Category Archives: 2018

UIMF Is Preparing for UN-NGO Conference in Salt Lake City in August 2019


On October 27th, 2018 Utah Valley University (UVU) hosted a United Nations (UN) NGO conference for local NGOs to learn about the United Nations (UN), the role of civil society and NGOs in the UN, and what NGOs can do to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Utah and the state at large. This was also a preparatory step for the UN-NGO Conference, which UVU will co-host with Salt Lake City in August 2019.

Conference agenda

UN NGO Director Jeff Brez Addressing the Conference

During the conference the following officials of the UN made a presentation: Mr. Jeff Brez, Director of UN NGO Relations; and Mr. Felipe Queipo, member of UN NGO Relations;  in addition to the Mayor of Salt Lake City, Jackie Biskupski, UVU President Astrid Tuminez, and leaders of NGOs, such as Mr. Ahmad Corbitt, Director of Public Affairs, LDS Charities; Ryan Koch, Director of Public and International Affairs in New York for LDS Charities; and Jennifer Hogge, Executive Director of Engage Now Africa among others.

UVU President Astrid Tuminez Addressing the Conference

As a recognition of the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at UVU contribution in the advocacy of the UN agenda of sustainable mountain development since 2007, I was invited to not only participate on the steering committee for this conference, but also speak at the conference itself.  Megan Davis, Hannah Bieker, Joy Black, Kyle Warren, and Hailee Hodgson, members of UIMF, helped with protocol, logistics and other activities at the conference. The entire process, from planning to execution of the conference, was a valuable experience for all of us. My peers and I were very grateful for the opportunity to represent UVU students at this forum.

Dr. Baldomero Lago, UVU’s chief international officer, tapped me at the beginning of the fall semester to represent UIMF and the Foreign Affairs club at the steering committee. Joining me and Dr. Lago on the steering committee were representatives from a variety of international NGOs based in Utah and Mr. John McIlmoil, one of the co-presidents of the Utah Valley Institute of Religion. The Utah Valley Institute of Religion co-president and I were the only students on the committee, and we ensured student needs were met during the conference. Overall, the planning process gave me many interesting insights to learn how to interact with nonprofits and prominent members of the nonprofit sector. However, the most satisfying part of the conference activities was participating in the conference itself, both as a speaker and as a participant.

Samuel Elzinga Addressing the Conference

I was asked by the steering committee to speak at the conference on the 2030 agenda as it relates to youth. This topic was a great fit for me as I participated and made an oral statement with focus on the implementation of mountain targets during general debates at the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development over the summer this year.  Due to that,  I was able to give a very insightful presentation. I summarized why youth involvement was so important, how youth can get involved by participating in this conference, and what involvement UIMF and the Foreign Affairs Club have participated in. I specifically highlighted UIMF involvement in the UN Open Working Group on the SDGs during 2013-2015, and how Jesler Molina, one of UVU students and my predecessor as UIMF President, advocated then for adoption targets under the SDGs specifically relating to sustainable mountain development. Though I didn’t have any PowerPoints or videos, I felt as though my presentation was engaging for youth and adults alike. I am very grateful for the opportunity I was given to present at this conference alongside officials from the UN. It was definitely a highlight of my semester.

Overall, the conference ran very smoothly, and I am glad everyone worked together to make sure all aspects were attended to prior to and during the conference. I am excited for the big conference this coming August and the opportunity to promote then again the cause of the mountain communities among other issues.

Samuel Elzinga, President, the Utah International Mountain Forum


PHOTOS OF THE CONFERENCE- Copyright of Hailee Hodgson 



   Deseret News           UVU Review 




Hannah Bieker-Working Together Making a Difference during UN Conference at UVU-AB-HB


Joy McKenna Black-Contributing to the Utah Valley University UN NGO Conference


Kyle Warren-Rotaract and 2018 UN NGO Conference


Brandon Pedler-Utah Valley University Hosts UN NGO Conference

UIMF Discusses Online Zero Draft Outcome Document for CSW63

From 8:30am to 9:30am on November 2nd, 2018 Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU), participated in a conference call session led by the NGO Commission on the Status of Women, New York (NGO CSW/NY) (see, to prepare the Zero Draft Outcome Document for the  63rd Session of the United Nations (UN) Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63) in 2019. Around twenty-five civil society participants from around the world gathered via video call to discuss topics, concerns, and groups of people that will be included in the Zero Draft. The Zero Draft consists of policy recommendations relating to the priority theme of CSW63 (social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls) that member states agree to support (see, and is the foundation for member state negotiations on agreed conclusions at Commissions on the Status of Women.

Michael Hinatsu during online session to discuss Zero Draft Outcome Document for CSW63

The session agenda consisted of participant introductions, reviewing prior work, a review of current work, and a discussion period for participants to advocate for specific topics or issues to be added to the Zero Draft by adding them directly to a working document. Led by Winifred Doherty, Main NGO Representative to the United Nations, and Jourdan Williams, Youth Representative to the United Nations for the International Health Awareness Network, the session was a continuation of efforts in September, when an Expert Group Meeting was held by NGO CSW/NY to discuss current research related to the CSW63 priority theme, as well as to hear presentations by experts and researchers on a number of aspects of the priority theme as well as case studies of social protection and public services from around the world (see

After introductions by participants, some of which were calling from overseas, and a brief review of the Expert Group Meeting, the session focused on the current version of the Zero Draft, which currently is designed to identify how the UN and other international organizations have addressed social protection systems, access to public services, and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and empowering women and girls. The working document also is a place to list areas neglected by the international community that need to be addressed in the Zero Draft and, ultimately, in the agreed conclusions of CSW63. Thus, our participation was not only relevant because of mountain women concerns, but necessary to laying groundwork for advocating mountain targets and mountain women and girls in the Zero Draft and in implementation of mountain targets in the UN 2030 Development agenda. We mentioned as UIMF priority to repeat our effort to include a language about mountain women in the final document of the CSW63. Then it was interesting to hear from Winifred Doherty, that she remembers that they included relevant language to the CSW62 draft of the final document and after that were disappointed when it was removed during negotiations of the member states.

During the discussion period, every participant gave recommendations and contributed specific language according to the specific work they do for advocating gender issues, with issues such as food security, xenophobia, indigenous education, and other added to the working document. The process itself was simple, as a Google Doc was open to all for inspection and adding recommendations, but was also very detailed, as participants advocated for many diverse issues affecting women. Along with Professor Baktybek Abdrisaev, UIMF mentor, I added specific language about mountain communities, women, and girls, as well as Utah Valley University’s student engaged learning model, to relevant working sections of the document such as the Education and Infrastructure sections. These working sections are places where individuals can add specific language and citations of official documents and studies that will eventually become part of the Zero Draft Outcome Document. We also became team members with others who will directly contribute to the specific issues in the Education and Infrastructure segments, which furthers our chances of implementing language about mountain women and girls into the actual Zero Draft Outcome Document. The discussion period was not only interesting because of the diverse topics brought forth, but also because it gave valuable insights into how civil society contributes to the agenda of the CSW, and how UIMF can better implement language about mountain women into documents that will be seen by member state representatives who have a say in the outcomes of CSW63.

In sum, the session was an important step in advocating for mountain women and implementing mountain targets into the 2030 Development agenda, because it allowed UIMF to get a say in the formation of the Zero Draft Outcome Document which will eventually inform member states on policy proposals for global sustainable development and put mountain targets and mountain women and girls into their focus. We will continue to attend similar sessions in the future to contribute to the Zero Draft, which will be crucial in making sure that mountain women are included in the negotiations for both the agreed conclusions of CSW63 and global sustainability efforts.

We have provided to NGO-CSW/ NY members copies of UIMF letters recently sent  to UN Secretary General , President of ECOSOC, and 46 member states who gave Voluntary National Reviews at the 2018 High-Level Political Forum on sustainable development. It included also a copy of UIMF’s statement submitted to CSW63. We notified these high-level officials of our concern about the lack of transparency in negotiations of final documents for CSW and ECOSOC forums by member states, as well as the lack of implementation of mountain women and girls into the global sustainability agenda. UIMF is planning to attend CSW63 to lobby high-level officials on mountain issues and host a parallel event advocating for student engaged learning to advocate for sustainable development, in particular for mountain women and girls.

Michael Hinatsu, member, UIMF; member, Model UN Club at Utah Valley University


Letter to UNSG from UIMF


World Polio Day and Utah Valley University’s Rotaract

Over the past several days with October 26, 2018 as its culmination by commemorating the World Polio Day, I had the pleasure of engaging in the fight against polio with Utah Valley University’s (UVU) Rotaract organization. Rotaract is a student club of the Rotary International, a worldwide organization with the mission of creating a more sustainable world. Rotaract recently joined the Utah International Mountain Forum ( , a coalition of student clubs at UVU with focus on the advocacy of the United Nations sustainable mountain development agenda. One of Rotary International’s focuses is the fight against polio. To many, the fight against polio has gone quiet during the rise of the 21st century. However, for some people, the fight and struggles against polio is a daily event. Rotary International has made it their goal to eradicate polio from the face of the earth. In the history of mankind, only small pox has ever been eradicated permanently. Now, through the help of thousands of dedicated Rotary International members and the efforts of the “End Polio Now” program, the goal to eradicate polio is in sight.

UIMF hosted before members of the Utah Rotary International as part of celebration of International Mountain Day 2016. On November 16, 2016, Dr. Scott Leckman, then District Governor designate, who has done a lot of work in India, Mrs. Ruth Riley, the President of Provo Rotary  and Mr. Dean Jackson, a member of the Provo Rotary  informed UVU students about helping people worldwide and in particular mountain communities to eradicate polio.

Mr. Jay A. Jacobson, Emeritus Professor at University of Utah School of Medicine and Intermountain Healthcare Speaks during World Polio Day at UVU

The 2018 World Polio Day activities culminated in an event held at UVU on October 26, 2018 when several members of Utah Rotary International made presentations how they helped educate the public on the effort for polio. Major presentations at the event were made by Mr. Jose Velasco, Rotaract Advisor from the Rotary club of Midvale, UT, and Mr. Jay A. Jacobson, Emeritus Professor at University of Utah School of Medicine and Intermountain Healthcare. Mr. Jacobson shared with audience polio history and where we stand on the issue today. Mr. Velasco told us about Rotaract programs overseas and in Mexico in particular, which sounds very interesting for me to take part.

 Mr. Jose Velasco, Rotaract Advisor from the Rotary club of Midvale, UT and Clark Merkley, President-designate, Orem Rotary during World Polio Day at UVU

“End Polio Now”, Rotary International’s program to end polio has become a world-wide effort. ( ). With nearly two and a half billion children around the world vaccinated for the disease, polio cases have become limited to only three countries: Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. To spread awareness, End Polio Now is promoted every year on October 24th, which has become World Polio Day. Sponsored by UNICEF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, World polio day generates significant awareness and funds for the eradication of polio.

William Gum, UVU student marks his finger in pink

During the days leading up to World Polio Day, UVU Rotaract participated in hosting tables to help spread the word about causes, challenges and importance of fighting with polio. Together, we gave out information and accepted donations to help vaccinate children for polio around the world. Those who donated, had the chance to have a finger marked pink to broadcast their aid in the polio effort. Children in the affected countries are marked the same way to show that they have been vaccinated for polio.

Overall, the experience was very insightful to see how far humanity has come in the eradication of diseases, and that soon, we will have our second eradication.

                Kyle Warren, member, Rotaract at UVU


Photos of the World Polio Day at UVU


Promoting SDGs and mountain targets during UN Day at UVU


On October 24, 2018,  the Utah Valley University (UVU) commemorated the United Nations Day by combining with a Sustainability Day. It was a great opportunity for faculty and students  to raise an awarenes among their peers and local community about United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS). Members of the Utah International Mountain Forum, a coalition of student clubs at UVU used both events in order to explain to the audience the importance of implementation of  mountain targets as a benchmarks to ensure sustainable development to the mountain communities worldwide.

Andrew Jensen speaks at the Sustainability Day Panel at UVU

Andrew Jensen reported during session of the Sustainability Day Panel about UIMF members participation and advocacy for the implementation of mountain targets during the 53rd session of the Commission on Social development in January 2018, 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women in March 2018 and High-Level Political Forum on sustainable development  in July 2018.

As part of contribution to the UN Day, UIMF members such as Laila MitchellHagen Isaacson,  Megan Davis and Mark Driggs hosted special tables with information about advocacy of the mountain targets at the UN during 2018, while Rebecca Bindraban  promoted the undergraduate student research journal “Youth and the Muntains” as an opportunity for UVU students to publish their academic papers on different aspects of sustainable mountain development both in Utah and globally.

Andrew Jensen with members of the Model UN Club, such as Megan Davis,  William Gum , and Hagen Isaacson on behalf of the UIMF participated on October 25th , 2018 in the Be the Change Tour Project. This program is specific to the UVU’s Center for Social Impact’s 25th-anniversary celebration. The Be the Change Tour involves the implementation of one service project a month on or around the 25th. Each project is focused on community needs and will be help on or off campus. Students and community members have been invited to participate in various projects and Model UN members  were assigned into different groups and designated areas to map all of the trees on UVU campus and create data points to help UVU become an accredited tree campus.

Kyle Warren, a member of the Rotaract, a new club member at  UIMF, reports how his peers contributed to the UN day by hosting a table during entire week to raise funds in support of the International Polio Eradication Day. On October 26, 2018 Rotaract members hosted a special event commemorating the  World Polio Day with inviting representatives of Rotary International from Salt Lake City,  and Orem City to name a few.

Samuel Elzinga, President, UIMF. 


Agenda of the Sustainability Day at UVU




Andrew Jensen-Sustainability Day Panel at Utah Valley University


Laila Mitchell-UIMF Engagement with Students on Sustainability Day


Kyle Warren – World Polio Day and UVU’s Rotaract 


Hagen Isaacson-UIMF Promotes Mountain Targets During UN Day


Megan Davis-Celebrating UN Sustainability Day by Tabling with UIMF


Megan Davis-UIMF Participates in UVU Tree Logging Service Project


Mark Driggs – UIMF Participates in UN Day


Rebecca Bindraban-Promoting the Youth and the Mountains Journal during UN Day at UVU


Andrew Jensen-Tree Mapping at UVU during UN Day


William Gum-Trees, trees everywhere


Hagen Isaacson-UIMF Participates in Tree Mapping at UVU


Kyle-Williams-UIMF members mapped trees at UVU campus

Azerbaijan on Multifaith Harmony and Peaceful Coexistence: Presentation at Utah Valley University by H.E. Nasimi Aghayev

The Utah Valley University (UVU) Office of Global Engagement hosted His Excellency Nasimi Aghayev, Consul General of Azerbaijan in Los Angeles on Monday, October 8, 2018. Mr. Aghayev, a senior official representative of the Republic of Azerbaijan to California and twelve other states, spoke on the efforts of Azerbaijan to foster multifaith harmony and presented a model on peaceful coexistence focused on religious cooperation. In his presentation, the Consul General described ways that Azerbaijan works with a number of religious communities both in and outside of the country to overcome interfaith challenges and promote religious diversity and civic unity.

Consul General Aghayev during presentation at UVU

Consul General Aghayev began his presentation by describing his country’s unique geopolitical importance, bordering Iran, Russia, Turkey, Georgia, and Armenia, and praised the long tradition of tolerance in Azerbaijan, noting the country’s grant to women and other groups of equal voting rights in 1919, which predated many other advanced countries, including the United States. The Consul General also stated that the desire for free religious expression and harmonious interfaith relations was augmented by the religious oppression experienced while under Soviet rule from 1920-1991, in which atheism was generally promoted and religious groups were persecuted.

After 1991, the Consul General stated that religious harmony became a large priority of the newly independent state. In describing the religious demographics of Azerbaijan, Consul General Aghayev emphasized the high level of religious tolerance in his country, which is uncharacteristic of other Muslim majority nations in the region. While 93% of Azerbaijan is Muslim, with 70% of those being Shiites and 30% being Sunnis, the country also is home to a number of Christians and Jews, who make up close to 5% of the population, and are able to pray, worship, and celebrate freely. The Consul General described a number of important non-Muslim religious sites in the country that predate the Republic of Azerbaijan itself, including a Zoroastrian fire temple in Baku, the nation’s capital, that has been maintained as an ode to the country’s roots as a place of religious tolerance. Additionally, the Consul General noted the early roots of Christianity with the evangelism of Bartholomew and the many old Christian churches found in Baku and throughout the country as evidence of Azerbaijan’s long history of interreligious engagement and tolerance.

Consul General Aghayev praised the strong religious dialogue of modern Azerbaijan as a model for religious diversity and civic peace that can be applied to other nations in the region and throughout the world to foster harmony, promote diversity, and coordinate interfaith efforts. Consul General Aghayev noted the high degree of religious tolerance between Azerbaijani Muslims, who do not see major differences between Shi’a and Sunni. The Consul General described the worship held at the largest mosque in the country, the Heydar Mosque, in which Sunnis and Shiites pray and worship together. Additionally, members of the two sects often intermarry, adding to the religious harmony of the country. Furthermore, Muslims and non-Muslims successfully coexist, interacting mutually in religious celebrations and civic life. The Consul General described the experience of local Jews who built a funeral tent and ceremony in the yard of a popular imam whose mother had recently passed away. Also, Pope Francis recently visited the country, citing the respect for diversity and harmony that Azerbaijan shows to religious groups, as well as the efforts of Azerbaijan to aid the Vatican in preserving catacombs and cathedrals in Europe. Furthermore, Muslims, Jews, and Christians hold offices in the government and work together, without respect of religion, to both foster religious diversity and support local religious groups and to solve local and national issues that transcend religious boundaries.

In a question and answer period, Consul General Aghayev further defined his model for multifaith harmony and peaceful coexistence. The Consul General noted that in a region of the globe that is not usually characterized by religious tolerance and acceptance, Azerbaijan became a model for such as a result of its long history of diverse religious groups living and interacting with each other, its staunch secularism, which emphasized normal relations, and its high level of education. The Consul General emphasized the 99% literacy rate in the country as key to understanding complex religious issues and working with other religions to cooperate on religious and non-religious issues. Additionally, Consul General Aghayev notes that the government of Azerbaijan often facilitates interfaith conferences and events that bring religious leaders of all faiths together. Yearly, the country hosts an interfaith conference that promotes religious leaders setting the example for coexistence, early education of youth on religious matters, and developing laws against discrimination. In particular, the Consul General noted the efforts of his government and religious leaders to coordinate efforts to shield the youth from extremism.

Consul General Aghayev presented a model of harmony and coexistence with the intention that Azerbaijan’s example be followed in other countries, especially Middle Eastern ones, who grapple with balancing religious fervor with diversity and the constraints of globalization and modernity. Reiterating the communality of Shiites and Sunnis in his country, the Consul General noted the importance of good relations by describing Azerbaijan’s geopolitical relationship with Iran, noting that the 30 million ethnic Azerbaijanis in Iran facilitate a mutual interest for normal relations. Consul General Aghayev stated that his country’s commitment to religious harmony assists in diplomatic endeavors and foreign relations in general, as the country is often a leading voice in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on matters of Muslim prosperity and, more recently, Muslim-Israeli relations. The Consular General noted the economic cooperation Azerbaijan engages in with Israel, Iraq, India, and others to foster regional and global unity.

Amy Barnett, UVU Office of Global Engagement Presents An Award to Consul General Nasimi Aghayev  

The visit of Consul General Nasimi Aghayev to UVU provided an important discussion of how religious groups can attempt to resolve differences and coordinate religious and secular efforts to improve local and regional relationships. The example of Azerbaijan as a regional leader in advancing constructive religious dialogue and interfaith efforts to improve civic, political, and regional issues is one that should be seriously considered by those interested in diplomacy, sustainable development, and religious relevance. Certainly, the model offered by the Consul General should be discussed as a tool that leaders and organizations can use to solve critical issues that involve and transcend religious identification. I very much appreciate the efforts of the UVU Office of Global Engagement to bring such a high-level official to our campus.

Michael Hinatsu, Political Science Major Student, Utah Valley University.


Power Point Presentation of the Consul General Aghayev


AZERTAG about the visit          Video about the visit


Photos of the CG of Azerbaijan, Mr. Nasimi Aghayev visit to UVU




Hagen Isaacson                                           Abeir Isawi

   Brandon Pedler                                     Emma Warner

  Cory Levin                                            Jesse Sandstrom

           Joy Black                                          Rebecca Bindraban        

McKay Peck                                       Nathan Wagstaff

Awal T Momen


UIMF follows up HLPF 2018 by co-hosting PR of Tajikistan to the UN, Ambassador Mahmadaminov at UVU

            On October 5th, 2018, The Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU), (  co-hosted the Permanent Representative of Tajikistan to the United Nations (UN), Mr. Mahmadamin Mahmadaminov. Ambassador Mahmadaminov visited Utah during October 3-6, 2018. He made his major presentation titled: Tajikistan and the SDGs before UVU students and faculty on October 5, 2018.    As part of established tradition, the UVU Office of Global Engagement provided an opportunity to members of the Foreign Affairs Club and UIMF through student engaged learning model to highlight UIMF’s accomplishments in SDG advocacy at the local, national, and international levels since 2011. This was as well as follow up on previous discussions and activities held by UIMF delegation and myself with PR of Tajikistan to the UN at the UN High Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development in July of 2018.  In addition, it was an opportunity for UIMF to discuss joint activities at the UN in 2019 with focus on implementation of mountain targets.

Personally, I really enjoyed helping to co-host Mr. Mahmadaminov due to my keen interest in Central Asia, and I am very grateful I can expand my own knowledge and raise an awareness about countries of the region among my peers.

A group photo with Ambassador Mahmadaminov

In order to demonstrate how the student engaged learning model works more than ten members of UIMF were involved in preparations and co-hosting the VIP-guest.  In order to coordinate their efforts as a team and to do that successfully we gathered every week and followed up with assignments defined in a special task list posted online, it was important for my peers at our coalition of clubs.

I helped to some members of UIMF, like Joseph Lloyd, Hagen Issakson, Megan Davis,  to learn how to coordinate with the UVU Office of Global Engagement our plans in highlighting before the high-level dignitary in a special meeting their concern about lack of sustainable development among mountain communities globally and what UIMF was able to do accomplish in that area since founding in 2011.

The meeting was attended by many students, including the Post-Soviet and Political Science classes, brought by our faculty, like Dr. Abdrisaev and Dr. England. During UIMF’s meeting with Mr. Mahmadaminov, many students were able to highlight UIMF’s accomplishments through a series of presentations. I introduced every speaker – member of UIMF.   Mr. Hagen Isaacson, the Foreign Affairs Club Treasurer, was the first to give an overview of UIMF activities in promoting the UN sustainable mountain development agenda since 2011 and presented Mr. Mahmadaminov with a folder of documents highlighting UIMF’s in the UN official documents and recent commendation in the Congressional Record. Hagen also discussed why mountain targets are so important and how UIMF has a long history of advocating for mountain people. He emphasized a focus of Tajikistan on implementation of the SDG#6 on water and that the mountain target# 6.6 is included in that SDG. He proposed that it would be great if Tajikistan will work with UIMF and UVU on their joint implementation in 2019 at the UN. Next, Ms. Megan Davis, Director of Public Relations at UIMF,  explained how UIMF implements student engaged learning to advocate for the implementation of mountain targets locally, nationally, and internationally since 2011. Next up was   Mr. Mark Driggs, Vice-President of Campus Outreach, who highlighted UIMF’s most recent activities at the United Nations, namely Commission of the Status of Women and the 2018 HLPF on Sustainable Development. Ms. Viktoriia Bahrii, vice president of logistics, spoke next on partnerships with various NGOs and permanent missions, noting our successful co-hosting of a side event with the Permanent Missions of Uzbekistan and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ms. Bahrii then invited Mrs. Marcia Barlow, Vice President of International Programs for United Families International (UFI) to discuss further United Families International-UN relations and also highlight activities her NGO participates in Central Asia. After that, I introduced to Ambassador Mahmadaminov the Youth and the Mountains Journal, a student-run journal student reasearch on sustainable mountain development.

At the end of the meeting, Abeir Isawhy, UVU student, was provided an opportunity to ask question about Tajikistan and in particular a new dam which country plans to build now. Ambassador explained how the dam would benefit both Tajikistan’s economy and its neighbors as well.

I learned a lot also when Mr. Mahmadaminov had a lecture on Tajikistan and the implementation of the SDGs in the country. Tajikistan is a country not many people know about and seeing members of UIMF and the Foreign Affairs learn about a unique country was truly great. Tajikistan, and Mr. Mahmadaminov in particular, have championed the cause of SDG6, which focused on clean water and sanitation. During my visit to the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development in July of 2018, I was invited to a follow-up presentation on Tajikistan’s Water Decade Initiative. Learning about this initiative at an in-depth level was very fascinating, and it was great to see how Tajikistan has continued to promote sustainable water use. This is particularly pertinent to UIMF’s activities as SDG 6.6 deals directly with water preservation in mountainous regions.

Ambassador Mahmadaminov also had a lot to say about counterterrorism and national security matters. I found this to be particularly interesting because I am focusing primarily on Central Asian national security issues, which Tajikistan plays a major role. I was very happy to hear about Tajikistan’s initiatives related to national security.

Another important part of student engaged learning was the participation of several members of UMF at lunch in honor of the VIP-guest. UVU Global Engagement office does that during last several years to provide students an opportunity to strengthen their diplomatic abilities. I was happy to see that Andrew Jensen, Hagen Isaacson, Megan Davis, and Kendra, Martell,  four members of UIMF were able to interact with Ambassador Mahmadaminov during lunch.

Overall, this visit was another success for UIMF and the Foreign Affairs Club in promoting the implementation of the mountain targets during 2018 and especially in co-hosting the first dignitary visit during the fall semester 2018. Many of them, like Hailee-Hodgson, Laila MitchellBrandon PedlerKyle Williams  and others were able to work sucessfully as a team and see results of their efforts.   Students in the audience, like Michael Hinatsu ,   Matthew Simon ,   Kenya LitsterMax Mortenson,  Mary Nelson  and Cory Levin    had an opportunity to see and learn how engaged learning model works and get involved in future activities of UIMF if they would like.  I am so incredibly proud of all my club members and the work they put in to ensure our contribution to hosting Mr. Mahmadaminov’s visit was successful.

Samuel Elzinga, President, UIMF and Foreign Affairs Club at UVU




Task list for the visit of Ambassador Mahmadaminov 




MP about the visit of Ambassador Mahmadaminov



Samuel Elzinga – An announcement about the visit of Ambassador Mahmadaminov to UVU

Hagen Isaacson                Hailee-Hodgson

Laila Mitchell                             Joseph Lloyd

Megan Davis                                Mark Driggs

Viktoriia Bahrii



Michael Hinatsu                    Emma Warner

   Matthew Simon                     Kenya Litster 

Brandon Pedler              Max Mortenson

Kyle Williams                          Mary Nelson 

Cory Levin                              Hannah Bieker

Abeir Isawi


2017 Issue of the Youth and the Mountains Journal

The 2017 issue of the Youth and the Mountains journal at Utah Valley University (UVU) continues established tradition to promote Sustainable Mountain Development (SMD) agenda of the United Nations (UN) in the State of Utah, North America, and globally through research as part of the UVU student engaged learning model. As a co-curricular pedagogy with the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of clubs at UVU ( at its core, the initiative engages students, both non-traditional and traditional ones, across the campus, in the implementation of the UN SMD agenda since 2006. Co-editors of the journal A. Kathryn Chapman and myself are non-traditional students as well.

The first section of this journal includes written joint statements made during 2007 by the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, the Mountain Institute, Utah China Friendship Improvement Sharing Hands Development, and Commerce, non-governmental organizations in consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council. Three NGOs recognized the UVU student contribution to the SMD through the engaged learning initiative at the 53rd session of the UN Commission on Social Development and the 62nd session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

Student research papers included in the main part of this journal focus on subjects that range from mountain issues in the Hindu Kush to Utah’s energy and infrastructure to refugees in the United States. This issue of the journal shines a spotlight on mountainous regions and provides an increased perspective on how to improve the lives of people who live in these regions around the world.

As a part of the established tradition of demonstrating one of the elements of the engaged learning model, the journal includes in the third section two student reflective essays on the different aspects of student education.

The last section of the journal is dedicated to the memory of Josman Cereceres, President of the Sustainable Mountain Development club and UVU student, who untimely passed away in November 2017. It includes the Op-Ed on constitutionalism, which Josman published as a co-author in Deseret News in August 2017.

Please find enclosed a link to the 2017 issue of the Youth and the Mountains Journal at:

Rebecca Bindraban, Co-editor, Youth and the Mountains Journal

Club Rush Provides UIMF an Opportunity to Promote Mountain Cause


(L to R): Hagen Isaacson and Megan Davis during Club Rush

            On September 18th and 19th of 2018, I had the privilege of representing for the first time  the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF) (, a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU) at their table during UVU’s annual Club Rush event. We had a join table representing the Foreign Affairs Club, National Security Studies Club and Rotaract Club. This was an incredible opportunity to represent this outstanding coalition and help to share their ideas to promote United Nations agenda of Sustainable Mountain Development (SMD) with other students on campus. In addition, the participation at the Club Rush allowed for UIMF to earn funds to implement different initiatives by our coalition.  It was important for more than 15  members of UIMF who were assigned to be at the table during the event to work as one team and be at the table during assigned time frames to ensure that somebody will be able to interact with the student audience and explain the mission and priorities of the coalition and recruit new members.

On the first day of the event I was at the table for the opening hour. During this time, I was working with Megan Davis and we got to experience the opening of the event. On the September 19th, I spent two hours working at the table with various other members. On both days I helped in cleaning up and putting the promotional items away at the end of the event.

As students approached the table we greeted them and informed them of the basic ideas of what UIMF does and how they could potentially benefit from working with us and promoting State of Utah as one of the best models of SMD both in this nation and globally. One of the greatest strengths of our organization is the fact that thanks to the focus on SMD advocacy we can use students involved in any major and give them productive jobs to benefit themselves and the club. As I would first start to have a conversation with some of the students I could tell that they felt like they weren’t a fit for what we do based on their field of study. As I explained more and more about UIMF you could see them change their mindset and realize that they really could help, even if their major has nothing to do with mountain development or politics. This was a great learning opportunity for me personally because it allowed me to practice interacting with other students and share the core ideas and functions of UIMF.

One of the Posters used during the Club Rush

Another huge benefit from helping with Club Rush was the knowledge I gained about the beliefs and ideas of the importance to promote SMD agenda through Utah International Mountain Forum: as a result, we could raise more awareness among ourselves and other audiences about necessity to advocate for sustainable development of mountain communities, who still remain among the poorest and the most forgotten ny international community. Being in the Foreign Affairs club and in a coalition is great because I get to interact with other like-minded members and discuss the issues of what we are doing. However, I found talking to people who had no idea what UIMF was or what it did way more interesting and beneficial because it helped me gain a better understanding. Having to be able to explain mountain development and the Utah model to students who had no previous knowledge forced me to understand the concepts in more depth and be capable of explaining it to these students in a clear way. It was an unbelievable experience to be able to communicate our message to my interested peers and see them become interested as well. Club Rush helped me to gain some practical knowledge of UIMF and allowed me to be able to spread it to other students.

(R to L): Kyle Warren, member and Kendra Martell, President of Rotaract Club talk to Sam Elzingga, President, Foreign Affairs Club ad Kyle Williams, member, Foreign Affairs Club during Club Rush    

Overall, Club Rush was a huge success and a great opportunity for new members like myself. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to spread the positive message of UIMF and engage others in gaining interest. I hope this event succeeded in putting our name out there and allows us to garner more support and grow to be even better.

Hagen Isaacson, member, Foreign Affairs Club at Utah Valley University


Mark Driggs-UIMF Participates in UVU Club Rush


Megan Davis-Advocating for Mountains during UVU Club Rush


Viktoriia Bahrii-UIMF at Utah Valley University Club Rush


Kyle Warren-Advocating Mountain Targets during UVU Club Rush


Mark Wayman about the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

The Utah Valley University (UVU) Peace and Justice Studies program hosted Rick Wayman, Director of Programs at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF), on September 11, 2018. During his presentation, Mr. Wayman discussed the international Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and how the treaty was devised, the prohibitions within the document and the positive obligations that accompany it, and the future of the United States’ involvement with the disarmament of nuclear weapons.

First, Mr. Wayman discussed how this treaty originated and gained traction to eventually make it to the United Nations (UN). Early on, before the treaty was established, countries including Hungary, Mexico, and Austria held conferences that highlighted some of the humanitarian issues brought on by nuclear weapons and the testing of them. These countries had survivors share their stories and express the pain and suffering that has been a result of these weapons. These smaller sessions helped to get the issue to the bigger world stage, the United Nations. In 2016, the UN held the first vote on the issue of nuclear weapon disarmament in the general session. Six months after that the treaty had its first round of debate. Shortly after this, in July of 2017, the treaty was agreed on by 122 nations of the world and became open to signatures and ratification. As of today, sixty-one countries have signed the document and fifteen have ratified it in their own countries. None of the nine countries that have nuclear capabilities have signed onto the treaty

Mr. Wayman then moved to explain the prohibitions and obligations within the treaty. The final text of the treaty contains many prohibitions on nuclear weapons; some being that nations cannot develop or research nuclear weapons, can’t transfer them to any state or group, can’t threaten to use these weapons, and cannot finance or invest in companies that produce nuclear weapons. The treaty also has a number of positive obligations placed on the countries who agree to it, a lot of which resulted from testimonies and research from non governmental organizations like NAPF. A few examples of these obligations are that nations provide victim assistance to those who have been affected by nuclear weapons in their country and they help to stabilize any part of the environment that has been impacted negatively by use of the weapons.

Finally, Mr. Wayman reviewed the United States’ stance on the treaty and how we can move forward towards progress of disarmament in our country. As the first discussions began, the US was quick to denounce the ideas behind the treaty, stating it was dangerous and could cause instability if countries gave up their nuclear arsenal. They encouraged other nations, especially those part of NATO, to not sign the treaty. This behavior was exerted by the Obama administration and the Trump administration has pushed it even harder. As the US State Department continues with this bipartisan agenda, Mr. Wayman proposed that the change is going to have to start on the state and local levels. Just recently California passed a resolution that called on the federal government to focus on the removal of nuclear weapons from the United States. This has no forceful backing, but is a start to a bigger movement that can bring around change. As more and more cities and states join in and express their concerns, it will eventually reach the point where our government has no choice but to listen to what they have to say.

This presentation was very informative on the highly important Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, but also gave inspiration on how to get involved in making change in regards to nuclear weapons. This is a crucial point in our world, with nine countries possessing the ability of complete annihilation in a matter of minutes. We must urge our own government and nations around the world to commit to denuclearization, for the safety of ourselves and of future generations.

Hagen Isaacson, Member, Foreign Affairs club at Utah Valley University


Kyle Williams-Prohibition on Nuclear Weapons

Congressman from Utah recognizes student contribution to the mountain targets implementations at HLPF 2018

Congressman John Curtis (R-UT), made a statement at the U.S. House of Representatives on September 4, 2018 with recognition of members of the Utah International Mountain Forum, a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University for their advocacy of the mountain communities and the promotion of the Utah model of sustainable mountain development.

Damon Ashcraft, Samuel Elzinga and Andrew Jensen, UIMF members participated at the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in New York on July 16-19, 2018. They made an oral statement during general debates of the HLPF on Sustainable Development on July 19, 2018.

Below is the statement of Congressman John Curtis (R-UT): 


Mr. CURTIS. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to commend Samuel Elzinga, Damon Ashcraft, and Andrew Jensen, members of the Utah International Mountain Forum, a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University,  on their recent success at the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development under the auspices of ECOSOC on July 19, 2018 in New York. During general debates at that global forum, they highlighted the importance of advocating for mountain communities, who are among the most impoverished and forgotten communities globally. They demonstrated student engaged learning, one of UVU’s core philosophies, by planning every aspect of the trip, while Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, a UVU faculty member served them as a mentor to guide them through their endeavors. Through this engaged learning model, Samuel, Andrew, and Damon engaged also such non-governmental organizations registered with the ECOSOC as the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, the Mountain Institute and Utah China Friendship Improvement Sharing Hands Development and Cooperation. As a result, those NGOs provided them an opportunity to make an oral and written statement, highlighting the state of Utah as a model for sustainable mountain development. Utah is consistently ranked as one of the best states for doing business and has some of the fastest growing communities in the country. I am very proud they highlighted how students are able and have to be counted as contributors to sustainable development both in Utah and mountain communities worldwide. Below is their oral statement, which was presented during ECOSOC’s general debate on July 19th, 2018

Mountain Targets Implementations Through Student Engaged Learning

We thank the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences for allowing us to speak in support of mountain communities, who are among the poorest and most-neglected globally. Climate change and migration make their living conditions even worse. According to a recent study by the FAO-UN and the Mountain Partnership (MP) Secretariat, an estimated 39 percent of the mountain population in developing countries are vulnerable to food insecurity. From 2000 to 2012, there was a 30-percent increase in the number of mountain people vulnerable to food insecurity, with their population only increasing by 16 percent.

Two SDGs under the review of this forum contain three mountain targets and it must address the challenges facing mountain communities: Target 6.6: by 2020, protect and restore water related ecosystems, including mountains, …; Target 15.1: by 2020, ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services, in particular….mountains and drylands….; Target 15.4: by 2030, ensure the conservation of mountain ecosystems, including their biodiversity, in order to enhance their capacity to provide benefits that are essential for sustainable development.

Since 2007, Utah Valley University, with the support of the Mountain Partnership, involves students, including non-traditional ones, in the implementation of mountain targets. Members of the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at UVU, gain professional skills through an engaged learning model by addressing real-world problems of mountain communities with a faculty serving them as a mentor.

UIMF members have already advocated for the mountain women during the 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women. Students, jointly with their Kyrgyz peers, reported about hosting the International Women of the Mountains conferences as an implementation of the UN Resolution “International Year of Mountains, 2002.” The 2016 UN Secretary-General’s Report on Sustainable Mountain Development featured recommendations provided by UIMF in the latest conference document about the role women play in implementation of two mountain targets.  Through the model students raised and contributed $250,000 to the mountain targets adoption and implementation.

The model demonstrates that students are able and must play an active role in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It can be used by universities in rural and mountainous states worldwide to provide similar benefits to students, and to transform mountain communities towards sustainable and resilient societies.

Congressional Record, September 4, 2018, P. E1189


Mountain Partnership about UIMF members recognition by Congressman John Curtis (R-UT)