4th Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership: Partnership Fair

The Partnership Fair

One of the events at the 4th Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership was the partnership fair. In the words of the event organizers the partnership fair took the form of “speed geeking” a process which allowed participants to share knowledge and pass on information in an interactive and entertaining way. As presenters we had five minutes to give a presentation to a small group of attendees to the conference. After the five minutes were up a whistle would blow and the group would move on to the next presenter and a new group would come to hear our presentation. With all of the fast talking and whistle blowing that was going on this forum became a slightly chaotic and entertaining way of interacting with other Mountain Partnership members where Jordan and I had to talk very fast to get our message across. The title of our presentation was “How UVU has become one of the only North American undergraduate Universities to become actively involved in sustainable mountain development and the Mountain Partnership.”

TurkeyTrip1We used this presentation to explain the contributions that students of Utah Valley University (UVU) have made to the cause of the Mountain Partnership.

While we did have to talk very fast we were assisted in our efforts by the posters that we had on display. These posters highlight the many different activities that UVU students have been involved in that support the Mountain Partnership cause since UVU joined the Mountain Partnership in 2006. Such activities include the first, second and third women of the mountains conferences; the 2011, 2012 and 2013 High School Essay contests; and UVU’s involvement in the Rio +20 conference held in 2012. These posters gave an excellent perspective on the dedication of UVU to the Mountain Partnership. We had  a script prepared for us to read during this presentation, the speed of the presentations and the hectic nature of people moving from one display to the next meant that we had to speak from their own experiences working in UIMF. This required us to think very quickly to provide the answers for the questions that came to us. It was here that our preparation for the conference was key.  We had prepared so well that we could explain ourselves without relying on the script.

In general we spoke about the efforts of UVU students in planning and promoting the cause of the Mountain Partnership in three areas:

  • The Planning and promoting the International Women of the Mountains Conferences held in 2007 and 2011 in Orem, Utah and 2012 in Puno Peru and our desire to hold these conferences annually was expressed to the Mountain Partnershpp members
  • The organizing of the annual High School Essay Contest with the topic for the contests being based on sustainable mountain development themes and the United Nations designation for the year.
  • The presentation of the “Youth and the Mountains” volume which is a collection of UVU student essays on sustainable mountain development topics as well as the high school essay contest winners from previous years.  We also presented the North American report to the Rio + 20 conference that was printed by UVU.  The UVU version of the report also included several student essays. There was a lot of interest generated by these volumes with many conference participants requesting copies. (Follow these links for pdf copies of these volumes: http://www.womenofthemountains.org/images/2013/13-09-09-FINAL-SMD-Edited.pdf and http://www.mountainpartnership.org/fileadmin/user_upload/mountain_partnership/docs/SMDinNorthAmericaRio.pdf)

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Jordan Giles speaking with Yunus Seker, the highest ranking official from the Turkish Government through his interpreter while in the background I am talking with Jorge Recharte of The Mountain Institute

The result of the partnership fair was that Jordan and I were able to share with the other members of the Mountain Partnership the contributions of UVU to the mountain cause as well as get to know several people that we would develop friendships with over the course of the conference. I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Dr. Bashir Ahmed Wani from Pakistan, Kalys Batirova from Krygyzstan and Dr Alexey Gunya from the Russian Federation during the partnership fair. While this was our first meeting we would talk several times over the course of the conference.  The partnership fair allowed us to make important connections in the mountain partnership.

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The view of the mountains from the Ulubag Plateau

Trip to the Turkish Countryside

After the official 3 days of the conference, day 4 was a sightseeing tour for the members of the Mountain Partnership into the Turkish Mountains.  This excursion was organized by the Turkish government. Due to the timing of flights home for the UVU delegation it was originally thought that no one from UVU would be able to go on the trip. When I made my desire to go on the sightseeing trip known, trip organizers arranged for me to be returned in Erzurum in time to catch my flight to Istanbul, an act for which I was very grateful. We were driven about an hour and a half outside of Erzurum.  On the way we stopped at a gas station to get water, gas and other supplies. It was during this stop that we saw the only affects of the Syrian civil war that I would saw on my trip. As we were getting ready to leave a woman speaking Arabic and holding out her Syrian Passport came to the door of our van. She was dressed in traditional Muslim women’s garb and had with her 2 small children that, given their relative ages, could have been her grandchildren. She did not speak English or Turkish and when she came to us could only say “Syria, Syria” in a pleading tone.  She appeared desperate in every sense of the word and it was hard not to feel sympathy for her. Mark gave her 20 USD and she left.  It was sobering to think of how close we really were to one of the most pressing current humanitarian crisis.

TurkeyTrip4After about an hour and a half on the main road we started to drive up the mountains on a gravel road.  The road was narrow and winding with an almost sheer drop on the side.  After about 10 miles on this road the drivers stopped to discuss whether or not these vehicles were suitable for this kind of terrain.  As the trail was only wide enough for a single vehicle it was uncertain how the vehicles would be able to turn around even if it were decided that they couldn’t go on.  The drivers decided to continue however, but on 3 separate occasions the passengers had to get out of the vans because the roads had turned to mud due to recent rainfall in the area and the vans could not get through fully loaded with passengers.  Eventually we all got to our destination, The Ulubag plateau.  From the plateau we had spectacular views of the mountains.  From this starting point we hiked down into the village of Uzundere.  It was a hike of about a mile and a half.  The terrain in parts was rocky and rugged but the beauty of nature surrounded us.  As we neared our destination I saw that the village we were walking to was tiny.  It consisted of a Mosque and approximately 15 to 20 basic little houses.  The houses were made of mountain rocks as walls for the basements and then had wooden walls on the upper levels.  The roofs were corrugated iron sheets.  It was during the visit to the village that the importance of sustainable mountain development became clear after three days of discussion.  These people are, or at least should be, the benefactors of our sustainable development goals.  They live in this mountain environment and have formed their own culture and way of life.  They are located in a remote corner of the world and yet due to the actions of others their way of life is being threatened environmentally.  Not only is sustainable mountain development about protecting them from the actions of others, it is also about providing them with the tools they need so that their little village can become economically prosperous in such a way that they do not need to harm their environment.  Once in the village we were treated like VIP’s by the local people.  The Turkish Government had arranged a feast of lamb kebabs which was enjoyed while the Mountain Partnership Members chatted with each other and met with the local village people.

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The village of Uzundere

After this I had to return to Erzurum in order to catch my flight back to Istanbul while the rest of the members headed to the local waterfall.  The field trip was an extraordinary experience.

Mark Petersen, President Sustainable Mountain Development Club