On Saturday September 10, 2017, Matthew Rands, President of the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU) (www.utahimf.org), Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, UIMF Advisor and I had the pleasure of meeting with Ms. Karinjo Devore, President of the Aspen International Mountain Foundation (AIMF). Ms. Devore coordinates sustainable mountain development (SMD) activities across North America, South America, and the Caribbean on behalf of the United Nations Mountain Partnership (MP). In this meeting, Ms. Devore discussed the role that AIMF plays in advocating SMD agenda of the United Nations in the entire region and the challenges being faced as it works to further the implementation of mountain targets as part of the UN post 2030 agenda of sustainable development. She was also interested in knowing the ideas of UVU students on how to improve activities of the MP, which coordinates SMD agenda globally, taking into account the coming High Level Meeting of MP in Rome, Italy on December 11-4, 2017. During the meeting, MP members will discuss how to make the mountain agenda more visible and active at the United Nations level as well as improving implementation of mountain targets as part of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The UIMF members and Ms. Devore brainstormed ideas of how students at UVU and the UIMF in particular could assist AIMF in advancing efforts in the state of Utah and throughout North America. Karinjo Devore has explained that some of the obstacles AIMF has faced include limitations in funding, and the need to increase communication between various members of the MP in the North American region. As the regional coordinator for the MP, Ms. Devore has discussed existing initiatives and problems, ideas have risen from both sides, such as whether it is necessary to introduce a membership fee for institutions from around the world when joining the MP and to establish a dialogue with private corporations who could help finance sustainable development efforts. This would be an exchange for having their brand associated with certain mountain regions in order to open up new markets. One example already instituted by the MP is the placement of “Made in the Mountains” stickers on products made by different mountain nations. Ms. Devore explained that AIMF is open to constructive ideas and criticisms from any member of the MP in North America as it works to overcome these obstacles through communicating with a MP secretariat in Rome, Italy. Ms. Devore and members of UIMF had a very productive discussion on how UIMF can be a more active contributor to the MP activities.
UIMF members expressed the desire to develop a partnership with local governments such as the City of Provo and Salt Lake City in order to explore new opportunities for SMD advocacy. In the coming months UIMF will continue to work with the MP through projects and offering new ideas to further the UN goals. These projects will promote sustainable development among mountain communities globally. Such projects include:
1) Hosting a round table of NGOs accredited under the United Nations at UVU on October 2, 2017 to discuss how to work jointly at the UN in order to make voices heard from the mountain communities and women in particular. Students informed Ms. Devore that they raised funds to bring Dr. Andrew Taber and Dr. Jed Shilling, two distinguished guests representing the Mountain Institute, Washington, D.C. to Utah. They will be joined by NGOs from Utah who will develop joint action plans to advocate the mountain agenda and women cause at the UN during the next year and especially during the 62nd session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in March 2018. UIMF members plan to make a presentation about student engaged learning initiatives, which has allowed them to make contribution to the promotion of the UN gender and SMD agendas as well as SGDs in part related to mountains in North America since 2007.
2) UIMF members will host for the seventh time the annual celebration of the United Nations International Mountain Day at UVU on December 11, 2017. This year it will focus on the impact on the mountain communities in Utah and globally such challenges as climate change, poverty and migration.
UIMF representatives expressed appreciation to Ms. Devore for the opportunity to have sat down with her and look forward to continuing partnership in order to further mutual goals of sustainable mountain development in North America. They also asked their distinguished guest to include in her report during the High Level Meeting of the MP in Rome, Italy on December 11, 2017 information about UVU student initiative of successful SMD advocacy in the state of Utah and North America through engaged learning and how it benefits students professionally.
Mark Driggs, Vice President, Utah International Mountain Forum