UIMF and UN NGOs discuss how to advocate for mountain women globally

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The Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU) hosted representatives of several NGOs in consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) for brainstorming sessions on October 2nd, 2017.  Main discussions took place during a round table titled: “Joint Advocacy of Mountain Women and Agenda at the United Nations.”

The overall goal of the event was to unify efforts from both local and international NGOs, along with UVU students and faculty in order to raise awareness of mountain sustainability issues; particularly issues regarding women of the mountains. Efforts will be presented in March 2018 at the 62nd session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62) at UN headquarters, New York. UIMF members have participated at the CSW60 in 2016 and CSW61 in 2017, which helped them to gain knowledge and experience to better contribute to the agendas of the highest gender-related UN forum in a professional way. As a result, they are determined to accomplish one of three activities during CSW62 next year: 1) make a statement during the general discussions; 2) host a side event together with one of the mountain countries, or; 3) host a parallel event together with NGOs accredited under the UN.

The local focus of UIMF efforts is to involve students in activities at the UN through the student engaged learning. This approach allows members of the UIMF and affiliated clubs an opportunity to apply academic knowledge gained in studies to real world situations. Being a student led organization, faculty only provides them advice when students will absolutely need it. It became a tradition for the UIMF since 2011 to host foreign dignitaries and ambassadors of nations accredited to the UN or US at UVU. Every aspect during their visits to UVU is entirely student planned and executed.

As president of the UIMF, I was afforded the opportunity to direct planning and delegate tasks to club members. In preparing for last week’s activities, students prepared the agenda and task list for assignments. This included printing brochures and other materials, contacting media, executing protocol, logistics and moderating sessions with VIP-guests among others. UIMF members usually are able to take into account their professional background in choosing assignments from the developed task list. They are then afforded room in deciding on how to carry out the work.

As part of agenda, UIMF members invited and hosted Dr. Andrew Taber and Dr. Jed Shilling from the Mountain Institute (TMI), from Washington, D.C., an NGO accredited under UN. They coordinated between departments at UVU a fundraising campaign to bring the VIP guests and accommodate them. Students also reached out to NGOs from Utah to join invited scholars and discuss a strategy on how to present the mountain women cause at the UN level in successful way. Having experience moderating discussions with previous UIMF activities to host VIP-guests, I was given the opportunity to moderate this discussion. The student engaged learning model has built my confidence in the presence of professionals to where I too, as a student, felt professional when moderating this event. UVU faculty have also assisted us, students in building professionalism to where they could effectively plan and partner with the UN officials, diplomats and civil societies groups leaders on the international level. Examples of this professional growth can be seen when students attended CSW60 and CSW61 and discussed with Permanent Representatives to the UN of different mountain nations on ways to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to mountain targets. Thus, the success of the UIMF activities in this particular case was based on the hard work and coordination between students and diplomats and experts on gender issues during three years.

UIMF members during the meeting of Dr. Lago with VIP-guests

At the beginning of the day’s activities we arranged a meeting between Dr. Lago, CIO and Vice Rector for Global Engagement at UVU and Dr. Taber and Dr. Shilling. The visiting guests were able to get acquainted with Dr. Lago and had preliminary discussions of the agenda’s activities. As the meeting continued, the discussion turned to future plans in regard to the UN and how UVU, UIMF, and TMI will benefit from the joint activities.  Dr. Lago stated that on November 17th, 2017, UVU will officially become an associated member at the UN Department of Public Information (DPI). The initiative will be called UVUN and a channel from UVU to the UN will be created. This will assist the UIMF members in particular in advocating on topics of mountain sustainability. In addition, Dr. Lago has reached out to the mayor of Salt Lake City about hosting a UN summit in Utah in 2019. It is expected that 15,000 NGOs will attend this event and the UN Secretary General will be in attendance as well. Dr. Taber saw the benefit that could come from this event. He stated that “Mountain environments are neglected and need international response, but the 2019 event should bring [Mountain] issues to the front.” It was discussed that now the U.S. is not part of the Mountain Partnership (MP), which facilitates the United Nations Sustainable Development agenda. Thus, this event will provide an opportunity for the state of Utah to possibly join the MP and lead by example, raising awareness for mountain causes, eventually inspiring other mountainous states in the U.S. to join. This plan will be a great opportunity for UIMF, UVU, and MP efforts to be highlighted and draw attention to mountain sustainability issues.

Attending the round table event in order of presentation were Dr. Baldomero Lago, and four individuals representing different NGOs in consultative status with the ECOSOC: Dr. Jed Shilling, TMI; Dr. Andrew Taber, TMI; Dr. Rusty Butler, the main representative of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences; and Mrs. Wendy Jyang, President of the Utah-China Friendship Improvement Sharing Hands and Development and Commerce (FISH D&C), NGO from Salt Lake City, Utah. The discussion began with Dr. Lago announcing that UVU students and faculty can become more internationally involved through the new program of partnership between UVU and UN DPI called UVUN. Students now see a more clear vision of how UVU and the UIMF will interact with the UN.

Dr. Taber helped reinforce the need for initiatives such as that presented by Dr. Lago. He  stated that as part  of the discussion, presenters supported the idea that states within the U.S. become members of the MP, which facilitates the UN sustainable mountain development agenda. The need for international response is imperative. The mountain areas of the world are facing unique problems. Some examples include the emigration of men to find work in other countries which leaves ½ of women to farm for their families. Unorganized road construction creates landslide hazards which are easily preventable. These issues can be solved with international efforts and assistance.

Dr. Jed Shilling  in his presentation outlined the importance of the mountains for the world communities and the mountain women as well. Many of the states in the U.S. do not care enough about mountain issues such as the allocation of water, even though all states depend on runoff water from mountain regions. Dr. Shilling told students that his wife Dr. Jane Pratt was the driving force of change in mountain areas and has contributed to the preservation on wildlife while keeping sustainable mountain development.

Dr. Rusty Butler informed audience how his NGO, the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences assisted UVU and UIMF in promotion of gender and SMD agendas since 2008. His NGO is in a unique position as it has general consultative status with the UN ECOSOC. This, for example, has helped UIMF students to get into the U.N. during previous CSW events. During his presentation he made two recommendations. 1) the engaged learning model at UVU be shared with other universities. UVU is the first university in Utah to put students on an international level. As the profile of the UIMF and UVUN grows, students will have even more opportunities and a higher profile of professionalism to advocate for SMD. 2) The need to reach out to more NGOs to further the SMD Agenda. As a retired Vice President for International Affairs and Diplomacy at UVU, Dr. Butler has seen the success that the UVU model of engaged learning has had on the international level.

Ms. Wendy Jyang, gave a similar presentation targeted at the non-traditional student engagement with the UN. Non-traditional students are those that may work in professional jobs, have families, or attend school at a later age. She told them to “follow their heart” in doing what is right. She mentioned her story of being born in Taiwan and the struggles faced by many she discovered in China. Her efforts have helped Utah in creating assistance to the Chinese people and a friendship between the two sides.

Participants of the round table agreed to work jointly on advocating mountain women during both CSW62 and at the UN in general by using different forums, while focusing on the implementation of the mountain targets among UN sustainable development goals (SDGs).  Other events during the visit included a lunch with the guests and UVU faculty where UIMF members continued conversation about mountain women advocacy at the UN. It is also a tradition now at UVU for students to join faculty during lunches with dignitaries and both to build close ties with VIP guests and to contribute conversation in an informal environment. Students continued to converse with Dr. Taber and Dr. Shilling as they gave the guests tours around UVU and the Provo area.

Group photo after the round table

The success of the UIMF rests on student engagement. It is through the engaged learning model that students grow in professionalism and facilitate meetings that involve real world situation. In this case, students were able to assist in forming a unified plan with local NGOs and the members of the MP. Next year, UIMF students would be able to present this plan at the CSW62 by both raising the professional profile of the Utah International Mountain Forum members and contributing to the implementation of the UN SDG#5 on gender with focus on mountain women.

Matthew Rands, President, Utah International Mountain Forum

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Agenda                       Brochure                   Task List

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MPS and FAO-UN about the event

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UVU press release about round table

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Video from the event         Photos from the event

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UIMF MEMBERS ABOUT HOSTING EVENT

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Pasang Sherpa: Announcement about round table

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Lacee Meyer: Student engaged learning experiences about mountain women advocacy at the UN

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Derek Garfield: report: engaged learning between UIMF and Mountain Partnership NGOs

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Jenny Hoppie: Making a Difference Where I Stand

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STUDENT REFLECTIVE ESSAYS

Mark Wait: Learning how to advocate for mountain women at the United Nations

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William Gum: Why it is important to advocate mountain women and their cause globally

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Andre Jones: UVU students advocate for mountain women at the United Nations

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Jordan Ramos: Review of the round table for joint advocacy of the mountain women at the UN

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Logan Perfili: We need to advocate for mountain women 

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Patrick Larkin: Insreasing awareness of the geographic problems facing women in the mountains

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Kymberlee Anderson: Utah International Mountain Forum and advocacy of mountain women at UN

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Evelyn Alpizar: Summary of the women of the mountain’s round table at UVU

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Skyler Barton: Joint advocacy of the mountain women and agenda at the United Nations roundtable

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