4th Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership: Governance and Strategy

4th Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership: The Governance and Strategy Document 2014-2017

One of my life long dreams and a big part of the reason that I am currently at Utah Valley University (UVU) has been to become involved in international affairs so that my voice might be added to the multitude of other voices that are considered around the world.  Coming to Utah Valley University has helped me to start working on this dream.  As well as taking classes from professors with real world experience I have become involved in student clubs, such as the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF) – a coalition of UVU student clubs, that has made hands on experience in international relations part of my education. I was privileged to attend the 4th Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership which was held in Erzurum, Turkey from September 16th through the 19th this year.  The Mountain Partnership is an organization that is linked to the United Nations and is responsible for coordination of  sustainable mountain development activities (SMD) around the world .  The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations houses the Secretariat of the Mountain Partnership.  As the name of the meeting implies this was only the 4th time since the Mountain Partnerships creation in 2002 that the world wide body of the partnership has met together.

One of the main purposes of this meeting was to ratify a new Governance and Strategy Document that would provide a vision for activities for the Mountain Partnership for the years 2014 to 2017.  The ratification of this document took place in the first plenary session of the conference.  This was a real eye opening experience for me.  As I walked in the large conference room where the Plenary Session was held I could not help but notice that there were representatives of governments and other institutions with impressive sounding names.  It was hard not to be just a little intimidated by what I saw.  The other thing I noticed was that everyone was issued with a set of headphones and an electronic box.  This device allowed you to listen to what was being said in the language of your choice regardless of the language that was spoken.  It was then that I realized how truly international this meeting was and I was excited to be a part of this organization.  The UVU delegation members, consisted of myself and Jordan Giles, another vice president of UIMF along with Dr. Baldomero Lago, who was our faculty advisor for the trip.  We attended this first session along with our North American Partners from the Aspen International Mountain Foundation (AIMF), Karinjo DeVore and Eric Smith.

The Coordinator of the Mountain Partnership Secretariat, Thomas Hofer, spoke about the processes that had gone into the drafting of the document.  These processes included a 2012 meeting in Rome where the first ideas for the Governance and Strategy document had been discussed and three drafts of the document which had been sent out to the members of the Mountain Partnership for comments and concerns.  The final draft of the document was presented to the General Assembly and by a round of applause the new Governance and Strategy Document was accepted.  It was evident during Thomas’s presentation that the Secretariat had gone to great lengths to give ever member of the Mountain Partnership a say into this document that was to be a sort of constitution for the Mountain Partnership for the next four years.

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L-R Myself, Dr. Baldomero Lago, Thomas Hofer–Coordinator of the Mountain Partnership Secretariat, Jordan Giles

The Governance and membership of the Mountain Partnership was outline in the document.  Membership in the mountain partnership is open to “governments and inter-governmental, civil society and private organizations that are actively engaged in and committed to achieving [sustainable mountain development]”.  Membership requirements include, among other things, active involvement in sustainable mountain development and a willingness to join forces and cooperate with other Mountain Partnership members.  Members of the Mountain Partnership were divided into six regions.  Each region appointed two leaders; one representing a government in the region and one representing a civil society organization (NGO) from the region.  The region that UVU is in is the ‘North and Central America and Caribbean’ region.  The appointed governmental representative is Mexico and the appointed civil society representative is Vertex.  Vertex is the civil society organization that was created when AIMF combined with Telluride Institute from Telluride, CO.

The governance of the Mountain Partnership comes from two bodies; the Steering Committee and the Mountain Partnership Secretariat.

The Steering Committee is a body of 16 members made up of the:

  • The governmental representative and civil society representative of each region;
  • One representative of the intergovernmental organizations;
  • One representative of Global Civil Society Organizations;
  • One representative of the donor organization to the Mountain Partnership;
  • One representative of the Mountain Partnership Secretariat.

The Steering Committee will oversee the planning of the strategy of the Mountain Partnership for the next 4 years.  It will also oversee the budget and work plan of the General Assembly of the Mountain Partnership.

The Mountain Partnership Secretariat is currently hosted by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.  The Secretariats primary role is to act as a liaison between the various members of the Mountain Partnership and to identify and mobilize recourses and investments for sustainable mountain development.  The Secretariat is accountable to the Steering Committee.

The strategy areas that the document identifies are:

  • Advocacy;
  • Joint Action;
  • Knowledge Management and communication;
  • Capacity Development and technology transfer;
  • Innovation; and
  • Recourse mobilization.

During the course of the conference each of these areas were discussed in sub committees and recommendations were made to the Steering Committee about how strategy in these areas should be formulated.  The UVU delegation was active in these committees.  Jordan Giles attended and contributed to the discussion on Knowledge Management and Communication.  I attended the subcommittee on Advocacy where I was able to assist the facilitator, Dr, Andrew Taber.  Dr. Taber is the head of the Mountain Institute located in Virginia.  It was an honor to be able to learn from Dr. Taber because it became apparent over the course of the conference that he is someone of great reputation among the mountain partnership members.  By watching him and other dignitaries at the meeting I observed people who I consider to be real life role models; people that I could emulate if I too would become recognized in the international scene. Through my attendance at the conference I believe that I am beginning to reach my goal of having my voice heard on the international stage.  By the end of the first day I was no longer intimidated by the company I was in.  Instead I was inspired and because of this I could feel my confidence growing.  My voice maybe small, but its growing. To a large degree our delegation enjoyed a certain level of recognition and respect from our senior colleagues from international organizations and all those who are known in the area of SMD, thanks to the contributions from UVU and the UIMF to the overall SMD agenda in many areas since 2006, when UVU joined the Mountain Partnership. But this will be a topic for another piece to be written and posted in addition to this one.

For the full Governance and Strategy Document please follow this link: http://www.mountainpartnership.org/publications/publication-detail/en/c/200257/

Mark Petersen, member of Utah Valley University delegation at the 4th Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership, Vice President, Utah International Mountain Forum