Tag Archives: 2016

2016 United Nations International Mountain Day Celebration at Utah Valley University

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On December 2, 2016, the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU) will celebrate International Mountain Day (IMD), established by the United Nations in 2003. UVU students will host the annual IMD celebration for the sixth time one week before December 11, which is the official date established by the UN for the IMD celebration, because of the coincidence of that date and the beginning of final examinations at the university. As a keynote presenter, they will host Ms. Mehak, director of the documentary “Daughter of Kalash,” as a follow up to the Women of the Mountains Conference (WOMC) under the umbrella of the UN Mountain Partnership (MP) held at UVU on October 7-9, 2015. WOMC was highlighted in the 2015 Annual Report of the MP as successfully hosted for the first time by students (http://www.fao.org/3/a-i5490e.pdf, PP. 3, 13, 39). Ms. Mehak was not able to participate at the WOMC last year, therefore students raised funds to bring a foreign dignitary to Utah for the 2016 IMD commemoration.

The main theme for this year’s IMD is Mountain Cultures: Celebrating Diversity and Strengthening Identity.”

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Preliminary agenda of the 2016 IMD:

  1. Greetings from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations on the occasion of the IMD.
  2. Report about major initiatives and activities of UVU students during 2016 to advocate the sustainable mountain development (SMD) agenda of the United Nations in the State of Utah and North America, Tony Medina, President, UIMF.
  3. Presentation of Certificates for contribution to the SMD advocacy during 2016 to the faculty, students, and community representatives.
  4. Presentation of the ethnographic field work in Congo, “Mountains are not only geography, but also culture!” Jacques Baraketse, Sam Kabwika and Dr. Patience Kabamba, Utah Valley University.
  5. Keynote presentation of Ms. Mehak Asad, Assistant Director, GEO TV in Pakistan and director of the documentary film “Daughter of Kalash.” (https://vimeo.com/140086936)   Asad will speak about her film and the issues facing the Kalash people.

In February of 2014, the New York Times published an article highlighting the unique lineage of the small and reclusive Kalash tribe. It would not be a surprise to many in their community if this is still the first time you have heard of them. As one of Pakistan’s smallest and most unique religious communities, they have faced centuries of hardships and possible extinction of their ways and customs. And while they have begun to rebound slightly, they still face many contemporary issues to maintain their unique way of life.

While their exact etymology is still somewhat of a mystery, a team of scientists, led by Simon Myers of Oxford University, have found a more recognized genome mixed into the Kalash people’s DNA. “Another mixing event is the injection of European-type DNA into the Kalash, a people of Pakistan, at some time between 990 and 210 B.C. This could reflect the invasion of India by Alexander the Great in 326 B.C. The Kalash claim to be descended from Alexander’s soldiers, as do several other groups in the region (Wade, Nicholas, “Tracing ancestry, researchers produce a genetic atlas of human mixing events,” The New York Times, (NY: NY, Feb. 13, 2014.).” With dwindling numbers and a rugged and remote area of the world they call home, it is no wonder they struggle to keep their beliefs and customs relevant to their youth.

Due their homeland’s placement on the map, they struggle continuously to fend off both Islamic extremists and governmental mandates. They have continuously been attacked by proselyting Muslim militants, the Afghani Taliban, and Pakistani mandates for conversion to Islam in the 1970s. Additionally, their polytheistic religious beliefs have fueled a rumor that they possess “immortality.” This has led to several attacks on their villages by the surrounding Muslim community.

With a generous count of just over 3,000 people who claim the Kalash faith, their religion is a blend of ancient Hindu, pre-Islamic Nuristan, and contain many of the Indo-Iranian myths, rituals, and aspects of their ancient society including dress, diet, and customs. To combat their dwindling numbers, their village will shun a Muslim convert to both deter others from converting to Islam, and keep their blood line “pure.” As one village leader put it, “If any Kalash converts to Islam, they cannot live among us anymore. We keep our identity strong (Raffaele, Paul, Smithsonian Jan. 2007).”

  1. Screening of the documentary.
  2. Q&A with Ms. Mehak Asad
  3. Reception

The event will be held in the Utah Valley University’s Library room LI 120 from 2 PM to 7 PM.

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HOST OF THE 2016 IMD CELEBRATION

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www.utahimf.org;

SPONSORS OF THE 2016 IMD CELEBRATION

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For more information, please feel free to contact the president of the UIMF, Tony Medina, at tony.h.medina@gmail.com.

Information on previous International Mountain Day celebrations can be found here.

Tony Medina, President of UIMF and Deann Torsak, Executive Secretary of the 2015 Women of the Mountains Conference

Assisting Dr Rusty Butler in Preparation for ECOSOC Forum

On 25 May 2016, I was able to meet at the United Nations in New York with Dr Rusty Butler, who was Associate Vice President for International Affairs and Diplomacy at Utah Valley University (UVU) during 1992-2016 and Director of the Utah-Russia Institute at Utah Valley University.

1   (L to R) Dzhukev and Dr Butler meet in front the UN HQ
(©UIMF/Dzhukev Y.)

Dr Rusty Butler served also as a focal point (coordinator) of the Mountain Partnership under the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO-UN) at UVU during the last 10 years. He was able to transform UVU into a leading institution in North America advocating the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and advancing the gender and sustainable mountain development (SMD) agenda in particular of the UN. One of his unique initiatives was to arrange visits to Utah and provide for UVU students an opportunity to host Permanent Representatives of many nations accredited to the UN. During visits, high-level foreign guests had a chance to be acquainted with the hospitality of the officials and local communities in Utah and to learn more about the model of sustainable development in Utah, one of the best SMD models in the US.

Dr Butler was recently appointed as main representative of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences (RANS) at the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). RANS was registered as a NGO with Consultative Status under ECOSOC since 2002. Dr Butler visited the UN headquarters to prepare for the Fourth High-Level Political Forum at ECOSOC on Sustainable Development (HLPF). The event will take place on 11-15 July 2016, followed by a three-day ministerial meeting of the Forum on 18-20 July 2016. The theme of the 2016 session will be ‘Ensuring that no one is left behind,’ as decided in an ECOSOC plenary session on 14 March 2016.

Dr Butler kindly invited me to dinner on May 25th to talk about my activities as the first UVU intern at the United Nations. Furthermore, he was interested to know about my contribution to the event hosted by the Permanent Missions of Italy, Kyrgyz Republic, Malawi and Peru to the UN, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Liaison Office in New York and Mountain Partnership Secretariat (MPS). Gathering discussed the findings of a MPS study called “Mapping the vulnerability of mountain peoples to food insecurity.” It was important for him to know that the majority of mountain communities are still vulnerable to hunger and other challenges related to food insecurity.

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(L to R) Permanent Representative of the Kyrgyz Republic to the UN, H.E. Moldoisaeva and Dr Butler  (©UIMF/Dzhukev Y.)

As one of the assignments, Dr Butler asked me to arrange a meeting for him with the newly appointed PR of the Kyrgyz Republic to the UN, H.E. Mirgul Moldoisaeva. Dr Butler has extensive connections with many officials at the Kyrgyz Republic. His wife Danielle was the Honorary Consul of the Kyrgyz Republic to the state of Utah during 2003-2011.

This was a great experience for me to learn protocol and to be able to arrange such a high-level meeting on such a short notice. However, Her Excellency Ambassador Moldoisaeva met Dr Butler in the late afternoon on 27 May.

During the meeting, the PR of the Kyrgyz Republic was impressed by Dr Butler’s background of working with many diplomats, including from her own nation and the fact that he was an Honorary Consul of Russia to Utah for 16 years. Dr Butler invited Ambassador Moldoisaeva to visit Utah on behalf of an organization called “Utah Ambassadors Hosting” to lecture at one of the universities in Utah, to meet with officials, as well as talk about the advantages of the nations that they represent and the need for establishing beneficial partnerships.

In addition, Ambassador Moldoisaeva was glad to know that UVU is the only undergraduate university in the US, which is a member of the Mountain Partnership and actively advocates SMD during last 10 years, in addition to applying the important aspect of the SDGs implementation into the undergraduate student curriculum. Ambassador Moldoisaeva stated: “Global alliances such as the Mountain Partnership allow us to create an effective global platform for poverty alleviation and food security in support of our national efforts.” She was also impressed when Dr Butler informed her that as part of the Open World Program, sponsored by the US Library of Congress, UVU has hosted seven Kyrgyz delegations of young leaders, in addition to numerous delegations from Central Asia and countries of the post-Soviet era in particular.

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(L to R) H.E. Peter Thomson, PR of Fiji to UN and his wife;  Irina Churkina, wife of H.E. Mr Vitaly Churkin, PR of the Russian Federation to UN; H.E. Ms Katalin Annamária Bogyay, PR of Hungary to UN and her husband (seated), Dr Rusty Butler and H.E. Mr Vitaly Churkin, PR of the Russian Federation to the UN (©Rusty Butler)

In addition, on the evening of 27 May, Permanent Representative of Hungary to the United Nations Her Excellency Ms Katalin Bogyay hosted an official dinner in honour of Dr Butler’s visit.  The gathering at her residence was attended by H.E. Mr Peter Thomson, Permanent Representative of Fiji to the United Nations and his wife. Ambassador Thomson has a high chance to be elected as the President of the UN General Assembly for the 2016-2017 period. In addition, the dinner was attended by H.E. Mr Vitaly Churkin, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the UN and his wife. The distinguished guests, close friends of Dr Butler, gave wonderful tributes to him, his family and wonderful hospitality, provided to each of them by the people of Utah, both on official level and among the general public, students and faculty included. During the evening, the diplomats also discussed some UN agenda items, SMDs and the SDGs.

While visiting New York City, Dr Butler also spent time with David Colton, UN Representative for LDS Charities with whom Dr Butler had dinner with H.E. Mr Charles Thembani Ntwaagae, a Permanent Representative of Botswana to the United Nations.

Before returning to Utah, Dr Butler had breakfast with the Permanent Representative of Georgia to the UN H.E. Kaha Imnadze whom he hopes to host again in Utah this fall for an all-Georgian art exhibit at the Springville Art Museum, possibly with the head of Georgian delegation during the session of the U.N. General Assembly as the honoured guest.

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(L to R) H.E. Kaha Imnadze, Permanent Representative of Georgia to the UN and Dr Rusty Butler  (©Rusty Butler)

Dr Butler also had a scheduled meeting with the Permanent Representative of Vietnam to the United Nations H.E. Mrs Nguyen Phuong Nga. Unfortunately, she was out of the country but her personal assistant connected with Dr Butler for a productive exchange.

Dr Butler will visit United Nations on regular basis. His continued partnerships and friendship with many Permanent Representatives accredited at the UN will provide more opportunities for engaged learning experiences for many people in Utah and the successful implementation of the SDGs, achieving Agenda 2030 of the UN, including students and faculty efforts at Utah universities.

I will be in touch with Dr Butler to make sure that his attendance of the Fourth High-Level Political Forum at ECOSOC on Sustainable Development (HLPF) on 11-15 July 2016 will be successful and he will be able to make an official statement about the importance of SMD being part of the SDGs implementation.

Yanko Dzhukev, an intern at the Office of Legal Affairs, Treaty Section Department, of the United Nations. 

UVU Attends Discussion on Sustainable Mountain Development at the UN Headquarters

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Yanko Dzhukev, a member of Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU), and currently the first UVU intern at the United Nations Secretariat, Office of Legal Affairs, on 6 May 2016 joined United Nations (UN) diplomats at the UN headquarters in New York, for a discussion to mobilize efforts to address the rising rate of food insecurity and malnutrition in the mountainous areas of developing countries.

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The event, organized by the Permanent Missions of Italy, Kyrgyz Republic, Malawi and Peru to the UN, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Liaison Office in New York and Mountain Partnership Secretariat (MPS) discussed the findings of a study called “Mapping the vulnerability of mountain peoples to food insecurity”. Launched on the International Mountain Day 2015 by the FAO and the MPS, the study aims to provide the most accurate possible estimate of the vulnerability to food insecurity in mountain areas, based on the best technologies and data available.

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The study reveals alarming trend:  while food insecurity decreased at global level, in rural mountainous areas of developing countries, vulnerability to food insecurity increased to one in every two people between 2000 and 2012. As the 2030 Development Agenda pledges to leave no one behind and stresses the importance of reaching those furthest behind first. Among the groups that require special attention are mountain peoples.

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While presenting the study that gives a current picture of hunger in the mountains the Mountain Partnership Secretariat Coordinator Thomas Hofer said: “Every third person in the mountains in developing countries is food insecure, a rate that is unacceptably high”.

In addition the Mountain Partnership Secretariat announced the launch of a Mountain Facility, or funding mechanism, to address the rising threat of hunger in the mountain areas of developing countries. The new funding mechanism has the goal to help empower vulnerable mountain communities, increase their food security and eradicate poverty.

The Permanent Representative of Italy to the UN invited all partners to contribute to the Facility. “Italy welcomes FAO’s initiative to launch a Mountain Facility as a new funding mechanism, linked to the Mountain Partnership, to address food security crises in mountain regions,” said Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi, who noted that Italy is one of the founding party of the Mountain Partnership and a major donor.

In addition H.E. Ambassador Mirgul Moldoisaeva, Permanent Representative of the Kyrgyz Republic to the UN acknowledged the extraordinary work that the Mountain Partnership has accomplished: “Global alliances such as the Mountain Partnership allow us to create an effective global platform for poverty alleviation and food security in support of our national efforts.” Kyrgyz Republic has been active not on only on local level but globally in investing in institutional capacity, food security and resilience building.

In a statement, Yanko Dzhukev indicated that UVU is fully dedicated in continuing the tradition in advocating for sustainable mountain development and ready to fully incorporate the mountain indicators among the SDGs, and now proceed with laying foundation for the post 2015-development agenda, also known as “2030 Agenda” of the United Nations. In addition he indicated that “Mapping the vulnerability of mountain peoples to food insecurity” highlights the current situation in the mountains and it is important to show the world the significance of the mountain regions and from the developing countries in particular.

UVU, as a Mountain Partnership member was the only educational institution that attended the event. The discussion was also attended by dignities such as the Mountain Partnership Ambassador Jake Norton, who made a statement on behalf of mountain peoples around the world. He proclaimed that “if we want a healthy earth, we have to have healthy mountains, and to have healthy mountains, we must have healthy mountain communities”.

The discussion was also attended by Andrew Taber, Executive Director of the Mountain Institute and Karinjo Devore, president of the Aspen International Mountain Foundation and a focal point of the Mountain Partnership in North America.

UVU has been a member of the Mountain Partnership since 2006 with a long-lasting mission to raise awareness, to mobilize support from institutions within the U.S. mountain states and global mountain entities, and to assist in the sustainable development of the mountain communities of the world.

 

Download the publication: http://www.mountainpartnership.org/publications/publication-detail/en/c/357944/

For more information about the Women of the Mountains conferences: http://www.womenofthemountains.org

International Women’s Day Celebration at UVU

From March 1 – 8, 2016 the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF) will sponsoring a series of events to celebrate International Women’s Day at Utah Valley University.

On March 7th, 2016 the UIMF and Women of the Mountains will be hosting a special screening of “To Climb a Gold Mountain” at 6:00pm. Events will start at 5:30pm with presentation of certificates to participants of the 2015 International Women of the Mountains Conference then followed by the documentary.

All events will be held in the UVU Library auditorium, room LI 120.

International Women's Day at Utah Valley University

UVU Student Reports About His Internship at FAO-UN

To Dr. Rusty Butler, Associate VP for International Affairs and Diplomacy, Utah Valley University

Dear Dr. Butler,

I would like take this opportunity to sincerely thank you for the chance you gave me. Without your support and the assistance from Utah Valley University, I would have never even imagined that I could have been able to be a part of FAO as an intern and work with the Mountain Partnership Secretariat.

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I have been here for more than one month, and working under the direct supervision of Thomas and Mia is great. I have learned how the Partnership functions and I am not just some intern who is doing negligible and insignificant work, I am actually responsible for different tasks and I have very significant responsibilities. I have been treated as equal and I fully participate in the day-to-day operations of the Secretariat.

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Dr Butler, Utah Valley University and you especially, are tremendously respected within the MPS.  Now, when I am here, I see that the work that you have done advocating for gender equality and sustainable mountain development, not only in North America but globally, is highly appreciated.

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I have been doing my best to represent myself and UVU in the best possible way.

With best regards,

Yanko Dzhukev
Advocacy and Communications Intern
Mountain Partnership Secretariat
FAO Forestry Department