The Fifth Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership:
Report about participation at the meeting on behalf of the Utah Valley University
The Mountain Partnership (MP) organized on 11-13 December 2017 the Fifth Mountain Partnership Global Meeting at the headquarters of Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO-UN) in Rome, Italy, under the theme ‘Mountains under pressure: climate, hunger, migration’. MP is a voluntary alliance of nearly 300 members including countries, intergovernmental and civil society organizations with a global Secretariat, hosted by the FAO-UN.
The event aimed to gather MP members and to summarize main results in raising awareness of the importance of mountain ecosystems and peoples at the global level since the Fourth MP Global Meeting in Erzurum, Turkey in 2013. The main concern of the Mountain Partnership was focused on: 1) the low attention to the mountain agenda at the UN level; 2) raising awareness of the need to place mountain ecosystems and peoples at the center of international negotiations, policies and investments; 3) the challenges and the opportunities in sustainable mountain development (SMD). More than 220 participants – high-level representatives from mountainous countries, goodwill ambassadors, and representatives of UN conventions, intergovernmental organizations, private sector and civil society, in addition to Mountain Partnership members gathered in Rome.
I represented Utah Valley University (UVU), a MP member since 2006 and at the same time the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at UVU. UVU participates for the third time in a MP global meeting – the first time was in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil at the Third Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership held on 19 June 2012, and the second time in Erzurum, Turkey on 16-19 September 2013 at the Fourth Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership.
My important priority during the Fifth Global Meeting was to report to the participants about UIMF contributions to the UN SMD agenda and the implementation of mountain targets among the Sustainable Development Goals and how unique the approach developed at UVU and contributions from UIMF members made a difference since 2011, when UIMF was established. The UVU presentation was scheduled during a side event dedicated on education in mountains during to second day of the meeting which was not the main activity of the meeting, however, it still provided an opportunity for me to make a statement and presentation about the UVU model.
During the three-day event, countries, international and intergovernmental organizations as well as the non-government organizations discussed the future goals and activities of the Partnership. Among others, the agenda covered the following topics: how to improve advocacy for mountains in major global processes; how to promote joint communication efforts, which will be the main events in which the MP will participate in the upcoming years; and who will be elected to four-year terms by the various membership categories and regions as new members of the Steering Committee (SC) of the Mountain Partnership. The Committee provides programmatic orientation to the Mountain Partnership, monitoring the work of the MP Secretariat, the implementation of the ‘Mountain Agenda’ and the achievements and impacts of their respective electoral groups.
During the first day of the meeting, which coincided with the United Nations International Mountain Day and the 15th anniversary of the MP, participants heard opening statements by founding members of the MP, including the FAO-UN, the governments of Italy and Switzerland, and the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment). The session continued by remarks from the three Mountain Partnership Goodwill Ambassadors: His Holiness Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang, head of the Drikung Kagyu order of Tibetan Buddhism; Arjun Gupta, founder of TeleSoft Partners; and Jake Norton, founder of MountainWorld Productions. Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General, World Meteorological Organization, gave a keynote speech.
L-R: Yanko Dzhukev, Vice President of Global Affairs and Outreach, Utah Valley University (UVU) and Thomas Hofer, Outgoing Coordinator, Mountain Partnership Secretariat & FAO Programme Officer | ©UIMF/Yanko Dzhukev
I was very happy to return to the FAO headquarters and to meet old colleagues and friends from the MP Secretariat, where I interned during several months at the beginning of 2016. It was great seeing Thomas Hofer Hofer, an outgoing Coordinator, Mountain Partnership Secretariat & FAO Programme Officer, RosaLaura Romeo, FAO Programme Officer, Sara Manuelli, FAO Communication Officer, Samantha Abear, FAO Communication Specialist and many more. While spending several months at FAO, I had a chance to gain engaged learning experiences by developing long lasting relationships and networking with many MP members globally, with which I have been staying in touch, just to name a few – Zaya Batjargal from University of Central Asia; Alberto Pascual from Fundación CoMunidad, Panama, Marisa Mabel Young from Fundación Agreste, Argentina, and many more.
Following the opening of the High-Level Segment and the celebration of International Mountain Day, the Framework for Action was launched. It was endorsed by the governments and civil society to support concrete actions, to put in place long-lasting processes and to establish policies that strengthen the resilience of mountain peoples and environments. Mountain Partnership members considered the challenges and responses of the Framework for Action and its alignment with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Several speakers further emphasized on the importance of adopting the framework, outlining many challenges and possible responses. The first day of the Global Meeting was ended by showcasing practical approaches towards making the Global Framework work by remarks from Nurlan Jumaev, Deputy Director, State Agency for Environment Protection and Forestry, Kyrgyz Republic; Matthias Fiechter, Communications Associate, Secretariat of the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program; Matt T. Reed, Chief Executive Officer, Aga Khan Foundation, Aga Khan Development Network; H.E. Ambassador Hersey Kyota, Ambassador of the Republic of Palau to United States of America, Board Chair, Global Island Partnership; Kate Brown, Executive Director, Global Island Partnership (GLISPA); and Matthias Jurek, Programme Management Officer, UN Environment, Carpathian Convention.
Launched in 2006, the Global Island Partnership has been looking at working more closely with the Mountain Partnership over the last years because of the similar interests the two alliances have such as addressing the effects of climate change on vulnerable ecosystems. It was very interesting for me to see how members of the Global Island Partnership have come together in a united coalition to become a very powerful and impactful group which performs lobbying and negotiating functions within the United Nations, most notably focusing on climate change and its impact on GLISPA worldwide. I am sure that if MP members follow GLISPA as an example, similar results might be achieved relating to the SMD agenda. UIMF members also contributed similar efforts when they recently hosted several events, most notably the visit to UVU of the President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, Ambassador of Fiji to the United Nations Peter Thompson in December 2015.
The second day kicked off with a presentation of activities and challenges, highlighting the objectives, governance structure and composition, and achievements of the Partnership from Thomas Hofer, an outgoing Coordinator of the Mountain Partnership Secretariat, urging MP members to “move from the opera house to the stadium” in broadening the advocacy and communication activities. UVU and UIMF in particular has already adopted the proposed approach. Students do not only advocate SMD among local communities in Utah, but also aim to bring mountain issues to the highest level at the United Nations.
Two UVU partners made presentation during that day. Andrew Taber, Chair of the Mountain Partnership Steering Committee moderated a short session during which Steering Committee members reported on the achievements, priorities and challenges in their constituencies. Dr. Taber, an Executive Director of The Mountain Institute and UVU have been working jointly for the last several years. As one of the most important examples, they partner with the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences to make statements during major UN high-level forums and highlight the mountain agenda. In his presentation, Dr. Taber mentioned about round table hosted by UIMF in October 2017 as preparations for the next such joint presentation during the 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women in March 2018.
The other UVU partner, Karinjo Devore, President of Aspen International Mountain Foundation and member of the Mountain Partnership Steering Committee representing North and Central America and the Caribbean highlighted major contributions from the region towards the SMD agenda. In her presentation, she mentioned UIMF contributing to the MP activities by hosting annually the International Mountain Day celebrations. She apologized to me that she was not able to highlight major achievements from student coalition due to the time constrains. I was able to do that by highlighting all major contributions of UIMF to the SMD agenda in my presentation during the side event on education later same day.
UVU PRESENTATION DURING SIDE EVENT ON EDUCATION
In addition, during the second day of the Global Meeting, during noon three side events were held to report on respective outcomes of events on: promoting mountain products to improve local economies and livelihoods; education in mountains; the launch of the Mountain 2018 platform. UVU was provided a spot at a side event dedicated on education in mountains and its role in sustainable mountain development. The event was moderated by Andrey Kushlin, Deputy Director of FAO Forestry Policy and Resources. While 31 academic institutions currently are part on the Mountain Partnership, only 5 of them, among which is Utah Valley University where present at the Global Meeting. It was a great honor for UVU and for me, as VP of UIMF, to be among the members provided with the opportunity to present our model of engaged learning and some of our achievements.
Along with UVU, participants of the panel were Michele Freppaz, University of Turin, Italy; Stella Giannakopoulou, from the Metsovion Interdisciplinary Research Center (MIRC), Greece; Laurie Vasily, Head, Knowledge Management and Communication, ICIMOD; and John Hausdoerffer, Dean, School of Environment and Sustainability (ENVS), Western Colorado University, USA.
The purpose of my presentation was to show to side event participants and members, how the developed UVU model allows one generation of undergraduate students to gain professional advancement and recognition internationally through full-fledged contribution of initiatives and funds to the practical implementation of the mountain targets, under the effective encouragement of the United Nations Mountain Partnership. I also aimed to encourage universities in rural and mountain states elsewhere to apply similarly the model and provide similar benefits to their students, and at the same time to contribute to the implementation of the post 2030 Development agenda globally.
The presentation entitled “Mountain targets implementation through the student engaged learning model” and a PowerPoint highlighted following important contributions to the advocacy of the SMD agenda and mountain targets:
- The leading role which students, especially non-traditional ones could play in promoting the Sustainable Development Goals and the mountain targets;
- The implementation of three recommendations of the United Nations General Assembly Resolution “International Year of Mountains, 2002:” 1) to encourage institutions worldwide to join MP; 2) to make contributions to the SMD advocacy of funds and sustain initiatives established during celebrations of the UN International Year of Mountains in 2002; 3) to celebrate International Mountain Day on December 11;
- Hosting the international Women of the Mountains conferences since 2007 as one of the leading forums in North America to advocate and contribute to the implementation of Goal 5 in interaction with mountain targets and as a follow up of the 2002 “Celebrating Mountain Women” conference in Bhutan;
- Encouraging students to advocate for the adoption of mountain targets by participating at the UN Open Working Groups on SDGs in New York during 2013-2015;
- As one of the major effort to advocate for the adoption of mountain targets among SDGs, hosting at UVU during 2013-2015 Permanent Representatives of more than 20 nations accredited to the UN, including the president of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) PR of Austria to the UN, Martin Sajdik, President of the General Assembly PR of Fiji to the UN Peter Thomson, Co-chairs of the Open Working Group on SDGs, the PR of Kenya to the UN, Ambassador Macharia Kamau, and PR of Hungary to the UN, Mr. Csaba Kőrösi among them;
- Contribution to the MPS initiative to sign a petition about including mountain issues in the agenda of the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP21), when students collected more than 2,000 signatures from 6,283 gathered by the MPS globally;
- Contribution of more than $250,000 during 10 years of activities to the SMD advocacy;
- Advocacy for the mountain targets implementation at major forums at the United Nations in cooperation with NGOs with consultative status under the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC);
- Advocacy for mountain women at the 60th and the 61st sessions of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW);
- Contribution to the agenda of the 62nd session of CSW, by making a statement, hosting side and parallel events with focus on the advocacy of the mountain women and results of the hosting four international Women of the Mountains Conferences since 2007;
- Commemoration annually since 2010 the United Nations International Mountain Day (IMD) as an important activity to raise awareness about SMD among students and local communities in the State of Utah and in North America;
The following recommendations were made in UVU presentation to the participants of the side event and Global MP Meeting:
- It is important to engage students, and in particular non-traditional ones in hands-on activities associated with the implementations of the SDGs and mountain targets among them;
- The UVU model can be applied by academic institutions in rural and mountain states worldwide to provide benefits of professional advancement to students and at the same time encouraging them to become the contributors to the implementation of the post 2030 Development agenda globally;
- As UVU example demonstrates, academic institutions could provide substantial financial resources as well to the implementation of United Nations activities and post 2030 agenda in particular;
- Academic institutions will greatly benefit by developing joint curriculum and partnerships with each other and with NGOs under consultative status under ECOSOC in order to make their voices heard at the UN level;
- It is important for the MP members to work jointly to make bigger impact at the UN.
During Q&A session, some of the questions have been asked by Andrey Kushlin, Deputy Director of FAO Forestry Policy and Resources about how students have been able to contribute more than $250,000 during 10 years of activities to the SMD advocacy and John Hausdoerffer, Dean, School of Environment and Sustainability (ENVS) at Western Colorado University, who was interested in how students have been able to advocate SMD at the United Nations. I was very proud to highlight the fact that even the funds for my participation at the Global Meeting was raised by myself, a non-traditional student, locally, and contributed to the UN SMD agenda. In addition, I recognized my colleagues from UIMF, who currently are raising funds to participate at the 62nd Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on 12-23 March 2018, where in addition to a side event, they are planning to make an oral statement before the UN audience.
In general, both the audience and the MPS demonstrated their appreciation to the efforts of UVU and students, and what has been achieved by them during the last ten years. Further, they were pleased to hear that students while achieving results and demonstrating professionalism are motivated more than ever to continue advocating the SMD agenda at the highest UN level and implement mountain targets globally.
L-R: Yanko Dzhukev, Vice President of Global Affairs and Outreach, Utah Valley University (UVU), Andrey Kushlin, Deputy Director, FAO, Michele Freppaz – IPROMO Scientific Director during side event dedicated on education in mountains | ©FAO/Samantha Abear
The afternoon continued with a panel session on resource mobilization, which included reports from key note speakers sharing their experiences in the private sector, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO).
Thomas Hofer shared with members feedback on governance issues, including considering options on membership fees, the inclusion of Central Asia as a separate region, selecting alternate Steering Committee members, an approach to dealing with inactive members, the hosting arrangement of the Secretariat, and deletion of the Mountain Partnership’s function of “innovation.” During a discussion regarding the possibility of introducing a member fee, participants expressed concerns that it might be difficult for institutions with limited resources and who raise funds from local communities, to commit to paying a fee. Yet, Thomas emphasized that the possible fee would be based on the institution’s contribution capability, and by paying even a small amount would encourage members to be more active within partnership activities.
Amendments to the Governance paper were discussed and new Steering Committee members were elected. Work priorities for the next four years, organized around the Mountain Partnership’s functions of advocacy, capacity development, joint action, and communication, were identified.
The evening concluded with three side events focusing on: understanding landscape and watershed management in mountains; science and research for evidence-informed policy and action on the ground – experiences and outlook in mountain-specific cases; and the Andean Mechanism. The day concluded with an official dinner hosted by FAO.
On the final day of the Global Meeting, the Partnership considered how best to support the implementation of the Framework for Action. The organizers of the six side events that were held on day two reported of their events. Michele Freppaz from University of Turin summarized the side event on education, and I was very pleased with his highlights on the UVU presentation, noting that non-traditional students have went “out of the opera” making a noise at the UN headquarters in New York.
Throughout the day, members focused on the internal governance of the Partnership by voting the inclusion of Central Asia as an additional region. Further, members made endorsements and nominations of Steering Committee members and alternative members for the period 2017-2021.
L-R: Yanko Dzhukev, Vice President of Global Affairs and Outreach, Utah Valley University (UVU) and Zaya Batjargal, programme officer for the Mountain Partnership in Central Asia | ©UIMF/Yanko Dzhukev
It was interesting to hear a proposition from the MP Secretariat during the election alternate Steering Committee members to be voted in cases in which the leading members are unable to attend SC sessions or initiatives. On behalf of UVU, I voted for Aspen International Mountain Foundation to serve on the 2017-2020 Steering Committee representing the interests of the major group organization from North and Central America and the Caribbean, and Fundación CoMunidad as alternate SC member. Based on unanimous nominations and vote, the following MP members were selected in different categories and regions:
Asia and the Pacific: Philippines, Nepal (Alternate)
Europe: Italy (Chair), Turkey (Alternate)
Middle East and North Africa: Tunisia
North and Central America and the Caribbean: Dominican Republic, Guatemala (Alternate)
South America: Argentina, Chile (Alternate)
Sub-Saharan Africa: Uganda, Cameroon (Alternate)
United Nations Environment Programme (Vice Chair), International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (Alternate)
Major Group Organizations
Asia and the Pacific: Karnali Integrated Rural Development and Research Centre (Vice Chair), Pan Himalayan Grassroots Development Foundation (Alternate)
Central Asia: Institute for Sustainable Development Strategy Public Fund, Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation (Alternate)
Europe: Centro de Investigação de Montanha and Euromontana
Global Civil Society Organization: Mountain Research Initiative, The Mountain Institute (Alternate)
Middle East and North Africa: Mountain Environment Protection Society
North and Central America and the Caribbean: Aspen International Mountain Foundation, Fundación CoMunidad (Alternate)
South America: Consortium for Sustainable Development of the Andean Ecoregion, Fundación Agreste (Alternate)
Sub-Saharan Africa: Foundation for Environment and Development, Les Compagnons Ruraux (Alternate)
Following the election of the Steering Committee, a session was held on setting priorities and identifying the main areas of work of the Secretariat for the next biennium, including advocacy, capacity development, joint action, communication, and setting regional and thematic topics; and considering the meeting outcomes and steps going forward.
During lunchtime, participants took part in a speed-geeking session, engaging with different challenges and experiences related to sustainable management of mountain ecosystems and ways to engage with mountain people.
The Fifth Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership concluded with a session, in which representatives from the donor countries – Italy, Grammenos Mastrojeni, Assistant Director-General, Coordinator for the Environment, Italian Development Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and François Pythoud, Permanent Representative of Switzerland to FAO, IFAD and WFP Switzerland, Hiroto Mitsugi, Assistant Director-General of FAO as host of the Secretariat, and the outgoing Chair of the Steering Committee Andrew Taber and Thomas Hofer provided concluding remarks. The meeting closed with a group photo, after which the newly-elected Steering Committee met to consider its work for the next biennium. Italy, represented by Grammenos Mastrojeni was elected as the Chair of the Steering Committee and UN Environment and the Karnali Integrated Rural Development and Research Centre were elected as Vice Chairs.
Participating at the Fifth Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership allowed UVU to strengthen its position as one of the most active MP members on the global stage. Making a presentation during a side event allowed members to get the full scope of UVU advocating activities and demonstrating results of UVU by being featured in four UN Secretary Generals’ Reports on SMD, reveals the dedication and the effective contributions from UVU students. In addition, meeting members with which UVU has been interacting during the last four years in an effort to ensure that mountain targets are included in the SDGs further strengthen relationships with partners globally.
I, as VP of Global Affairs and Outreach at UIMF, had a chance to discuss collaborations and future joint projects with NGOs and in particular educational institutions, among them the Western Colorado University, the Metsovion Interdisciplinary Research Center (MIRC) from Greece, Fundación CoMunidad from Panama, the Romanian Mountain Forum, ForestAction from Nepal, the Mountain Institute from the USA. The UVU representative proposed working jointly in an alliance with other educational institutions and MP members, with UIMF serving as an activity coordinator and to submit joint written and oral statements to various UN forums. Providing students with major responsibilities would encourage them to contribute more actively own professional experiences and to raise financial resources to SMD advocacy for which to be recognized for that by the United Nations. With the Dean of School of Environment and Sustainability (ENVS) at Western Colorado University, I discussed the possibility of UVU students obtaining a master degree in Environmental Management, with focus on mountain sustainability, from Western Colorado University while being at the UVU campus and contributing to UIMF efforts, allowing UVU to keep its best talent and in the same time students can develop in an environmental area which has not been introduced as a study option at UVU.
Being present at a major global UN forum such as the MP Global Meeting, allowed UVU and UIMF to be recognized for contributing to a major UN agenda such as sustainable mountain development globally, and in particular for introducing a model for engaging students in SDGs implantation, which demonstrates that in times of limited resources students’ presence, involvement and contribution is crucial.
Yanko Dzhukev, Vice President of Global Affairs and Outreach, UIMF