Category Archives: 2018

Contributing to CSW62 Zero Draft Document Through Student Engaged Learning

Members of the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF) a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU) made one more effort in achieving a successful visit and a participation at the 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62) during 12-23 March 2018.  We contributed to the final document of CSW62 or Zero Draft Outcome Document –  “Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls.” Used as a resource and standard for policy-making and programming on the topics covered, the Zero Draft aims to establish a legal framework work for gender equality that member states agree to support after the CSW.

Our submission highlighted mountain women and proposed the following edit in the first sentence of the NGO CSW/NY CSW62 Zero Draft Outcome Document, topic Education, Employment and Technology, Paragraph #3: “Initiate a vocational transformation for girls from agricultural and domestic activities to entrepreneurship skill-set building:” “Collaborate with NGOs and academia to develop co-curricular pedagogy that is inclusive, timely, relevant and able to enhance the lives of rural and mountain women including through student engaged learning while empowering them to be the primary forces of change in improving their communities.”

In addition, we contributed to the efforts of several non-governmental organizations (NGO) in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council to submit a request to make an oral statement at CSW62 before the official deadline on February 19, 2018. Since thousands of NGOs are registered for participation at CSW62, only very few of them could be allowed to make a short presentation during general discussions if they speak on the main themes of CSW62 and represent regional groups of NGOs.

Since 2016 UIMF members engaged in joint advocacy of the mountain women at CSW62 with the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences (RANS), the Mountain Institute (TMI), and Utah China Friendship Improvement Sharing Hands Development and Commerce (UCFISH&D&C), three prominent NGOs accredited under ECOSOC. Those NGOs already submitted a written statement for CSW62 (E/CN.6/2018/NGO/37) which has been distributed for presentation by the UN Secretariat on 7 December 2017.

The statement focuses on the lack of attention from international communities to numerous challenges faced by mountain communities and women in particular, along with the crucial role of the Mountain Partnership in implementation of three mountain targets among SDGs globally. As one of the important initiatives both to advocate for the mountain women cause at the UN, and to implement mountain targets in the interaction with the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5, the statement also highlights the student engaged learning model developed at UVU, a Mountain Partnership member since 2006.

In order to recruit a group of NGOs as co-sponsors for the oral statement, my colleagues and I made an appeal through the Mountain Partnership Secretariat  to 13 its members, NGOs in consultative status with the ECOSOC. As a result, Euromontana and the Millennium Institute (MI), two of the most prominent NGOs agreed to join three above mentioned NGOs as co-sponsors of the oral statement. Due to that,  the request to CSW62 to make an oral statement was submitted on behalf of five prominent NGOs. Currently, we are waiting for response from CSW62 whether they have accepted our request.


This initiative establishes a new mechanism for MP members to be more active in joint advocacy of the mountain targets among sustainable development goals (SDGs) during high level UN forum on implementation of SDGs and 2030 Development agenda.

It represents a follow up for one of the recommendations which was agreed by more than 220 participants during the Fifth Mountain Partnership Global Meeting at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO-UN) in Rome, Italy on 11-13 December 2017 to improve advocacy for mountains in major global processes and to promote joint communication efforts, in order mountains to be fully addressed and statements are fully taken into account,

Yanko Dzhukev, Vice President of Global Affairs and Outreach, UIMF

Learning from Kyle Maynard to live life with “no excuses”

It was an honor and privilege having Kyle Maynard speak to the Utah Valley University student body on February 1st, 2018. As a UVUSA Senator, I had the responsibility of helping decide who we’d like to invite as part of our lecture series. We met as a Senate early on in the summer to collaborate ideas, and when his name was brought up I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t know who he was or what his “campaign” was. After doing more research on his story, it was very evident that his message would positively influence our student body. As time progressed, we began having more contact with him; he and his team are some of the most down to earth people I’ve had the privilege of working with. The day of his speaking event on campus came, and all of us senators were given the opportunity to meet with him before he presented his message to campus. We had a couple of hours before his actual event, and most of the speakers we bring to UVU spend this time beforehand resting in their private room or prepping their presentation. I watched as Kyle wheeled himself around our campus, freely and openly going up to students, comfortably conversing with them. I was most impressed that he never hesitated to stick his limbless arm out for people to shake his “hand”. As we ushered him to a pre-lunch event, I witnessed him stop mid-conversation with another Senator, turn his wheelchair around, and approach a student who was also in a wheel chair. I’m unaware of what was discussed during that long conversation, but the light in that student’s eyes as he felt connected to Kyle is a look I’ll never forget.

Kyle Maynard

Kyle’s presentation was astounding. We had over 500 students show up to this event, and as an usher, it was a unique experience to see how enthralled students were as they listened to his story. Kyle was born without arms or legs; as the oldest of his siblings, he shared a story about how his younger sister had a classmate without one arm. Kyle said his sister came home from school one day, telling her mother that this classmate was so inspiring because they don’t hesitate doing what others do. Kyle’s mom responded by agreeing with his sister that this classmate was inspiring, but also, the mother reminded Kyle’s sister about Kyle and all that he’s done. The sister proceeded to say, “Oh you’re right, I forgot Kyle doesn’t have any limbs”.

That story is just a small example of how Kyle continually lives his life with “no excuses”, not allowing his physical disability to affect his daily and long term life. As Kyle told the story of hiking to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro with only bathroom towels wrapped around his arms and legs, I could feel the reverent awe come over the audience and myself. Kyle’s inspiring message of purpose among hardship and not quitting, is one that no individual in that auditorium will ever forget. Engaging with Kyle Maynard and his team to inspire the Utah Valley University population, was a humbling and unifying experience. His personable approach with student’s and his applicable, life impacting message will continually teach myself and the student population that we are strong, and when life feels overwhelming, we have “no excuses” to drop our dreams and goals.

Amelia Cope, College of Humanities and Social Sciences Senator, Utah Valley University Student Association



UVU Review About Kyle Maynard



Andrew Jensen-Award Winning Extreme Athlete Kyle Maynard at UVU: “No Excuses”


Timothy Jenkins-Inspired by Kyle Maynard


Ezra Pugliano-Kyle Maynard speaks at Utah Valley University


Karson Kester-Kyle Maynard on seeking our own “Why?”


Students host PR of Uzbekistan to the UN, Ambassador Bakhtiyor Ibragimov

On February 5, 2018, I had the opportunity and privilege to contribute to hosting the visit of Permanent Representative of Uzbekistan to the United Nations, His Excellency, Bakhtiyor Ibragimov to Utah Valley University (UVU).  I was there representing the UVU Foreign Affairs club as its president and the Youth in The Mountains Journal as its editor. This was an extremely unique opportunity for me to learn first hand about the foreign affairs priorities of Uzbekistan along with being able to ask questions directly to the Ambassador Ibragimov and discuss with him programs pursued by UVU students at the United Nations.

The meeting with the Ambassador of Uzbekistan was started from lunch with him and his fellow diplomat who accompanied him. It was a part of tradition established at UVU to get students participate at breakfasts and lunches with foreign dignitaries to learn how to build personal relationships with visiting dignitaries. During this lunch we got to learn about his background and how he came to be the top envoy of his country. He had the unique situation of living in Uzbekistan when it was still part the Soviet Union prior to it being broken up into the several countries it is today. Therefore, he had the uncommon perspective of being part of the Soviet system to then also being in Uzbekistan when the state declared its their independence in 1991. What was very interesting about this talk was when we as students were able to ask the Uzbekistan’s Ambassador how this breaking up of the Soviet Union impacted Uzbekistan and what it meant for Uzbek nationality as well. This was particularly interesting to hear about because learning about how states go from communist regimes to democratic systems is something as students we learn but its completely something else when you hear about it from someone who has been through it. Additionally, I found it intriguing that the country is 90% Muslim and that Uzbekistan had such an open and tolerant position on religions present in the country that are not Muslim.

Following lunch, the Uzbek Ambassador gave a lecture on the foreign policy priorities of his country. The topics he discussed included environmental issues, trade development in Central Asia along with new initiatives Uzbekistan is trying with their close neighbor Afghanistan. These initiatives include more friendly gestures such as reopening Uzbekistan presence in Afghanistan and open regular air flight routes between the countries. These gestures are in the wish of as the Uzbek Ambassador said “peace to the future” for the ailing Afghan state.

Ambassador Bakhtiyor Ibragimov with Rebecca Bindraban

After the lecture a group of students, members of the Utah International Mountain Forum, (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at UVU ( including myself got to have a round table style discussion with the Ambassador Ibragimov to ask questions, and also had the opportunity to speak about what we do at UVU about the promotion of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and in particular mountain targets through the efforts of both UIMF and its particular branches such as the Sustainable Mountain Development club, undergraduate student research journal “Youth and the Mountains,” and diverse activities including the annual commemorations of the United Nations International Mountain Days on December 11th.  Ambassador Ibragimov then spoke about how important Sustainable Development Goals are not only for the global communities but also for the people in his country which is of particularly interest to me as the chief editor of the Youth in the Mountains Journal at UVU which specifically is about mountain peoples, research and perspective about life and economics of people from the mountains

Overall it was an extraordinary opportunity to be part of such an engaged learning opportunity and to raise an awareness of the visiting dignitary of the contribution from our student community to the United Nationals agenda of global significance. It was fascinating to learn the perspective of the Uzbekistan people through their top envoy and to experience what the Ambassador of the country does regularly as the Ambassador of Uzbekistan to the United Nations.

Rebecca Bindraban, President, Foreign Affairs Club and editor, “Youth and the Mountains” journal 


Photos of the visit of the Uzbekistan’s Envoy to UVU 



Andrew Jensen-Interacting with Ambassador Ibragimov about foreign policy priorities of Uzbekistan


Warren-Kyle-Taking part at lunch with Ambassador Ibragimov


Kyler Pigot and Sam Elzinga -Thanking Ambassador Ibragimov for advocacy of the mountain women



Nathan Erickson-Learning about foreign policy priorities of Uzbekistan


Ezra Pugliano-Uzbekistan’s Envoy to the UN Ambassador Ibragimov speaks at UVU


Leslie-Sixtos-Cruz-Foreign Policy Priorities of the New Government of Uzbekistan


Caitlin Dally – PR of Uzbekistan to the United Nations,   Ambassador Bakhtiyor Ibragimov at UVU


Marie-Chantal Niwenshuti – Learning about Uzbekistan from top envoy to the UN


Congressman John Curtis town hall meeting

I had the opportunity to attend Representative John Curtis’s town hall meeting at the Orem City Council office On January 24, 2018. This was the first town hall that I have ever been to. I have been privileged to spend a year interning in Washington, D.C., but, I have not had much experience in politics at the local level, so this spring semester of 2018, being back in Utah, I have made it a goal of mine to become more familiar with local politics. I had heard a lot about John Curtis before, for the most part, all good things. The one criticism that I had heard previously was that he was a Democrat that had run as a Republican because he knew he wouldn’t be able to get into office otherwise. But, like in anything that I do in life, I like to question things for myself and go straight to the source.

Candidate John Curtis during town hall meeting on August 8, 2017

After listening to Representative Curtis for over an hour, I have to say that I walked away being pretty impressed with him. I think he will do a good job in D.C. at helping bring both sides together and not spend his time playing partisan politics. A major issue in D.C. right now is that both parties have become so polarized that passing any major legislation is difficult unless there is a substantial majority in one party in both chambers.  I think the biggest struggle that he will run into in D.C. is not having any name recognition and not being familiar with all the topics of today’s national politics. Truthfully, John Curtis is a small fish in a big pond. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as most politicians have to start at the bottom and make their way to the top.

Preston Parry as an intern in Washington, D.C.

At the town hall there were many opinionated people, mostly on the left. People were very outspoken, and some were even emotional. There was one woman in particular who was an undocumented immigrant. She was very upset with the way that the DACA issue was being handled at the national level and felt scared for herself and her family. She became so upset that she began to cry and yell and did not accept what Representative Curtis had to say. I think this is a huge problem, because if we cannot talk in a calm and composed manner, then we will have a very difficult time making any substantive progress in America.

I also had the opportunity to ask the Congressman a question. I asked Curtis how he felt about those in positions of power at the FBI and DOJ and some of the new allegations that are coming to light. As much as I liked most of what he had to say that night, his answer to my question was one that concerned me. He basically said that he believes that those who are in positions of power know what they are doing and that they are the best people for the job. He explained to me that he trusted those who were handling sensitive cases to the national security of the United States. This bothered me because we have seen time and time again why we should not trust someone just because they are powerful. If anything, I would argue that power and influence can have very negative affects on people. Additionally, I think we have seen much evidence laid out in the past couple months that suggest there have been huge issues at the highest levels of our government.

Overall, I am very happy that I got to attend the John Curtis’s town hall. I feel that he is a very good man who wants to do best for the people of the 3rd district of Utah. Being a junior congressman, I believe that he has a lot to learn, but I am confident that he will do so to the best of his ability. It is also my hope that collectively as Americans we can get to a point where we can have a dialogue that is both calm and productive.

Preston Parry, UVU student


Daily Herald about town hall meeting


To fight poverty globally by empowering students

Three non-governmental organizations in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, the Mountain Institute, and Utah China Friendship Improvement Sharing Hands Development and Commerce will present their joint vision regarding the fight against poverty in mountainous regions of the world at the special United Nations forum fighting poverty at the beginning of 2018.

The United Nations Commission for Social Development will hold the fifty-sixth session on 31 January–7 February 2018. The priority theme of the session will be “strategies for the eradication of poverty to achieve sustainable development for all.”  It is a follow-up to the World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen – 1995, and the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly: Social Development (26 June-1 July 2000, Geneva).

In a joint statement E/CN.5/2018/NGO/71, accepted and distributed by the United Nations Secretariat on December 1, 2017, they emphasized, that: “Today, mountain communities, being disproportionately affected by the challenges of living at high altitudes, and left almost on their own to deal with emerging new threats such as climate change, etc., are among the world’s poorest. They must be at the centre of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. On their behalf, we must address poverty and hunger eradication; promote gender equality; provide decent work opportunities and economic growth; and develop industry and infrastructure. Lack of access to education and information further deepen their dependence.  About 39 percent of the mountain population in developing countries, or 329 million people are estimated to be vulnerable to food insecurity, according to a recent study of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in collaboration with the Mountain Partnership Secretariat. When only rural areas are considered, nearly half the population is at risk. During the period 2000–2012, despite food insecurity decreasing at the global level, it increased in mountain areas. The study revealed a 30 percent increase in the number of mountain people vulnerable to food insecurity from 2000 to 2012, while the mountain population increased by only 16 percent.”

As one of the ways to raise awareness about the need for sustainable development and poverty eradication for mountain communities, they cite an example from Utah Valley University, which is an active contributor to the sustainable development of mountain communities in the developing world. UVU does this by engaging students, non-traditional students in particular, in a hands-on involvement and practical implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals to address the eradication of poverty, principally in impoverished mountain regions of the world.

Non-traditional students are often older than 25 years old, and may have delayed enrolment into postsecondary education; attended university part-time and work full time; are financially independent for financial aid purposes; have dependents other than a spouse; are single parents; or do not have a high school diploma. The UN statement says that, “These students represent more than 30% of college students in the United States and many are women. However, most have diverse professional skills and experiences which they are ready and eager to contribute to benefit the global communities — mountain ones in particular.”

UVU’s model represents a service learning initiative which allows students through the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at UVU, to gain professional skills and experiences by addressing real-world problems such as poverty eradication at local, regional and United Nations levels with an instructor serving them as a mentor.

As a highlight of the model, three NGOs have mentioned that “The fourth international Women of the Mountains conference was hosted in Utah, October 7–9, 2015 solely through the efforts of the Utah International Mountain Forum, a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University. Members of the coalition, the majority of whom are non-traditional students, raised funds to host the event and brought diplomats, experts and women from mountain nations worldwide to Utah. The goal was to engage students in creating awareness and seeking solutions compatible with gender-related Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.” As a former president of the UIMF, I am grateful to all three NGOs and their leaders, Dr. Rusty Butler, Dr. Andrew Taber and Ms. Wendy Jyang for such high praise, and at the same time an objective evaluation of the efforts through which my peers and myself were able to contribute to the advancement of the mountain communities’ cause at the United Nations level.

The statement also mentioned that “The model allowed students, non-traditional ones in particular, to gain professional skills and experiences through the advocacy of different initiatives with a focus in particular on poverty eradication among the mountain communities on local and global levels. They did it by not only hosting the international Women of the Mountains Conferences and conducting research on gender norms, sexuality, and religion in Utah, but also by successfully teaching women business management in Zambia; working with students in Indonesia on tsunami-preparedness community education projects; conducting research on water quality in Senegal, the impact of mining and oil pipelines on indigenous people in Ecuador and globalization impact to Tarahumara Mexican women.”

I completely agree with recommendation made by these NGOs that “This experience demonstrates that students of all ages can play an essential role in the implementation of the 2030 development agenda of the United Nations, and in poverty eradication in particular. It can be used by other universities in rural and mountain states of North America and globally to provide similar benefits to their students, and at the same time encourage them to contribute to advocating the post2030 Development agenda with a focus on poverty eradication.”

The experiences which I have gained through working with the UIMF are incredible, and I hope that many students in other academic schools—especially throughout the Rocky Mountains region—would be able to do the same things: advance themselves professionally by promoting the noble cause of eradicating poverty, both in their neighborhoods and in the rest of the rural and mountainous world.

Tony Medina, President Emeritus, UIMF    

Statement submitted by the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, Mountain Institute, and the Utah China Friendship Improvement Sharing Hands Development and Commerce, non-governmental organizations in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council


FAO-UN and MP news item about the event