Tag Archives: 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

4th Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership: Partnership Fair

The Partnership Fair

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

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

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

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

  • The Planning and promoting the International Women of the Mountains Conferences held in 2007 and 2011 in Orem, Utah and 2012 in Puno Peru and our desire to hold these conferences annually was expressed to the Mountain Partnershpp members
  • The organizing of the annual High School Essay Contest with the topic for the contests being based on sustainable mountain development themes and the United Nations designation for the year.
  • The presentation of the “Youth and the Mountains” volume which is a collection of UVU student essays on sustainable mountain development topics as well as the high school essay contest winners from previous years.  We also presented the North American report to the Rio + 20 conference that was printed by UVU.  The UVU version of the report also included several student essays. There was a lot of interest generated by these volumes with many conference participants requesting copies. (Follow these links for pdf copies of these volumes: http://www.womenofthemountains.org/images/2013/13-09-09-FINAL-SMD-Edited.pdf and http://www.mountainpartnership.org/fileadmin/user_upload/mountain_partnership/docs/SMDinNorthAmericaRio.pdf)


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

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



The view of the mountains from the Ulubag Plateau

Trip to the Turkish Countryside

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

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



The village of Uzundere

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

Mark Petersen, President Sustainable Mountain Development Club

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The strategy areas that the document identifies are:

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

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

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

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

UIMF Representative in Peru 2013

UIMF Representative in Peru 2013

Samuel Hill, President of Utah International Mountain Forum

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

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


Acomayo Terrestrial Terminal

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


Acomayo Centro de Salud (Medical Center)

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

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

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


Sustainable Mountain Development

in North America report