen holds the Cand. Jur. Degree from the University of Oslo in 1998.
Helgesen was state secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs 2001-2005, under Kjell Magne Bondevik's Second Government.
Helgesen was a special adviser at the International Red Cross in Geneva 1998–2001. He was secretary-general of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), in Stockholm from 2006 until he started as minister in 2013.
Helgesen was minister of EEA and EU Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Chief of Staff at the Office of the Prime Minister from 16.10.2013 to 16.12.2015.