Category Archives: 2013

Sustainable Mountain Development Promotion by UIMF During 2013

Presenting UIMF Achievements During 2013 at the UVU’s Engagement Week

Utah Valley University’s Engagement Week which took place during March 24-26, 2014 gathered a variety projects pursued by UVU faculty and students with a focus on engaged learning activities, locally and globally based.   It was an opportunity to showcase the projects that Utah International Mountain Forum’s (UIMF) and its associated clubs have been involved in over the past year. UIMF presented through two formats at this conference.

First, Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, faculty from the History and Political Science Department and one of the advisors of the UIMF, myself and Joseph McCain, President of UIMF,   presented two specially designed  posters about major activities and achievements of UIMF throughout 2013 on the morning of March 24, 2014 to all interested individuals and groups.


(Left to right) Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, advisor of the UIMF, myself and Joseph McCain, President of UIMF presenting poster during the Engagement Week event at UVU

These activities included the UIMF delegation contribution to the agenda of the the fourth Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership in Erzurum, Turkey in September 2013, participation at the meeting of the Mountain Focus Group at the United Nations in New York in October 2013, hosting the International Mountain Day declared by the United Nations during December 5-11, 2013 in Orem, Utah, and the third Utah high school essay contest on the topics of clean water on March 28, 2013 in Orem, Utah, among many others. In addition to posters, UIMF brochures were distributed and the newly published first volume of the journal with students research papers titles “Youth and the mountains”. This was a successful avenue for promoting the club on campus through the raising of awareness of the UIMF’s activities among the faculty and students of UVU. It also served as an effective recruitment tool as one of the current aims of the UIMF is to bring a more diverse range of students and clubs into its coalition in order to more effectively achieve goals of the mountain cause promotion as a campus through united efforts.


Copies of the “Youth and the Mountains” journal of student research papers distributed during the Engagement week presentations

 UIMF team was also invited to make an oral presentation during the same day on March 24, 2014. It included a panel of individuals involved in the UIMF’s projects: two UIMF advisors, Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev and Professor Keith Snedegar, Joseph McCain, President of UIMF, and myself. The presentation focused on the engagement of the students in the promotion of the United Nations sustainable mountain development (SMD) agenda as a result of UIMF’s activities. Each member of the panel had a chance to speak about their own involvement in the club’s activities. Cash prizes were awarded to audience members for correct answers posed by the panel members. In addition the audience was given time to ask questions

Professor Snedegar spoke on his involvement in judging the essays for the third Utah high school essay contest held in March, 2013 on the topic of the U.N.-declared International Year of Fresh Water and the preparations for the upcoming presentation of essays by the students for the fourth Utah high school essay contest on the topic of the International Year of Family Farming on March 28, 2014. Professor Snedegar emphasized that the yearly essay contests, co-hosted by two Mountain Partnership members, UVU and the City of Orem in cooperation with the Orem Public Library, have become a great tool to raise an awareness among Utah youth in Sustainable Mountain Development(SMD)-activities and to identify among them new leaders in SMD-advocacy both in the Rocky Mountain region and beyond.  Dr. Abdrisaev spoke on the significance of the UIMF as internationally recognized university based student run organizations focused on issues affecting mountainous regions, having done much of its work in conjunction with the United Nations SMD-agenda. The student portion of the panel including Joseph McCain and myself were able to give unique perspectives on the impact that the UIMF has had on students education and ability to be engaged in the promotion of the SMD-activities both locally, during the events such as the International Mountain Day celebrations and globally, as was done, for example, during the internship at the United Nations by Joseph McCain, or during participation at the meetings of the Mountain Partnerships, which allowed them to contribute to the U.N. agendas in practical ways. 

Members of the panel also spoke about future plans of UIMF and focused on hosting the fourth International Women of the Mountains Conference at UVU during October 7-9, 2015. They invited the audience to contribute to the agenda of the conference and distributed a call for papers among present faculty and students. 

 UIMF is constantly looking for ways to more effectively work within the campus on issues that the students find significant, ranging from protocol, professional growth, to building connections with powerful people and institutions around the world. These continuing efforts have involved a wide range of students and faculty as illustrated by the joint contribution from members of UIMF and UVU’s ROTC for the ongoing current activities of the UIMF, including the hosting of Dr. Kangas, Academic Dean from the National Defense University, Washington, D.C., during February 25-28, 2014 and the involvement of professors from departments ranging from history to mathematics in numerous projects, etc. The presentations made at engagement week were geared towards further pursuing these objectives.

 Christopher Wiltsie, President of the Sustainable Mountain Development 





“Detailed Schedule of the Engagement Week”:

UVU Delegation participates in Open Working Group Meeting on Sustainable Development Goals at the United Nations


A Delegation from Utah Valley University (UVU) as a part of established tradition visited the United Nations, in New York during December 9-11, 2013. It participated in the Sixth session of the Open Working Group Meeting on Sustainable Development Goals, under the accreditation of the mission of Hungary at the United Nations, one of the Co-Chairs of the meeting, the other being Kenya. The members of the delegation included Dr. Rusty Butler (Associate Vice President International Affairs and Diplomacy at UVU), Dr. Brian Birch (Associate Vice President – Engaged Learning at UVU), Carlos Alarco (Educational Technologist and representative of UIMF (Utah International Mountain Forum), a coalition of student clubs at UVU) and Jesler Molina (International Student Council Chair, Model UN President at UVU, and representative of UIMF).

During the 3 days the delegation heard informative and insightful opinions by delegates from across the globe, as well as numerous civil society groups, all working together to come up with targets and goals that would comprise the Sustainable Development Goals for the post 2015 agenda. The meetings held during these 5 days were critical as it allowed delegates to voice ideas and concerns into what these goals should include. The four main themes were discussed: Means of Implementation, Global partnership, Countries in special situations, and Human Rights (including right to development and global governance).

UN1301Open Working Group session on Sustainable Development Goals

The first day’s discussion focused on the importance of means of implementation for sustainable development. Science, Technology and Innovation are seen as drivers of social and economic development. Another important theme discussed was about how ODA (Official Development Assistance) remains an essential source of financing, especially for LDCs (Least Developed Countries), and that more needs to be done to make sure this type of funding increases instead of decreases, which had been happening recently. South-South and triangular cooperation are growing around the world, especially as a supplement to North-South cooperation. While a technology divide still exists between developed and developing countries and more needs to be done to bridge this divide, any solution needs to include women. Technology transfer is important to LDCs not only as a means to acquire sustainable technologies, but also as an opportunity to include capacity development, local productive capability, and supportive institutions. As a result, when a  technology bank for LDCs (least Developed Countries) as well as a technology facilitation mechanism were proposed, both initiatives received wide support among the audience. The importance of a rule-based, multilateral, trade system to benefit all countries would help LDCs move towards sustainable development.

The second day of the discussion focused on Global Partnerships and the involvement of the private sector in developing nations in order to achieve sustainable development goals. One of the speakers that day was Paul Polman (CEO Unilever), and his presentation outlined the importance of private corporations in any development plan and implementation.  In Mr. Polman’s opinion, state and international organizations, like the U.N, need to work with the private companies because they have the resources but not enough manpower to do practical tasks that sustainable development require. Partnerships need not involve many companies, only few of them are necessary to push for ideas that help or change the world. In his view, it is enough to have companies that can be held accountable and commit themselves to any collaborative project. He gave the example that 2 million children die each year because they do not have access to soap to wash their hand. Unilever produces soap, and other sanitary products, but not the training to show children how to wash their hands properly. Partnering with State entities and NGOs can prove beneficial in these instances as they help to advance the development goals and of course their business. However, it is not easy to talk about sustainability with the private sector, due to the fact that new technologies can initially be expensive, but here the private sector has an opportunity to make a significant impact on developing communities and push for a change in culture. The U.N can set a moral framework that can hold all actors accountable to it. This was echoed during the rest of the discussion when other participants emphasized that private sector should be part of the solution and that the contribution of the private sector can be enhanced with better governance and regulation. There is the potential to expand multi-stakeholder partnerships in the support of specific goals and that governments play a key role in creating enabling environments for these partnerships. Later during that day the UVU delegation had the opportunity to discuss the situation in Africa in relation to LDCs, LLDCs and DCs during the lunch with the Ambassador of the Republic of Botswana Charles T. Ntwaagae and the Deputy Permanent Representative Nkoloi Nkoloi.

On the third day, the discussion was focused on Countries in Special Situations, which included LDCs (Least Developed Countries), LLDCs (Land Locked Developing Countries) and SIDS (Small Island Developing States) and the means these groups have to be provided for Sustainable Development. During the Co-chairs’ meeting with representatives of Major Groups and other stakeholders, the UVU delegation contributed to the discussion on the day’s topic. Jesler Molina made an official statement on behalf of UVU. In his speech, Jesler as a practical measure called for intergovernmental collaboration to facilitate LLDC countries access to the sea and water channels through a comprehensive taxation program for their products, allowing them to have access to the international markets and helping them to improve their economy. He also recommended the group to review the LDC standard and to provide a middle ground for graduate LDC and non-graduate LDC countries, where the economies are fragile and could be put in serious danger at any time.

un1302smJesler Molina makes his statement to the committee ( Statement to U.N )

Jesler Molina and Dr. Rusty Butler also attended a special lunch hosted by the mission of Argentina to the United Nations on December 11, 2013 dedicated to the International Mountain Day celebration. As a part of the gathering a special publication commemorating International Year of Family Farming, which will be the theme for 2014, was presented to the audience. During the event UVU delegation had an opportunity to meet with representatives of international organizations, including Rosalaura Romeo, Mountain Partnership Secretariat Programme Officer and envoys from such mountain countries, as the Permanent Representative of Peru to the United Nations, Gustavo Meza-Cuadra Velásquez, the Permanent Representative of Spain to the United Nations Fernando Arias González, the Permanent Representative of the Kyrgyz Republic to the United Nations, H.E. Talaibek Kydyrov,  and the Permanent Representative of Morocco to the United Nations Ahmed Snoussi. At the end, the UVU delegation extended an invitation to the Permanent Representative of Argentina to the United Nations María Cristina Perceval to visit Utah Valley University as a part of the International Affairs and Diplomacy program.

The UVU delegation also met with Joseph McCain, a member of UIMF currently serving an internship with the Kyrgyz Mission to the United Nations.

un1303smJoseph McCain, Jesler Molina, and Carlos Alarco,
UIMF representatives at the United Nations

The trip was a resounding success as the UVU delegation was able to interact with Ambassadors and representatives from many nations and had an opportunity to share before the U.N. audience and officials UVU experiences in promoting sustainable development agenda with particular focus on mountain cause. The delegation expects that there will be many more opportunities for future interaction with UN missions, the UN and other NGOs.


Carlos Alarco and Jesler Molina, representatives of UIMF

UIMF Member Helping in Philippines

On Friday November 29th I set out with a group of 16 people from Utah in coordination with the Philippine Improvement Group to provide relief aid to many of the victims of Typhoon Haiyan or Yolanda as it is referred to in the Philippines.  Ryan Ogden, who spent two years in the Philippines as a missionary for the LDS church founded the Philippine Improvement Group over five years ago and has been back to the islands to provide humanitarian aid several times. Naturally, when the typhoon struck in November he coordinated a special service tour with several other local returned missionaries and volunteers and began raising funds with all proceeds going to the reconstruction of the Philippines.


The destination was the small island of Bantayan, situated just north west of Cebu Island in the middle of the Philippines. The remote location of the island made travelling very difficult. In order to get to the island we had to take all modes of transportation including planes, buses, taxis, boats, and vans just to arrive at the very north point of Bantayan. The island of Bantayan is a very modest place with three main towns. The city of Madridejos, the place where we offered relief, was devastated with 95 percent of the houses damaged in some way due to the ferocious winds of the typhoon. Madridejos only experienced four casualties compared to the thousands of deaths that Tacloban, a city on the island just to the east had experienced. The combination of the low tide and the unique shape of Bantayan Island, which has many caves underneath of it, helped prevent a massive tidal wave when the typhoon hit.  Yet the island had not received any serious aid, even after three weeks time. This is most likely due to the enormous amount of aid required in several areas of the Philippines and the lack of effective transportation required to access the island.

The native Filipinos are used to typhoons each year but this one was drastically different than all of the other ones. The typhoon desolated the city of Madridejos, leaving it without electricity. Some of the local authorities predict it will take months before power is restored to the island. The aftermath of the typhoon also severely damaged the economy, not only for Bantayan but for all of the Philippines. The island supplies a large majority of the chickens to Cebu Island, home to 3.8 million people. Many chickens were killed and others had to be sold away immediately because of lack of supplies for the farmers. Many people are still struggling psychological from such a tremendous and traumatic experience. Yet the Filipino people are resilient and are happy despite the destruction to their homes and cities.

2The Philippine Improvement Group clears debris from Salazar Private School in Madridejos

When we arrived we immediately set to work cleaning up the debris from the storm by tearing down collapsed roofs, chopping down trees, and cleaning up pieces of metal and wood. We were able to successfully clear out a private school that hosts students from kindergarten to college.  We relied on the strength we had as a group, providing manpower to accomplish projects that would have taken the local Filipinos days to do in just a number of hours. After clearing out the school we shifted our attention towards a beach resort that had been decimated by the storm. Because it had been weeks since the storm had hit, the debris became a buffet for all manner of insects that would quickly attack as we tried to clear out the rubble. With the help of the local people working as a team we were able to quickly and effectively clear out the debris so that repairs can be made and the local economy can begin to heal itself.

3Local Utahn Chris Haleua helps provide food to the people of Madridejos Around 700 people received food aid.

In similar fashion, our projects included clearing up a local farm and many houses in a neighborhood that had palm trees and other pieces of metal lying on the roofs and impaling the homes. Now that these places are cleared reconstruction can begin and people can try to go back to living normal lives. Unfortunately, the reality of the situation showed that there were many other things that the people needed other than physical labor and manpower. This includes materials, supplies, food, and counseling. Perhaps the most memorable part of the experience was providing food to over 700 people that had been diagnosed by doctors earlier in the week as malnourished, 620 of them being children. Part of the relief effort was to supply food and to visit local schools to help the children cope with their trauma and stress. This was done through a series of presentations that the kids were able to participate in. It was great to see them laugh and smile and let go of some of their worries, even for just a small moment. We also talked to them about the importance of getting an education and graduating because only 25 percent of the children make it to graduation.

Despite all that the group was able to accomplish, it does not even scratch the surface of all that needs to be done for this community, not to mention all of the other cities affected. It will take months, if not years for this city to recover from the typhoon. However, if any group of people can rise up and overcome these circumstances it is the people of the Philippines. Working in unity with NGOs and other governments the Filipinos will quickly erase the memories of Yolanda from their minds and if the members of the Philippine Improvement Group were able to make a difference in the life of just one person than it was all worth it.

Brenen Sidwell, member, Utah International Mountain Forum 

Representing UVU and UIMF at the meeting of the Mountain Focus Group in New York

Recently, I have been revisiting the Mountain Focus Group meeting that was hosted on the 17th of October by the Permanent Mission of Italy. The Mountain Focus Group (MFG) gathering addressed a wide range of issues pertaining to Sustainable Mountain Development (SMD) and questioned how to ensure that mountains are included in the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (SDGs-UN), which will take effect when the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire.

When I was invited to go, I was very excited to go to such a high-level meeting related to SMD. As an intern, it isn’t often a luxury given. What happened there though was something revolutionary, in my eyes. The meeting started out with the host of the event, Ambassador Cardi from Italy explaining how the meeting would go and what he hoped would be achieved. I found that his words gave a certain level of enthusiasm that lasted the entire meeting.

The meeting itself was free-form – aside from the one presentation given by Mia Rowan, communications officer, for the Mountain Partnership secretariat. This was significant in that it allowed for an equal opportunity to speak, regardless of whether you were an MP member or a Representative of a Government or from a small NGO, or even an educational institution. This allowed for a great many and inspirational ideas.

But before those ideas were given, it was Mrs. Rowan who did a great job, essentially outlining the direction that the rest of the meeting would follow. Mrs. Rowan stressed the importance of having the SDGs as a replacement of the MDGs and, through her presentation, was able to give plenty of information or food for thought that was digested and utilized by the members present.

This was very informational. Unfortunately for me, I was actually filming the first part of the meeting and didn’t get the firmest understanding of the specifics. I was able to take notes of what came after her presentation though and it was very informational. For example, Ambassador Kydyrov from the Permanent Mission of Kyrgyzstan to the United Nations spoke about now being the time to take action. He then spoke about upcoming dates being utilized to their fullest. One date in particular was the eleventh of December. This date is the International Day of Mountains. The Ambassador from Kyrgyzstan stressed using this day as a means of spreading the importance of mountains and suggested that an event be planned for the day at the United Nations.

This was followed by Professor Baktybek D. Abdrisaev who mentioned several dates that were of significance to the SMD agenda and Utah Valley University, the sole educational institution present at the conference. Both of their comments though were really about using the time they had left to its greatest efficacy. Making “time” the first of the several, in my opinion, main points made.


Right to left: Joseph McCain with Ambassador of the Kyrgyz Republic to the U.N., H.E. Talaibek Kydyrov and Mia Rowan, communications officer, the Mountain Partnership secretariat

The second main point was making the importance of the issue of SMD recognized and made important. On a side note, this was one of the things that I found to be of most significance to the meeting and to the SDGs in general. This point was made by a representative from Guatemala. I would mention her name, but apparently she didn’t sign the participants list and as such I don’t know it. The thing that she said, that had such an impact on me, was, “if we want to introduce the concept of mountains into the discussion on SMD then we need to do something that is more focused. A means of showcasing the importance of SMD; the study and the calculations… Let the numbers needed for the day to day and the impact of not having that information be known. How much would it cost – as compared to the country that doesn’t contribute – as a means of preserving?” This was very profound to me, in that it didn’t just suggest that action needed to be taken, but just what kind of action needed to be taken and how it could be used to bring about a movement, which is more informed, for change.

The last point of relevance that I wish to mention was the point made best by Karinjo DeVore, Co-director of Vertex, MP hub for Central, North America and Caribbean. She stressed the need to create a special group or task force from prominent people. Which, in addition to the official institutions and mountain nation’s active advocates for the mountain agenda, will advocate for a mountain agenda to be included in the Sustainable Development Goals. This was the main point; that a structure needed to be put into play which could actually handle the issue of the SDGs. These at least were the main points that I took from the event. What others might have taken from it, I couldn’t say. But it was definitely the things that I found to be most important to my growth, concerning my understanding of the future of Sustainable Mountain Development. The last thing that I want to comment on though has nothing to do with the comments made or the progress made within the meeting. Rather, my last point is the relevance of having several of the institutions present who were. They were, the attendance of the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs and its host education institution, Utah Valley University (UVU) and Vista 360. The reason I mention them is not because of my being a member of the UIMF and UVU, but because they represent the community level movements of SMD as a whole. While they have different viewpoints from each other and those of the countries in attendance, they all share the same goal of SMD. It was exciting to see community involvement. I hope that, if I ever get another chance, the next MFG meeting I attend will have these community based actors in the global spectrum, play a more significant role.

Joseph McCain, member of UIMF and intern at the Permanent Mission of the Kyrgyz Republic at the United Nations

4th Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership: Partnership Fair

The Partnership Fair

One of the events at the 4th Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership was the partnership fair. In the words of the event organizers the partnership fair took the form of “speed geeking” a process which allowed participants to share knowledge and pass on information in an interactive and entertaining way. As presenters we had five minutes to give a presentation to a small group of attendees to the conference. After the five minutes were up a whistle would blow and the group would move on to the next presenter and a new group would come to hear our presentation. With all of the fast talking and whistle blowing that was going on this forum became a slightly chaotic and entertaining way of interacting with other Mountain Partnership members where Jordan and I had to talk very fast to get our message across. The title of our presentation was “How UVU has become one of the only North American undergraduate Universities to become actively involved in sustainable mountain development and the Mountain Partnership.”

TurkeyTrip1We used this presentation to explain the contributions that students of Utah Valley University (UVU) have made to the cause of the Mountain Partnership.

While we did have to talk very fast we were assisted in our efforts by the posters that we had on display. These posters highlight the many different activities that UVU students have been involved in that support the Mountain Partnership cause since UVU joined the Mountain Partnership in 2006. Such activities include the first, second and third women of the mountains conferences; the 2011, 2012 and 2013 High School Essay contests; and UVU’s involvement in the Rio +20 conference held in 2012. These posters gave an excellent perspective on the dedication of UVU to the Mountain Partnership. We had  a script prepared for us to read during this presentation, the speed of the presentations and the hectic nature of people moving from one display to the next meant that we had to speak from their own experiences working in UIMF. This required us to think very quickly to provide the answers for the questions that came to us. It was here that our preparation for the conference was key.  We had prepared so well that we could explain ourselves without relying on the script.

In general we spoke about the efforts of UVU students in planning and promoting the cause of the Mountain Partnership in three areas:

  • The Planning and promoting the International Women of the Mountains Conferences held in 2007 and 2011 in Orem, Utah and 2012 in Puno Peru and our desire to hold these conferences annually was expressed to the Mountain Partnershpp members
  • The organizing of the annual High School Essay Contest with the topic for the contests being based on sustainable mountain development themes and the United Nations designation for the year.
  • The presentation of the “Youth and the Mountains” volume which is a collection of UVU student essays on sustainable mountain development topics as well as the high school essay contest winners from previous years.  We also presented the North American report to the Rio + 20 conference that was printed by UVU.  The UVU version of the report also included several student essays. There was a lot of interest generated by these volumes with many conference participants requesting copies. (Follow these links for pdf copies of these volumes: and


Jordan Giles speaking with Yunus Seker, the highest ranking official from the Turkish Government through his interpreter while in the background I am talking with Jorge Recharte of The Mountain Institute

The result of the partnership fair was that Jordan and I were able to share with the other members of the Mountain Partnership the contributions of UVU to the mountain cause as well as get to know several people that we would develop friendships with over the course of the conference. I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Dr. Bashir Ahmed Wani from Pakistan, Kalys Batirova from Kyrgyzstan and Dr Alexey Gunya from the Russian Federation during the partnership fair. While this was our first meeting we would talk several times over the course of the conference.  The partnership fair allowed us to make important connections in the mountain partnership.



The view of the mountains from the Ulubag Plateau

Trip to the Turkish Countryside

After the official 3 days of the conference, day 4 was a sightseeing tour for the members of the Mountain Partnership into the Turkish Mountains.  This excursion was organized by the Turkish government. Due to the timing of flights home for the UVU delegation it was originally thought that no one from UVU would be able to go on the trip. When I made my desire to go on the sightseeing trip known, trip organizers arranged for me to be returned in Erzurum in time to catch my flight to Istanbul, an act for which I was very grateful. We were driven about an hour and a half outside of Erzurum.  On the way we stopped at a gas station to get water, gas and other supplies. It was during this stop that we saw the only affects of the Syrian civil war that I would saw on my trip. As we were getting ready to leave a woman speaking Arabic and holding out her Syrian Passport came to the door of our van. She was dressed in traditional Muslim women’s garb and had with her 2 small children that, given their relative ages, could have been her grandchildren. She did not speak English or Turkish and when she came to us could only say “Syria, Syria” in a pleading tone.  She appeared desperate in every sense of the word and it was hard not to feel sympathy for her. Mark gave her 20 USD and she left.  It was sobering to think of how close we really were to one of the most pressing current humanitarian crisis.

TurkeyTrip4After about an hour and a half on the main road we started to drive up the mountains on a gravel road.  The road was narrow and winding with an almost sheer drop on the side.  After about 10 miles on this road the drivers stopped to discuss whether or not these vehicles were suitable for this kind of terrain.  As the trail was only wide enough for a single vehicle it was uncertain how the vehicles would be able to turn around even if it were decided that they couldn’t go on.  The drivers decided to continue however, but on 3 separate occasions the passengers had to get out of the vans because the roads had turned to mud due to recent rainfall in the area and the vans could not get through fully loaded with passengers.  Eventually we all got to our destination, The Ulubag plateau.  From the plateau we had spectacular views of the mountains.  From this starting point we hiked down into the village of Uzundere.  It was a hike of about a mile and a half.  The terrain in parts was rocky and rugged but the beauty of nature surrounded us.  As we neared our destination I saw that the village we were walking to was tiny.  It consisted of a Mosque and approximately 15 to 20 basic little houses.  The houses were made of mountain rocks as walls for the basements and then had wooden walls on the upper levels.  The roofs were corrugated iron sheets.  It was during the visit to the village that the importance of sustainable mountain development became clear after three days of discussion.  These people are, or at least should be, the benefactors of our sustainable development goals.  They live in this mountain environment and have formed their own culture and way of life.  They are located in a remote corner of the world and yet due to the actions of others their way of life is being threatened environmentally.  Not only is sustainable mountain development about protecting them from the actions of others, it is also about providing them with the tools they need so that their little village can become economically prosperous in such a way that they do not need to harm their environment.  Once in the village we were treated like VIP’s by the local people.  The Turkish Government had arranged a feast of lamb kebabs which was enjoyed while the Mountain Partnership Members chatted with each other and met with the local village people.



The village of Uzundere

After this I had to return to Erzurum in order to catch my flight back to Istanbul while the rest of the members headed to the local waterfall.  The field trip was an extraordinary experience.

Mark Petersen, President Sustainable Mountain Development Club

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.



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:

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

Preparations for International Mountain Day Celebration

On the morning of October 7, 2013, student leaders from several associated clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU) gathered for an hour of discussion with Dr. Rusty Butler, Associate Vice President for International Affairs and Diplomacy at UVU, regarding the 2013 observance and celebration of International Mountain Day on December 6, 2013. Dr. Butler is also a focal point coordinator at UVU for the activities of the Mountain Partnership, which in turn coordinates the global promotion of the sustainable mountain development (SMD) agenda of the United Nations.

In attendance were student leaders from the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of UVU student clubs and club-members including Mark Petersen, President of the Sustainable Mountain Development club; Marie Poudiougou, Foreign Affairs Club President;  Jesler Molina, President of International Student Council and Model U.N. club; and D. Candice Backus, President of the College Republicans. In addition to those in attendance were Carlos Alarco and Jordan Giles, UIMF outreach coordinators, and Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, a former Kyrgyz Republic Ambassador to the U.S. and Canada, and current Distinguished Visiting Professor for the Department of History and Political Science. IMDPreparations1

The agenda for this initial gathering focused on several of the most important components of   the planning phase, such as:

  • Ensuring the fourth celebration of International Mountain Day at UVU will be successful with its goal of expanding to the regional level by inviting key representatives from Mountain Partnership elements from throughout North America;

  • Dedicating the main focus of the gathering to highlighting the results of the 4th Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership in Erzurum, Turkey and the efforts of the North American members of Mountain Partnership to advance those goals through a regional approach;

  • Remembering the late Dr. Jane Pratt, world-renowned expert and scholar on sustainable development and mountain issues in North America and globally;

  • Distribution of responsibilities between student clubs, taking into account that UIMF will act as overall host for the event: UVU students will be responsible for everything from protocol & administration, to coordination, to logistics. Mark Petersen and the Sustainable Mountain Development club will lead UIMF efforts in planning and organizing the celebration. In addition, UVU students will be responsible for hosting Dr. Jed Shilling, Senior Advisor of the Millennium Institute and husband of the late Dr. Jane Pratt.

  • Sending invitation letters to all Mountain Partnership members as soon as possible: It was agreed that Dr. Butler will send letters of invitation to all Distinguished Visitors and Mountain Partnership members, and UIMF members will follow up with obtaining responses from each addressee; IMG_0821 copy

  • Resolving financial and logistic issues related to the celebration: Per preliminary conversations, several institutions at UVU agreed to fund a gathering. In addition to the Office of International Affairs and Diplomacy funding a trip for Dr. Andrew Taber, current President of the Mountain Institute, as well as a reception, Dr. David Connelly, Chair, Department of History and Political Science and Dr. David Yells, Dean, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, have graciously agreed to co-sponsor the International Mountain Day celebration.

Overall, this meeting proved to be successful due to a significant expansion of involvement by students and faculty in every aspect of this celebration in comparison with previous years. The working group also resolved to follow up during the coming weeks to review accomplished tasks and assignments for each member in order to maintain momentum.

Travis Stroh

Vice President, UIMF

UIMF club coalition promotes itself at the bi-annual UVU Club Rush

Members of the Foreign Affairs club, the Sustainable Mountain Development club, and the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF) joined forces at the bi-annual Club Rush at Utah Valley University (UVU) from September 11-12 to advocate for their respective issues to the student body and attract participation. Club members discussed mountainous environmental issues and the UIMF’s development programs with interested students. Many students showed interest, requested to be contacted with further information, and agreed to attend future meetings. The UIMF coalition aims to increase their membership and involvement through these recruitment efforts. The UIMF also met with representatives from other clubs, such as the Science Association of Women and the UVU Multicultural Club, and discussed potential projects for future collaboration. Despite the light rain during the outdoor event, it was perceived that the UVU students enjoyed the event greatly. UIMF members are honored to have participated in the event.

UIMF Representative in Peru 2013

UIMF Representative in Peru 2013

Samuel Hill, President of Utah International Mountain Forum

As part of our continuing effort to fulfill the goals of the 2012 Women of the Mountains International Conference, Carlos Alarco, UIMF International Outreach Coordinator, visited Peru during August of 2013 to build on the foundation laid at that conference.

Peru is a mountainous country located on the west coast of South America. Though its capital is the coastal city of Lima, much of the country is located within the Andes. Of particular note is Cuzco, ancient capital of the Inca. Three hours south of Cuzco is Acomayo, a town of 5500 at 3200 meters above sea level. Most of the inhabitants of Acomayo, and indeed of the region, work in agriculture, and have done so for generations.


Acomayo Terrestrial Terminal

During his time in Acomayo, Carlos met with two professors from local schools, Gregorio Delgado de la Torre, a teacher at Tomas Ttito Condemayta secondary school, and Marlene Quispe Vasquez, a teacher at Daniel Alcides Carrion secondary school. They spoke about the possibility of providing additional educational content for students via the Internet. Some proposed solutions were the use of online learning spaces designed with Google or WordPress, or social media as a tool to build connections between leisure and learning.


Acomayo Centro de Salud (Medical Center)

Carlos also met with Dr. Diego Chipa Gullen of the Centro de Salud, Acomayo (Health Center). This government-funded clinic provides doctors, nurses, and specialists who treat the population in the area. While the discussions generally centered on the needs of the locals, of particular concern was access to modern birthing techniques. Many women prefer traditional birthing methods, and while in normal circumstances this is of little concern, those whose dwellings are very distant cannot benefit from assistance in times of crisis.

In the Capital City of Lima, Carlos met with Dr. Jorge Recharte, the director of the Instituto de Montana    ( to discuss possible joint projects that would forward the ends of the mountain institute. The seeds of three collaborative projects came out of this meeting: First, a set of online development activities which could be shared with the universities in the Andes regions. Second, the creation of a regular online Quechua-language radio program to promote community and cultural awareness among the people of the Andes regions and the international mountain community. Third, a project to encourage women of the Andes regions to participate more fully in the political, business, and public squares. This collaborative effort in Latin America will be an additional initiative to the activities and projects, which UVU, UIMF included, developed with its traditional partner, the Mountain Institute in Virginia, USA.

Near the end of his visit, Carlos visited the Pontifica Universidad Catolica Peruana, one of Peru’s premier and top ranked Universities, located in the San Miguel District of Lima. There he presented copies of the Sustainable Mountain Development in North America report to the University’s Central Library.  They will add the report to their collection, and send copies to other academic institutions in Lima. 


Sustainable Mountain Development

in North America report





UVU Delegation Prepares for 4th Annual Mountain Partnership Meeting in Erzurum, Turkey

UVU Delegation Prepares for 4th Global Meeting of the

Mountain Partnership in Erzurum, Turkey


A delegation from Utah Valley University (UVU) which includes Dr. Baldomero Lago, Senior Director International Center and Multicultural Studies at UVU, Jordan Giles and Mark Petersen, UVU students and vice-Presidents of the Utah International Mountain Forum, a coalition of student clubs at UVU, have been making preparations for the 4th Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership in Erzurum, Turkey. The summit will feature a gathering of many international governmental and nongovernmental organizations with focus on promotion of the United Nations agenda of sustainable mountain development (SMD) in order to help address, as well as bring awareness to, the many urgent issues facing mountain communities, including climate change with its impact on the environment, water and energy resources and supplies, poverty alleviation, gender, and creating stable institutions, among others. The important mission of that high-level international forum will be to adopt a four-year long strategy to promote SMD-agenda by members of the Mountain Partnership.


During the Conference Call with partners from Aspen, CO

As part of these preparations, members of the delegation have coordinated their efforts with many colleagues within UVU and within the newly formed North American Mountain Partnership Hub in order to pursue common goals and priorities during the Meeting.  For that purpose, they held a conference call with Karinjo DeVore, Co-director of VERTEX, and host of the North American hub for the Mountain Partnership on Wednesday, September 11, 2013. In addition, they were able to prepare and print as a special contribution to the 4th Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership a volume of papers written by students of UVU and high-schools from Utah, addressing a variety of topics relating to mountains and mountain peoples. Editor-in-Chief of the volume is Dr. David Connelly, Chair of the History and Political Science at UVU, a scholar on rural development and sustainability. During the Global Meeting in Erzurum, Turkey, the UVU delegation plans to make a presentation about UVU’s contribution to the regional cooperation between MP members in North America. As a part of the presentation they prepared an exhibition of 12 posters. The UVU delegation raised funds for the trip thanks to a GEL-grant provided by UVU and additional private sources in Utah valley through their own fundraising campaigns.


Mark Petersen, UVU student ( L ) and Dr. Baldomero Lago ( R )

discuss details of the trip to Turkey. 

With the continuing conflict in Syria, the UVU delegation experienced some challenges before getting approval for the trip from UVU officials due to a warning issued by the State Department for U.S. citizens to avoid trips to the south-eastern part of Turkey. Now, after resolving all issues with travel authorization and making so many efforts in order to go to Erzurum, Turkey, the UVU delegation is very eager to contribute to the Global Meeting agenda and adopt a contemporary strategy for MP member’s action during 2014-2017.

Brendon Carpenter, UVU student, member of UIMF