A Utah Valley University (UVU) delegation official agenda of activities was finished on March 21st, 2018 after attending the Morning Briefings at 8:30am. Since then, student members including myself were able to learn in practical terms how to ensure that our recommendations to empower rural women could be both submitted and included in the final document of CSW62.
As part of preparation for the visit to CSW62, the UVU delegation contributed to the final document of CSW62 prepared by the CSW62 NGO/NY team or Zero Draft Outcome Document – “Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls.” Used as a resource and standard for policy-making and programming on the topics covered, the Zero Draft aimed to establish a legal framework work for gender equality that Member States agree to support after the CSW and aims to put in place concrete measures to lift rural women and girls out of poverty and to ensure their rights, well-being and resilience. This strong outcome provides a roadmap on next steps that governments, civil society and women’s groups can undertake to support the realization of rural women’s rights and address their needs.
The UVU delegation proposed the following amendment to the first sentence of the NGO CSW/NY CSW62 Zero Draft Outcome Document, topic Education, Employment and Technology, Paragraph #3: “Collaborate with NGOs and academia to develop co-curricular pedagogy that is inclusive, timely, relevant and able to enhance the lives of rural and mountain women, including through student engaged learning, while empowering them to be the primary forces of change in improving their communities.” It was included in the recommendations of the UVU delegation at both our side and parallel events as well as in a written statement for CSW62 (E/CN.6/2018/NGO/37) which has been distributed for presentation by the UN Secretariat on 7 December 2017.
Similarly, the UVU delegation included that language in a possible oral statement when UIMF members gathered as co-sponsors support from five Mountain Partnership (MP) members, NGOs in consultative status with ECOSOC, including the Russian Academy of Natural Science (RANS), Euromontana and the Millennium Institute (MI). Unfortunately, our submission was rejected by CSW62 on the ground that the priority during the general discussion of the CSW62 was given to NGOs speaking on behalf of regional groups or coalitions, and that the joint submission by NGOs, undertaken by UIMF doesn’t satisfy that requirement. As one of the important initiatives both to advocate for the mountain women cause at the UN, and to implement mountain targets in the interaction with the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5, the statement also aimed to highlight the student engaged learning model developed at UVU, a Mountain Partnership member since 2006.
Unfortunately, after initially being included in the working draft of the final document by the CSW62 NGO/NY team, the language about “mountain women,” “student engaged learning” and “non-traditional students” was removed from the final version. Our team witnessed how Member States play a key role in the adoption of UN resolutions and legal frameworks, and that NGOs should work in close cooperation with voting stakeholders if they would like a specific topic to be adequately addressed during general discussions.
Such setbacks serve purposes not only as learning experiences for students, but also to bring them to direct exposure in a multilateral environment of negotiations, lobbying and “fighting” for a specific topic or agenda at the UN. While attending the CSW62, the UVU delegation was very pleased to learn that another organization and MP member also advocated for the gender agenda and particularly mountain women. The Alpine Convention held a side event co-sponsored by the Permanent Missions of Austria, Andorra, Bhutan, Peru and Kyrgyzstan to the United Nations discussing the role of women in mountain areas and challenges they face at the same day on March 19, 2018 as the UVU delegation hosted its own side event at CSW62. While it was great to hear that the UIMF is not the only organization highlighting the importance of addressing issues critical to mountain women, it was a very important reminder that due to the lack of a proper coordination between both side events and their co-sponsors, the outcome of the efforts was not the expected one by us all from the beginning.
On a positive note, the UVU delegation achieved a successes by organizing several events at the CSW62 and UN headquarters and it was great exposure for the UVU team at international level.
Hosting a side and parallel events at such a high professional level showcased the effectiveness of the engaged learning model in which students were able to prepare, organize, and execute events within one year since CSW61 demonstrating the students’ capacity in advocating causes related to rural and mountain women in addition to their extensive experiences at local and regional levels, as well as the UN level. Most importantly, UIMF members once again through solving real problems and student projects demonstrated how engaged learning can be used to encourage students and non-traditional in particular to implement the UN SDGs more successfully. Working closely with NGOs in consultative status under ECOSOC and with the MP Secretariat, the UVU student team proved that the engaged learning model became a very effective and powerful tool in implementing SDGs on a local, regional, and international level. In addition, the model allowed students to continue to push for its adoption into consensus documents, such as the NGO CSW Zero Draft document, as well as maintain it as a centerpiece of advocacy program in management and specialized implementation of the SDGs.
This was the third year of participation of UVU and UIMF at the CSW and student efforts will continue to be dedicated towards ensuring that mountain women will be in the focus of the attention and support of the UNWomen and the United Nations as well.
Yanko Dzhukev, VP and liaison with FAO-UN, UIMF