UIMF President attends UN Civil Society Conference and visits Brighton Beach

From March 20th to 22nd, I was given the opportunity to travel with a cohort of young people from Utah to participate in planning the youth section of the 2019 United Nations-Department of Global Communications Civil Society Conference. Our cohort encompassed three universities, a plethora of non-governmental organizations, and many adult advisors.

Samuel Elzinga (Center) with other youth committee members from Utah

            Thursday was the day we spent at the United Nations. We first started our day off with a meeting hosted by Mr. Jeff Brez, Chief of the UN-DGC NGO section. After he welcomed us to New York, we met with Mr. Felipe Queipo, a member of the UN DGC NGO section, who also provided us with a personal tour of the UN. This was a really cool experience mostly because we were able to go to the floor of the security council, which almost no one gets to do. After the private tour and lunch on the 4th floor of the UN, we began our meetings. Both the New York and Utah youth subcommittees were divided into working groups to focus on a specific aspect of the conference. Because I am planning on being gone during the conference, I was assigned to the planning working group. We were able to meet with youth from previous conferences who had planned the conference before to see what worked and what would be good to implement in Utah. Because Salt Lake is so different from other cities that have hosted the conference, some special challenges may exist when implementing some of the projects. After the meetings concluded, we met with Ryan Koch of LDS Charities. It was nice following up with him as I have met him at the HLPF and in Utah. He shared some advice with us about how NGOs work with the United Nations, which was insightful. After that, we had a pizza party at UN DGC headquarters. It was a really good day.

Though we had meetings to attend on Thursday, we were all still able to find time to be tourists as well, which was a welcome change for me because every time I have been to New York I have not had a lot of time for sightseeing.

(L to R): Samuel Elzinga, Baltybek Abdrisaev, Michael Hinatsu, Paul Gallo and Viktoriia Bahrii at the Kebab Empire restaurant

During my time in New York, I tried to find as much Central Asian and Russian tourist attractions as possible. Since I am planning on going to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan for the 2019-2020 academic year, I wanted to have cultural experience and also try some of the food I might be eating there. After I arrived at JFK International Airport on Wednesday night, I made my way over to Times Square for some Uyghur food to celebrate the re-union of our team after the successful contribution of UIMF delegation to the 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women with Michael Hinatsu, Viktoriia Bahrii, Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, and Paul Gallo. The restaurant was named Kebab Empire, and it was absolutely delicious. I got some kebab and fried noodles, along with a traditional yoghurt drink called doogh, which I split with Paul Gallo. It was an excellent way to start my third trip to New York.

Samuel Elzinga and Michael Hinatsu at the entrance to the bookstore

On my last day in New York, I wanted to visit Brighton Beach and look at a Russian bookstore “Saint Petersburg” for some books. I invited Dr. Abdrisaev and Michael along as well, and we ventured down to Brooklyn. It took some time, but once we were finally there it was well worth the travel time. I was able to pick up the book titled “The Great Game,” which I have read in English and now plan to do in Russian. We also stopped at a restaurant named Bek and got more Central Asian food. This time we had a soup called lagman and some shashlik. Lagman is a soup with beef, vegetables, and spices, which is flavorful indeed. Shahlik is another word for kebab, and it was really good. We got three different types, and each were amazing. It was a great way to end the trip. After that, we made our way back to JFK airport and left for Utah.

           This is lagman

        Overall, the trip was a success. I was able to balance work and play, all while trying out Russian and Central Asian food. I am even more excited at the prospect of going to Bishkek this coming year and strengthen our cooperation with local institutions there through the advocacy of the UN sustainable mountain development agenda.

Samuel Elzinga – President, Utah International Mountain Forum, a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University




Michael Hinatsu-Days four and five in New York following CSW63