Promoting the Mountain Cause at ECOSOC

Dr Rusty Butler, the main Representative of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences (RANS) to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and retired Associate Vice President for International Affairs and Diplomacy at UVU (1992-2016), along with Yanko Dzhukev, a Vice President of Global Affairs and Outreach of Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU), and currently the first UVU intern at the United Nations Secretariat, contributed to the United Nations High-level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development held on 18-20 July in New York.

This was for the first time ever when a Utah delegation under the leadership of Dr Butler explored the possibilities of promoting and advocating the sustainable mountain development agenda, coordinated by the Mountain Partnership Secretariat, at ECOSOC. ECOSOC is responsible for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, adopted at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit on 25 September 2015, and for successfully implementing the 2030 Agenda. HLPF is the central UN platform for the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for SDGs, and the HLPF in 2016 is the first since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. The overall theme for the 2016 session of the Economic and Social Council is “Implementing the post-2015 development agenda: moving from commitments to results.” The theme of the 2016 HLPF is “Ensuring that no one is left behind”; and the thematic discussion focus was “Infrastructure for sustainable development for all.”

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(© UN Photo/Manuel Elias)

The session included voluntary reviews of 22 countries and thematic reviews of progress on the SDGs, including cross-cutting issues, supported by reviews by the ECOSOC functional commissions and other inter-governmental bodies and forums.

NGOs and civil society groups can give a voice to specific issues and agendas they would like to influence by making oral statements at ECOSOC events or by submitting written statements for ECOSOC to consider. Currently, there are 4,189 NGOs and civil society groups under ECOSOC in active consultative status. However, only 14 of them are Mountain Partnership members. ECOSOC rules do not allow public universities, like UVU, which are state funded, to register as NGOs. Currently, UVU cooperates with several NGOs from Utah and overseas which are registered under ECOSOC, and with the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences in particular, a MP member.

Dr Rusty Butler, in the capacity as the main Representative of the RANS to ECOSOC will continue his previous efforts at UVU of building relations and networking opportunities with United Nations officials and Permanent Representatives of different nations accredited to the UN in order to promote the State of Utah as one of the effective models of sustainable economic development among interested nations globally.

Eighty-three NGOs in ECOSOC consultative status submitted oral and written statements for the 2016 ECOSOC High Level Segment for NGOs. The Secretary of the Council confirmed requests from 31 major group, stakeholder, and NGO speakers to address the general debate of the High-level Segment. Among the statement contributors were three MP members – the Mountain Institute, the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences (RANS), and Ecoforum from Uzbekistan. However, only the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, represented at ECOSOC by Dr Rusty Butler submitted a request for an oral statement, which was approved by the ECOSOC President. The RANS representative was included in the list of speakers by the President of ECOSOC to present a statement during the general debate of the HLPF. Unfortunately, due to the deteriorating health of his wife, Dr Butler was unable to attend the ECOSOC HLS. The statement was inserted into the record of the proceedings and uploaded to the ECOSOC website. All statements from the three MP members emphasized the importance of mountain communities and that the mountains should be a global priority given the multitude of resources they provide.

In the absence of Dr Butler, Yanko Dzhukev, as a UVU student, was able to represent UVU as a Mountain Partnership member during the sessions of the UN HLPF. As part of the UVU model of engaged learning, he attended the HLPF discussions, under the ECOSOC auspices, to learn how to further advocate for the implementations of the mountain targets among SDGs at the UN level.

It was a very important initiative of the Mountain Partnership Secretariat, as a facilitator of the SMD agenda, to encourage the MP members to address the ECOSOC forum in order to highlight the importance of the mountain cause and to advocate efforts to be made to reach all the Sustainable Development Goals in mountains, rather than just the three targets that specifically mention them in Goal 6 and Goal 15.

The delegation from UVU and UIMF made a lot of efforts during the last several months to prepare for the UN HLPF. At the beginning of May, Yanko Dzhukev attended a discussion on sustainable mountain development as part of the 2030 Agenda for SDGs, organized by the Mountain Partnership Secretariat at the UN Headquarters on behalf of Utah Valley University, a MP member since 2006. (For more information, see: http://utahimf.org/uvu-attends-discussion-on-sustainable-mountain-development-at-the-un-headquarters/).   Furthermore, at the end of May 2015, Dr Rusty Butler and Yanko Dzhukev met in New York with several Permanent Representatives to the UN among whom were the PR of Fiji to the United Nations (for more information, see: http://utahimf.org/assisting-dr-rusty-butler-in-preparation-for-ecosoc-forum/), and newly elected President of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly Ambassador Peter Thomson, the PR of the Kyrgyz Republic Ambassador Mirgul Moldoisaeva, the PR of Hungary, HE Ms Katalin Bogyay and Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, PR of the Russian Federation to discuss various aspects of the 2016 HLPF and the progress that has been achieved towards the implementation of the SDGs and successfully achieving the 2030 Agenda. (For more information, see: http://utahimf.org/ambassador-peter-thomson-guest-of-uvu-students-elected-as-president-of-the-seventy-first-session-of-the-united-nations-general-assembly/

For Utah Valley University and the Utah International Mountain Forum attending the 2016 UN High-Level Political Forum, as part of the UVU model of engaged learning, allowed our students to learn how to work with ECOSOC, to further develop the mountain cause, to gain skills, experiences, and networking opportunities, and we are sure that more peers of Yanko Dzhukev will attend sessions of SDGs in the future.

MP members statements:

The Mountain Institute
http://womenofthemountains.org/images/2016/The-Mountain-Institute.pdf

The Russian Academy of Natural Sciences
http://womenofthemountains.org/images/2016/The-Russian-Academy-Natural-Sciences.pdf

ECOFORUM
http://womenofthemountains.org/images/2016/Ecoforum-Uzbekistan.pdf

Munkhbat Batmunkh, UIMF member