Category Archives: 2016-old

Award Winning Extreme Athlete Kyle Maynard at UVU: No Excuses

Utah Valley University student body (UVUSA) attempted to host Kyle Maynard for many years and finally was able to do that on February 1, 2018. So many students, me included were excited for him to become available. Mr. Maynard is an entrepreneur, speaker, bestselling author, award-winning extreme athlete, and the first man to bear crawl to the top of the highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro.

Kyle Maynard

Kyle Maynard is also a incapacitated man without limits. He was born without arms and without legs yet has never encountered a challenge or obstacle that he could not overcome. To begin his presentation, Kyle reminded the audience that nobody is self-made and that the only reason any human can reach their full potential is through the help of others. This serves as a valuable reminder that the only way that humankind can move forward, is by remembering and reflecting on where they have come from. The whole of Kyle’s presentation was based upon the idea that when we are called to do the impossible, there is no room to make excuses.

One of Kyle’s heroes, the Navy SEAL Richard Mackowicz, has been quoted as saying “not dead can’t stop”, a sentiment that reveals the true grit that is needed to attain impossible goals. The idea that Kyle presents in accordance with this statement is that anything can be done as long as an effort is put forth. He affirmed that there is always freedom to try, though that is without guarantee that it will be accompanied with success. He taught that the only thing that keeps a human from attaining their goal is the excuses that one makes. To overcome the negative excuses that stem from the desire to attain a difficult goal, one must remember the reason for which that goal is to be attained. The purpose is the motivator that can push the human mind beyond what it possible. Material things will never bring true happiness, that can only come about as goals are set and achieved. Kyle continues to compare mental perceptions and realities to a mental map. He affirms that the map is not the territory, that one can walk around with our mental map and perceptions and then go online and have those concrete ideas demolished and changed in a fraction of a moment. It is the constant update of the map that will everlastingly propagate happiness.

Kyle then proceeds to share his life history and the struggles and challenges that he had as he was growing up. Everyday he said that he prayed for arms and legs, yet the attitude his was treated with at home varied greatly from this precept. All throughout his formative pre-teenage life his parents never allowed him to address his own lack of external extremities. Kyle shared how this was critical in helping him while in his early years to understand that he is not limited by his physical disabilities. He talked about how life with disabilities is not much different than one with disabilities, there is just an increased need to learn how to adapt. He shared a touching story, about how he was once boarding an airplane when a flight attended insisted that he needed the special disability chair. As she turned to get the chair he sprinted past her as fast as he could. He related this to everyone’s reality, that sometimes people will claim that something cannot get done, when in reality the only thing to do is sprint past those that hold humankind back. To illustrate this point, Kyle shared the story of how he climbed the highest peak in South America. He had special shoes that allowed him to climb up the face of the mountain, a feat never attempted by anyone with his disability. Not only did he attempt this feat, he was able to accomplish his goal. Though it was difficult, by sacrificing his excuses and by exerting all the effort he could, Kyle was able to accomplish an impossible task.

Kyle’s visit to Utah Valley University profoundly influenced lives of students across campus by teaching that anything is possible if excuses are removed and the true potential of the human race is realized.

Andrew Jensen, member, UIMF


UVU Review About Kyle Maynard



Timothy Jenkins-Inspired by Kyle Maynard


Ezra-Pugliano-Kyle Maynard speaks at Utah Valley University


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


Students host Permanent Representative 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


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

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



Statement advocating mountain women is included in the agenda of the UN CSW62

Russian Academy of Natural Sciences and Utah China Friendship Improvement Sharing Hands Development and Commerce, non-governmental organizations in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations submitted joint statement for presentation during the 62nd session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62) on 12-23 March 2018.

Statement was already approved and distributed by CSW62 on December 7, 2017.

Statement emphasizes the importance of implementation mountain targets among the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and in particular the empowerment of not only rural but also mountain women who are usually among the poorest and neglected by international community.  it also says, that “…about 39 percent of the mountain population in developing countries, or 329 million people, is 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 (MPS). When rural areas are considered, nearly half the population are at risk, particular women.”

Further statement says, that : ” as one of the ways to raise awareness about the need for sustainable development for mountain communities, families and women, the Mountain Partnership focuses efforts in mobilizing grassroots activists, youth and students in developed and developing nations.”

We appreciate very much, that Dr. Rusty Butler, the main representative of RANS at the United Nations and Ms. Wendy Jyang, President of Utah China F.I.S.H  focus attention of the CSW62 audience on the Utah Valley University model of student engaged learning developed with support from the MPS  and how students were able to contribute to the advocacy of the mountain women in the State of Utah and North America since 2007.

This statement represents great example of UVU student engagement  with prominent NGOs affiliated with the United Nations, which provides an important opportunity for joint implementation of mountain targets.  We are glad that the visit of the UVU delegation to CSW62 will be fruitful and allow students to contribute practical recommendations to the final documents of this important UN forum on gender issues.

Yanko Dzhukev, VP on Social Media, UIMF

For more information, see:

Statement submitted by Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, Utah China Friendship Improvement Sharing Hands Development and Commerce


MP about statement submission to the CSW62 










UIMF at the Fifth Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership

The Fifth Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership:
Report about participation at the meeting on behalf of the Utah Valley University

The Mountain Partnership (MP) organized on 11-13 December 2017 the Fifth Mountain Partnership Global Meeting at the headquarters of Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO-UN) in Rome, Italy, under the theme ‘Mountains under pressure: climate, hunger, migration’. MP is a voluntary alliance of nearly 300 members including countries, intergovernmental and civil society organizations with a global Secretariat, hosted by the FAO-UN.

Opening Ceremony | ©FAO/Roberto Cenciarelli

The event aimed to gather MP members and to summarize main results in raising awareness of the importance of mountain ecosystems and peoples at the global level since the Fourth MP Global Meeting in Erzurum, Turkey in 2013.  The main concern of the Mountain Partnership was focused on: 1) the low attention to the mountain agenda at the UN level; 2) raising awareness of the need to place mountain ecosystems and peoples at the center of international negotiations, policies and investments; 3) the challenges and the opportunities in sustainable mountain development (SMD). More than 220 participants – high-level representatives from mountainous countries, goodwill ambassadors, and representatives of UN conventions, intergovernmental organizations, private sector and civil society, in addition to Mountain Partnership members gathered in Rome.

I represented Utah Valley University (UVU), a MP member since 2006 and at the same time the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at UVU. UVU participates for the third time in a MP global meeting – the first time was in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil at the Third Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership held on 19 June 2012, and the second time in Erzurum, Turkey on 16-19 September 2013 at the Fourth Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership.

My important priority during the Fifth Global Meeting was to report to the participants about UIMF contributions to the UN SMD agenda and the implementation of mountain targets among the Sustainable Development Goals and how unique the approach developed at UVU and contributions from UIMF members made a difference since 2011, when UIMF was established. The UVU presentation was scheduled during a side event dedicated on education in mountains during to second day of the meeting which was not the main activity of the meeting, however, it still provided an opportunity for me to make a statement and presentation about the UVU model.

During the three-day event, countries, international and intergovernmental organizations as well as the non-government organizations discussed the future goals and activities of the Partnership. Among others, the agenda covered the following topics: how to improve advocacy for mountains in major global processes; how to promote joint communication efforts, which will be the main events in which the MP will participate in the upcoming years; and who will be elected to four-year terms by the various membership categories and regions as new members of the Steering Committee (SC) of the Mountain Partnership. The Committee provides programmatic orientation to the Mountain Partnership, monitoring the work of the MP Secretariat, the implementation of the ‘Mountain Agenda’ and the achievements and impacts of their respective electoral groups.


During the first day of the meeting, which coincided with the United Nations International Mountain Day and the 15th anniversary of the MP, participants heard opening statements by founding members of the MP, including the FAO-UN, the governments of Italy and Switzerland, and the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment). The session continued by remarks from the three Mountain Partnership Goodwill Ambassadors: His Holiness Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang, head of the Drikung Kagyu order of Tibetan Buddhism; Arjun Gupta, founder of TeleSoft Partners; and Jake Norton, founder of MountainWorld Productions. Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General, World Meteorological Organization, gave a keynote speech.

L-R: Yanko Dzhukev, Vice President of Global Affairs and Outreach, Utah Valley University (UVU) and Thomas Hofer, Outgoing Coordinator, Mountain Partnership Secretariat & FAO Programme Officer | ©UIMF/Yanko Dzhukev

I was very happy to return to the FAO headquarters and to meet old colleagues and friends from the MP Secretariat, where I interned during several months at the beginning of 2016. It was great seeing Thomas Hofer Hofer, an outgoing Coordinator, Mountain Partnership Secretariat & FAO Programme Officer, RosaLaura Romeo, FAO Programme Officer, Sara Manuelli, FAO Communication Officer, Samantha Abear, FAO Communication Specialist and many more. While spending several months at FAO, I had a chance to gain engaged learning experiences by developing long lasting relationships and networking with many MP members globally, with which I have been staying in touch, just to name a few – Zaya Batjargal from University of Central Asia; Alberto Pascual from Fundación CoMunidad, Panama, Marisa Mabel Young from Fundación Agreste, Argentina, and many more.

L-R: Arjun Gupta, founder, Telesoft Partners, H.H. Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang, Mountain Partnership Ambassador, Jake Norton, Mountain Partnership Goodwill Ambassador | ©FAO/Roberto Cenciarelli

Following the opening of the High-Level Segment and the celebration of International Mountain Day, the Framework for Action was launched. It was endorsed by the governments and civil society to support concrete actions, to put in place long-lasting processes and to establish policies that strengthen the resilience of mountain peoples and environments. Mountain Partnership members considered the challenges and responses of the Framework for Action and its alignment with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Several speakers further emphasized on the importance of adopting the framework, outlining many challenges and possible responses. The first day of the Global Meeting was ended by showcasing practical approaches towards making the Global Framework work by remarks from Nurlan Jumaev, Deputy Director, State Agency for Environment Protection and Forestry, Kyrgyz Republic; Matthias Fiechter, Communications Associate, Secretariat of the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program; Matt T. Reed, Chief Executive Officer, Aga Khan Foundation, Aga Khan Development Network; H.E. Ambassador Hersey Kyota, Ambassador of the Republic of Palau to United States of America, Board Chair, Global Island Partnership; Kate Brown, Executive Director, Global Island Partnership (GLISPA); and Matthias Jurek, Programme Management Officer, UN Environment, Carpathian Convention.

Launched in 2006, the Global Island Partnership has been looking at working more closely with the Mountain Partnership over the last years because of the similar interests the two alliances have such as addressing the effects of climate change on vulnerable ecosystems. It was very interesting for me to see how members of the Global Island Partnership have come together in a united coalition to become a very powerful and impactful group which performs lobbying and negotiating functions within the United Nations, most notably focusing on climate change and its impact on GLISPA worldwide. I am sure that if MP members follow GLISPA as an example, similar results might be achieved relating to the SMD agenda. UIMF members also contributed similar efforts when they recently hosted several events, most notably the visit to UVU of the President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, Ambassador of Fiji to the United Nations Peter Thompson in December 2015.

Andrey Kushlin, Deputy Director, Forest Policy and Resources Division, FAO, presents the Framework for Action | ©FAO/Roberto Cenciarelli


The second day kicked off with a presentation of activities and challenges, highlighting the objectives, governance structure and composition, and achievements of the Partnership from Thomas Hofer, an outgoing Coordinator of the Mountain Partnership Secretariat, urging MP members to “move from the opera house to the stadium” in broadening the advocacy and communication activities. UVU and UIMF in particular has already adopted the proposed approach. Students do not only advocate SMD among local communities in Utah, but also aim to bring mountain issues to the highest level at the United Nations.

Two UVU partners made presentation during that day. Andrew Taber, Chair of the Mountain Partnership Steering Committee moderated a short session during which Steering Committee members reported on the achievements, priorities and challenges in their constituencies. Dr. Taber, an Executive Director of The Mountain Institute and UVU have been working jointly for the last several years.  As one of the most important examples, they partner with the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences to make statements during major UN high-level forums and highlight the mountain agenda. In his presentation, Dr. Taber mentioned about round table hosted by UIMF in October 2017 as preparations for the next such joint presentation during the 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women in March 2018.

The other UVU partner, Karinjo Devore, President of ‎Aspen International Mountain Foundation and member of the Mountain Partnership Steering Committee representing North and Central America and the Caribbean highlighted major contributions from the region towards the SMD agenda. In her presentation, she mentioned UIMF contributing to the MP activities by hosting annually the International Mountain Day celebrations. She apologized to me that she was not able to highlight major achievements from student coalition due to the time constrains. I was able to do that by highlighting all major contributions of UIMF to the SMD agenda in my presentation during the side event on education later same day.


In addition, during the second day of the Global Meeting, during noon three side events were held to report on respective outcomes of events on: promoting mountain products to improve local economies and livelihoods; education in mountains; the launch of the Mountain 2018 platform. UVU was provided a spot at a side event dedicated on education in mountains and its role in sustainable mountain development. The event was moderated by Andrey Kushlin, Deputy Director of FAO Forestry Policy and Resources. While 31 academic institutions currently are part on the Mountain Partnership, only 5 of them, among which is Utah Valley University where present at the Global Meeting. It was a great honor for UVU and for me, as VP of UIMF, to be among the members provided with the opportunity to present our model of engaged learning and some of our achievements.

Along with UVU, participants of the panel were Michele Freppaz, University of Turin, Italy; Stella Giannakopoulou, from the Metsovion Interdisciplinary Research Center (MIRC), Greece; Laurie Vasily, Head, Knowledge Management and Communication, ICIMOD; and John Hausdoerffer, Dean, School of Environment and Sustainability (ENVS), Western Colorado University, USA.

The purpose of my presentation was to show to side event participants and members, how the developed UVU model allows one generation of undergraduate students to gain professional advancement and recognition internationally through full-fledged contribution of initiatives and funds to the practical implementation of the mountain targets, under the effective encouragement of the United Nations Mountain Partnership. I also aimed to encourage universities in rural and mountain states elsewhere to apply similarly the model and provide similar benefits to their students, and at the same time to contribute to the implementation of the post 2030 Development agenda globally.

The presentation entitled “Mountain targets implementation through the student engaged learning model” and a PowerPoint highlighted following important contributions to the advocacy of the SMD agenda and mountain targets:

  • The leading role which students, especially non-traditional ones could play in promoting the Sustainable Development Goals and the mountain targets;
  • The implementation of three recommendations of the United Nations General Assembly Resolution “International Year of Mountains, 2002:” 1) to encourage institutions worldwide to join MP; 2) to make contributions to the SMD advocacy of funds and sustain initiatives established during celebrations of the UN International Year of Mountains in 2002; 3) to celebrate International Mountain Day on December 11;
  • Hosting the international Women of the Mountains conferences since 2007 as one of the leading forums in North America to advocate and contribute to the implementation of Goal 5 in interaction with mountain targets and as a follow up of the 2002 “Celebrating Mountain Women” conference in Bhutan;
  • Encouraging students to advocate for the adoption of mountain targets by participating at the UN Open Working Groups on SDGs in New York during 2013-2015;
  • As one of the major effort to advocate for the adoption of mountain targets among SDGs, hosting at UVU during 2013-2015 Permanent Representatives of more than 20 nations accredited to the UN, including the president of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) PR of Austria to the UN, Martin Sajdik, President of the General Assembly PR of Fiji to the UN Peter Thomson, Co-chairs of the Open Working Group on SDGs, the PR of Kenya to the UN, Ambassador Macharia Kamau, and PR of Hungary to the UN, Mr. Csaba Kőrösi among them;
  • Contribution to the MPS initiative to sign a petition about including mountain issues in the agenda of the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP21), when students collected more than 2,000 signatures from 6,283 gathered by the MPS globally;
  • Contribution of more than $250,000 during 10 years of activities to the SMD advocacy;
  • Advocacy for the mountain targets implementation at major forums at the United Nations in cooperation with NGOs with consultative status under the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC);
  • Advocacy for mountain women at the 60th and the 61st sessions of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW);
  • Contribution to the agenda of the 62nd session of CSW, by making a statement, hosting side and parallel events with focus on the advocacy of the mountain women and results of the hosting four international Women of the Mountains Conferences since 2007;
  • Commemoration annually since 2010 the United Nations International Mountain Day (IMD) as an important activity to raise awareness about SMD among students and local communities in the State of Utah and in North America;

The following recommendations were made in UVU presentation to the participants of the side event and Global MP Meeting:

  1. It is important to engage students, and in particular non-traditional ones in hands-on activities associated with the implementations of the SDGs and mountain targets among them;
  2. The UVU model can be applied by academic institutions in rural and mountain states worldwide to provide benefits of professional advancement to students and at the same time encouraging them to become the contributors to the implementation of the post 2030 Development agenda globally;
  3. As UVU example demonstrates, academic institutions could provide substantial financial resources as well to the implementation of United Nations activities and post 2030 agenda in particular;
  4. Academic institutions will greatly benefit by developing joint curriculum and partnerships with each other and with NGOs under consultative status under ECOSOC in order to make their voices heard at the UN level;
  5. It is important for the MP members to work jointly to make bigger impact at the UN.

During Q&A session, some of the questions have been asked by Andrey Kushlin, Deputy Director of FAO Forestry Policy and Resources about how students have been able to contribute more than $250,000 during 10 years of activities to the SMD advocacy and John Hausdoerffer, Dean, School of Environment and Sustainability (ENVS) at Western Colorado University, who was interested in how students have been able to advocate SMD at the United Nations. I was very proud to highlight the fact that even the funds for my participation at the Global Meeting was raised by myself, a non-traditional student, locally, and contributed to the UN SMD agenda. In addition, I recognized my colleagues from UIMF, who currently are raising funds to participate at the 62nd Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on 12-23 March 2018, where in addition to a side event, they are planning to make an oral statement before the UN audience.

In general, both the audience and the MPS demonstrated their appreciation to the efforts of UVU and students, and what has been achieved by them during the last ten years. Further, they were pleased to hear that students while achieving results and demonstrating professionalism are motivated more than ever to continue advocating the SMD agenda at the highest UN level and implement mountain targets globally.

L-R: Yanko Dzhukev, Vice President of Global Affairs and Outreach, Utah Valley University (UVU), Andrey Kushlin, Deputy Director, FAO, Michele Freppaz – IPROMO Scientific Director during side event dedicated on education in mountains | ©FAO/Samantha Abear

The afternoon continued with a panel session on resource mobilization, which included reports from key note speakers sharing their experiences in the private sector, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO).

Thomas Hofer, Outgoing Coordinator, Mountain Partnership Secretariat & FAO Programme Officer | ©FAO/Roberto Cenciarelli

Thomas Hofer shared with members feedback on governance issues, including considering options on membership fees, the inclusion of Central Asia as a separate region, selecting alternate Steering Committee members, an approach to dealing with inactive members, the hosting arrangement of the Secretariat, and deletion of the Mountain Partnership’s function of “innovation.” During a discussion regarding the possibility of introducing a member fee, participants expressed concerns that it might be difficult for institutions with limited resources and who raise funds from local communities, to commit to paying a fee. Yet, Thomas emphasized that the possible fee would be based on the institution’s contribution capability, and by paying even a small amount would encourage members to be more active within partnership activities.

Amendments to the Governance paper were discussed and new Steering Committee members were elected. Work priorities for the next four years, organized around the Mountain Partnership’s functions of advocacy, capacity development, joint action, and communication, were identified.

The evening concluded with three side events focusing on: understanding landscape and watershed management in mountains; science and research for evidence-informed policy and action on the ground – experiences and outlook in mountain-specific cases; and the Andean Mechanism. The day concluded with an official dinner hosted by FAO.


On the final day of the Global Meeting, the Partnership considered how best to support the implementation of the Framework for Action. The organizers of the six side events that were held on day two reported of their events. Michele Freppaz from University of Turin summarized the side event on education, and I was very pleased with his highlights on the UVU presentation, noting that non-traditional students have went “out of the opera” making a noise at the UN headquarters in New York.

Throughout the day, members focused on the internal governance of the Partnership by voting the inclusion of Central Asia as an additional region. Further, members made endorsements and nominations of Steering Committee members and alternative members for the period 2017-2021.

L-R: Yanko Dzhukev, Vice President of Global Affairs and Outreach, Utah Valley University (UVU) and Zaya Batjargal, programme officer for the Mountain Partnership in Central Asia | ©UIMF/Yanko Dzhukev

It was interesting to hear a proposition from the MP Secretariat during the election alternate Steering Committee members to be voted in cases in which the leading members are unable to attend SC sessions or initiatives. On behalf of UVU, I voted for Aspen International Mountain Foundation to serve on the 2017-2020 Steering Committee representing the interests of the major group organization from North and Central America and the Caribbean, and Fundación CoMunidad as alternate SC member. Based on unanimous nominations and vote, the following MP members were selected in different categories and regions:


Asia and the Pacific: Philippines, Nepal (Alternate)

Europe: Italy (Chair), Turkey (Alternate)

Middle East and North Africa: Tunisia

North and Central America and the Caribbean: Dominican Republic, Guatemala (Alternate)

South America: Argentina, Chile (Alternate)

Sub-Saharan Africa: Uganda, Cameroon (Alternate)

Intergovernmental Organization

United Nations Environment Programme (Vice Chair), International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (Alternate)

Major Group Organizations

Asia and the Pacific: Karnali Integrated Rural Development and Research Centre (Vice Chair), Pan Himalayan Grassroots Development Foundation (Alternate)

Central Asia: Institute for Sustainable Development Strategy Public Fund, Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation (Alternate)

Europe: Centro de Investigação de Montanha and Euromontana

Global Civil Society Organization: Mountain Research Initiative, The Mountain Institute (Alternate)

Middle East and North Africa: Mountain Environment Protection Society

North and Central America and the Caribbean: Aspen International Mountain Foundation, Fundación CoMunidad (Alternate)

South America: Consortium for Sustainable Development of the Andean Ecoregion, Fundación Agreste (Alternate)

Sub-Saharan Africa: Foundation for Environment and Development, Les Compagnons Ruraux (Alternate)

Following the election of the Steering Committee, a session was held on setting priorities and identifying the main areas of work of the Secretariat for the next biennium, including advocacy, capacity development, joint action, communication, and setting regional and thematic topics; and considering the meeting outcomes and steps going forward.

During lunchtime, participants took part in a speed-geeking session, engaging with different challenges and experiences related to sustainable management of mountain ecosystems and ways to engage with mountain people.

Yanko Dzhukev, Vice President of Global Affairs and Outreach, Utah International Mountain Forum -UVU, United States, participates in a closing discussion | ©FAO/Roberto Cenciarelli

The Fifth Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership concluded with a session, in which representatives from the donor countries – Italy, Grammenos Mastrojeni, Assistant Director-General, Coordinator for the Environment, Italian Development Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and François Pythoud, Permanent Representative of Switzerland to FAO, IFAD and WFP Switzerland, Hiroto Mitsugi, Assistant Director-General of FAO as host of the Secretariat, and the outgoing Chair of the Steering Committee Andrew Taber and Thomas Hofer provided concluding remarks. The meeting closed with a group photo, after which the newly-elected Steering Committee met to consider its work for the next biennium. Italy, represented by Grammenos Mastrojeni was elected as the Chair of the Steering Committee and UN Environment and the Karnali Integrated Rural Development and Research Centre were elected as Vice Chairs.


Participating at the Fifth Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership allowed UVU to strengthen its position as one of the most active MP members on the global stage. Making a presentation during a side event allowed members to get the full scope of UVU advocating activities and demonstrating results of UVU by being featured in four UN Secretary Generals’ Reports on SMD, reveals the dedication and the effective contributions from UVU students. In addition, meeting members with which UVU has been interacting during the last four years in an effort to ensure that mountain targets are included in the SDGs further strengthen relationships with partners globally.

I, as VP of Global Affairs and Outreach at UIMF, had a chance to discuss collaborations and future joint projects with NGOs and in particular educational institutions, among them the Western Colorado University, the Metsovion Interdisciplinary Research Center (MIRC) from Greece, Fundación CoMunidad from Panama, the Romanian Mountain Forum, ForestAction from Nepal, the Mountain Institute from the USA. The UVU representative proposed working jointly in an alliance with other educational institutions and MP members, with UIMF serving as an activity coordinator and to submit joint written and oral statements to various UN forums. Providing students with major responsibilities would encourage them to contribute more actively own professional experiences and to raise financial resources to SMD advocacy for which to be recognized for that by the United Nations. With the Dean of School of Environment and Sustainability (ENVS) at Western Colorado University, I discussed the possibility of UVU students obtaining a master degree in Environmental Management, with focus on mountain sustainability, from Western Colorado University while being at the UVU campus and contributing to UIMF efforts, allowing UVU to keep its best talent and in the same time students can develop in an environmental area which has not been introduced as a study option at UVU.

Being present at a major global UN forum such as the MP Global Meeting, allowed UVU and UIMF to be recognized for contributing to a major UN agenda such as sustainable mountain development globally, and in particular for introducing a model for engaging students in SDGs implantation, which demonstrates that in times of limited resources students’ presence, involvement and contribution is crucial.

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


Yanko-Dzhukev: UIMF statement during the side event “Education in Mountains”


Yanko Dzhukev: power point presentation


Photos from the event 


Agenda of the Fifth Global Mountain Partnership Meeting


2030 Agenda on mountains- Framework_for_Action


MP Advocacy strategy 2018-2021


Communication_Strategy of the MP for 2018-2021


Side events schedule for December 12, 2017


Side event agenda on education