Tag Archives: International

2015 Women of the Mountains Conference Experiences: Drafting the Final Document

As students at Utah Valley University (UVU) approaching graduation, we really found ourselves wanting to get more involved professionally and practically, so to speak. We were looking for a cause to get involved with outside the classroom that would give us not only an experience, but would also allow us to distinguish ourselves in today’s competitive markets. Fortunately, we were able to find this opportunity in the 2015 International Women of the Mountains Conference (WOMC) as members of the secretariat of the conference. WOMC was sponsored by number of international institutions including the United Nations Mountain Partnership and it took place at the UVU campus located in Orem, Utah on October 7-9, 2015.

The WOMC was a true model of student engaged learning. As you may or may not know, this year’s conference was facilitated by students; members of the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at UVU. It was truly awesome to watch the conference unfold, seeing the incredible things that students are capable of, and to be able to be a part of it. Our faculty, and many other prominent scholars and experts throughout mountain communities, served as advisers guiding us students through the complex process; from raising funds to sending invitations and calls for papers, taking care of accommodation for participants, and many other things. While much effort went into the preparation and execution of the conference, it wasn’t until its successful end that the greater part of our work in the conference really began.

Our job as members of the Secretariat was to draft the final document of the 2015 WOMC, compiling thoughts and ideas from the conference participants, including recommendations to the international community on gender issues. In August 2015, Deann Torsak, executive secretary of the conference, distributed the various responsibilities among the members of the Secretariat. Initially four students signed up to work on the final document of the WOMC. However, by the end of the conference only two of us from original group remained committed to do that very important job. We accomplished our task under the guidance of our advisers Dr. Butler, Associate VP for International Affairs and Diplomacy and focal point for the Mountain Partnership at UVU and Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, faculty in the History and Political Science Department at UVU and advisor of UIMF. We were extremely impressed and inspired by every participant’s level of dedication.

Our responsibilities included many activities important for the success of the conference and for our further professional growth, such as: analyzing similar documents, methodologies, and procedures adopted by other international forums. To achieve a high level of professionalism in our task required us to study additional academic literature, and the United Nations official documents, on different topics of gender and sustainable mountain development agendas. It was important for us also to utilize previous experiences accumulated by our predecessors during the adoption of this document. For example, we drew from the Orem Declaration of Mountain Women and the final document of the first International Women of the Mountains Conference in Utah, which was gathered in March 8-9, 2007.

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(L to R): Jesler Molina, outgoing President of UIMF, Rex Linder, and Seth Gordon during the session to discuss the draft of the final document of the WOMC

Drafting the document began by gathering the submitted papers of conference participants and recruiting recommendations and suggestions from them on their expectations of the final document. To ensure maximum accuracy and efficiency, our team divided the different panels between each of our members and studied the information collected before collaborating to prepare the initial draft of the document before the conference had begun. During the conference, each team member was assigned different sessions to attend, in order to make certain that all of the additional thoughts and ideas outlined by presenters would be incorporated into the developing draft of the document. As a result, we distributed and presented the first rough draft of the final document to all conference participants in a plenary session at the end of the conference activities on October 8, 2015.

For the month or so that followed the conference, we worked very diligently compiling notes and developing the various drafts of the document. In all, we sent out variants of the document to every conference participants three times. Each time the participant were given approximately one week to study it and to make suggestions concerning necessary changes to the: language used, to add new ideas, and recommendations, etc. We are so grateful to the many conference participants who actively corresponded with us regarding the document’s content and offered helpful and important suggestions. Mia Rowan, from the Mountain Partnership Secretariat, and Dr. Jed Shilling, from the Mountain Institute, were among our major contributors; and from whom we learned how to work on an official document of this caliber. It took close to a month and a half before the final version of the document was adopted by conference participants. That moment was the day of the approval of the document, which was the December 1, 2015. The final document was submitted to the Mountain Partnership Secretariat for further use and distribution among all interested stakeholders around the world. The Final Document is available at the WOMC 2015 web-site:   http://www.womenofthemountains.org/images/2015/15-12-02-WOMC-FINALIZED.pdf

As students of UVU’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences (Seth-Philosophy and Rex-Political Science), we found that our education had definitely provided us with the necessary tools and prepared us for such a task. It was an amazing experience being in correspondence with the various participants in the conference, receiving suggestions and constructive criticism in order to accurately portray all of the presenter’s work and the overarching, critical messages of the conference. Our involvement in this conference provided us with invaluable real world experience and skills which include knowledge of bureaucratic processes, working in a team setting, and drafting a professional document, to name a few. We are glad that we were able to finish the job we started, seeing it through to its successful end. We are very proud of the level of quality we were able to achieve in this document, which was quite a challenging task for us; requiring a lot of time and dedication, while still juggling our regular school assignments and work responsibilities. The skills we gained here will undoubtedly assist us in our future endeavors.

We thank everyone that participated and contributed to the success of the conference.

Seth Gordon and Rex Linder, members of the 2015 WOMC Secretariat

Students engaged learning at Utah Valley University by hosting the International Women of the Mountains Conference

Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, Dr. Rusty Butler, Dr. David Connelly

Utah Valley University (UVU) will hold the Fourth International Women of the Mountains Conference (2015 WOMC) on October 7-9, 2015. UVU traditionally co-hosts the WOMC with the International University of Kyrgyzstan as a gathering to advocate gender and sustainable mountain development (SMD) agendas under the auspice of the Mountain Partnership (MP) under the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO-UN). MP is a United Nations voluntary alliance of partners dedicated to improving the lives of mountain people and protecting mountain environments around the world. (For more information, see: http://www.mountainpartnership.org/)

One main feature of all WOMCs is their focus on raising awareness about the importance of gender and sustainable mountain development agendas of the United Nations throughout local communities in the state of Utah and the Rocky Mountains region as well as their contribution to the efforts of the MP on a global level. Another important goal of the WOMC is to continue traditions of gender advocacy established by international communities during the Celebrating Mountain Women conference in Bhutan in 2002 (part of the commemoration of the United Nations International Year of Mountains.)

WOM 2007 Poster
WOM 2007 Poster

WOM 2007 Display Poster
WOM 2007 Display Poster

The First WOMC hosted in Orem UT in 2007 gathered representatives from almost all the Rocky Mountain States and emphasized the importance of regional cooperation in contributing to gender and SMD advocacy globally. The Second WOMC hosted again in Orem, UT in 2011, continued the tradition of the previous gathering and at the same time helped to expand a network of the Mountain Partnership members in North America. As one of the results of the 2011 conference, the Mountain Partnership secretariat created a North American regional hub in Colorado State under the auspice of Aspen International Mountain Foundation and Telluride Institute.

2011 WOMC Poster
WOM 2011 Poster

WOM 2011 Display Poster
WOM 2011 Display Poster

The Third WOMC held in Puno, Peru in 2012 was the first gathering held outside of the state of Utah, implementing the decisions of the Orem Declaration of Mountain Women (the final document of the 2007 WOMC) to alternate the location of the conference between the State of Utah and mountain nations around the world.

WOM 2012 Poster
WOM 2012 Poster

WOM 2012 Display Poster
WOM 2012 Display Poster

WOMC is a grass-roots initiative which unites officials from different international organizations, led by the United Nations, the World Bank, diplomats, scholars and leaders of NGOs, educators, students and local community representatives. Their goal is to network, socialize and discuss joint initiatives and projects with a focus on engagement in global gender and SMD advocacy mountain communities from North America.What should we expect from the coming Fourth International Women of the Mountains conference on October 7-9, 2015?

Display Posters from previous conferences

This conference will be hosted for the first time by students from the State of Utah. In 2011, Utah Valley University students created the Utah International Mountain Forum, a coalition of several student clubs with a focus on SMD promotion in their state and in the region (www.utahimf.org)They already have several achievements in that area:

  • UVU students contributed research to the Report on SMD in North America, prepared by the Mountain Partnership for the landmark United Nations RIO+20 conference in Brazil in 2012.
  • They were able to raise funds to send representative to the RIO+20 conference and to participate at the Third Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership as a side event there.
  • Two UVU student contributed to the agenda of the Fourth Global Meeting of the MP in 2013 which developed strategies for SMD advocacies by MP members in 2014-2017.
  • They advocated for the inclusion of mountain indicators among Sustainable Development Goals during sessions of several United Nations Open Working Groups in 2013-2014.
  • Since 2010, they made a tradition to commemorate the United Nations International Mountain Day on December 1.
  • Since 2011 they host an annual essay-contest on different SMD aspects among high schools in the state of Utah as a tool to foster new leaders for future SMD programs.

The student led initiative to host 2015 WOMC is based on UVU’s engaged learning approach which is “….in the spirit of the Carnegie Foundation designation, designed to help realize the two engagement categories that UVU has achieved:

  1. Curricular Engagement (Curricular Engagement describes the teaching, learning, and scholarship that engages faculty, students, and community in mutually beneficial and respectful collaboration. Their interactions address community identified needs, deepen students’ civic and academic learning, enhance community well-being, and enrich the scholarship of the 2015 Carnegie Elective Community;
  2. Outreach and Partnerships (Outreach and Partnerships describe two different but related approaches to community engagement. The first focuses on the application and provision of institutional resources for community use with benefits to both campus and community. The latter focuses on collaborative interactions with community and related scholarship for the mutually beneficial exchange, exploration, and application of knowledge, information, and resources (research, capacity building, economic development, etc.) (http://www.uvu.edu/gel/about/index.html)

During preparations for the conference, UVU students were able to expand their coalition by including in their organizing committee community organizers from Salt Lake City, Utah County and their peers from the University of Utah and Brigham Young University, among others. Many of them are learning very important skills of managing logistics, protocol, and raising funds for the conference.

The organizing committee represents students from diverse ethnic backgrounds. Many of them combine a membership in the organizing committee with their university study, full-time jobs and taking care of their own families.If you are interested in supporting them or wish to contribute to the conference and be a part of supporting student’s engaged learning experience at UVU, see for more details at: http://womenofthemountains.org/index.php/2015-utah-usa.

For additional questions please contact the following members of the organizing committee:

Deann Torsak, Executive Secretary of the Conference by: dktorsak@hotmail.com;

Tony Medina, VP for Logistics and Protocol by: tony.h.medina@gmail.com;

Jennifer Starley, Press-Secretary and Fundraising by: jstarley@hotmail.com;

Yanko Dzhukev, Social Media coordinator by: dzhukev@yahoo.com;

Kamaile Harris, Salt Lake City Liaison by: kamailet@yahoo.com;

Carlos Alarco, Liaison at University of Utah by: carlos.alarco@utah.edu;

Mary Cisneros, Economic Panel Moderator by: marycisneros1womc@gmail.com;

Kiersten Palmer, Business Fair Coordinator by: KPalmer@uvu.edu;

Parker Nielsen, Head of Protocol by: nielsenparker@gmail.com;

If you are interested in receiving the weekly WOMC newsletter, please contact Gabrielle Williamson, media specialist by GabrielleW@uvu.edu;

Dr.Baktybek Abdrisaev, was Ambassador of the Kyrgyz Republic to the U.S. and Canada (1997-2005), now Distinguished Visiting Professor of History and Political Science at Utah Valley University and an Advisor to UIMF, Dr. Rusty Butler, Associate Vice-President, International Affairs and Diplomacy and focal point (coordinator) for the Mountain Partnership at UVU, and Dr. David Connelly, Chair, Department of History and Political Science, UVU, and Editor-in-Chief of the “Youth and the Mountains” journal, published by UVU.

UVU Delegation participates in Open Working Group Meeting on Sustainable Development Goals at the United Nations

 

A Delegation from Utah Valley University (UVU) as a part of established tradition visited the United Nations, in New York during December 9-11, 2013. It participated in the Sixth session of the Open Working Group Meeting on Sustainable Development Goals, under the accreditation of the mission of Hungary at the United Nations, one of the Co-Chairs of the meeting, the other being Kenya. The members of the delegation included Dr. Rusty Butler (Associate Vice President International Affairs and Diplomacy at UVU), Dr. Brian Birch (Associate Vice President – Engaged Learning at UVU), Carlos Alarco (Educational Technologist and representative of UIMF (Utah International Mountain Forum), a coalition of student clubs at UVU) and Jesler Molina (International Student Council Chair, Model UN President at UVU, and representative of UIMF).

During the 3 days the delegation heard informative and insightful opinions by delegates from across the globe, as well as numerous civil society groups, all working together to come up with targets and goals that would comprise the Sustainable Development Goals for the post 2015 agenda. The meetings held during these 5 days were critical as it allowed delegates to voice ideas and concerns into what these goals should include. The four main themes were discussed: Means of Implementation, Global partnership, Countries in special situations, and Human Rights (including right to development and global governance).

UN1301Open Working Group session on Sustainable Development Goals

The first day’s discussion focused on the importance of means of implementation for sustainable development. Science, Technology and Innovation are seen as drivers of social and economic development. Another important theme discussed was about how ODA (Official Development Assistance) remains an essential source of financing, especially for LDCs (Least Developed Countries), and that more needs to be done to make sure this type of funding increases instead of decreases, which had been happening recently. South-South and triangular cooperation are growing around the world, especially as a supplement to North-South cooperation. While a technology divide still exists between developed and developing countries and more needs to be done to bridge this divide, any solution needs to include women. Technology transfer is important to LDCs not only as a means to acquire sustainable technologies, but also as an opportunity to include capacity development, local productive capability, and supportive institutions. As a result, when a  technology bank for LDCs (least Developed Countries) as well as a technology facilitation mechanism were proposed, both initiatives received wide support among the audience. The importance of a rule-based, multilateral, trade system to benefit all countries would help LDCs move towards sustainable development.

The second day of the discussion focused on Global Partnerships and the involvement of the private sector in developing nations in order to achieve sustainable development goals. One of the speakers that day was Paul Polman (CEO Unilever), and his presentation outlined the importance of private corporations in any development plan and implementation.  In Mr. Polman’s opinion, state and international organizations, like the U.N, need to work with the private companies because they have the resources but not enough manpower to do practical tasks that sustainable development require. Partnerships need not involve many companies, only few of them are necessary to push for ideas that help or change the world. In his view, it is enough to have companies that can be held accountable and commit themselves to any collaborative project. He gave the example that 2 million children die each year because they do not have access to soap to wash their hand. Unilever produces soap, and other sanitary products, but not the training to show children how to wash their hands properly. Partnering with State entities and NGOs can prove beneficial in these instances as they help to advance the development goals and of course their business. However, it is not easy to talk about sustainability with the private sector, due to the fact that new technologies can initially be expensive, but here the private sector has an opportunity to make a significant impact on developing communities and push for a change in culture. The U.N can set a moral framework that can hold all actors accountable to it. This was echoed during the rest of the discussion when other participants emphasized that private sector should be part of the solution and that the contribution of the private sector can be enhanced with better governance and regulation. There is the potential to expand multi-stakeholder partnerships in the support of specific goals and that governments play a key role in creating enabling environments for these partnerships. Later during that day the UVU delegation had the opportunity to discuss the situation in Africa in relation to LDCs, LLDCs and DCs during the lunch with the Ambassador of the Republic of Botswana Charles T. Ntwaagae and the Deputy Permanent Representative Nkoloi Nkoloi.

On the third day, the discussion was focused on Countries in Special Situations, which included LDCs (Least Developed Countries), LLDCs (Land Locked Developing Countries) and SIDS (Small Island Developing States) and the means these groups have to be provided for Sustainable Development. During the Co-chairs’ meeting with representatives of Major Groups and other stakeholders, the UVU delegation contributed to the discussion on the day’s topic. Jesler Molina made an official statement on behalf of UVU. In his speech, Jesler as a practical measure called for intergovernmental collaboration to facilitate LLDC countries access to the sea and water channels through a comprehensive taxation program for their products, allowing them to have access to the international markets and helping them to improve their economy. He also recommended the group to review the LDC standard and to provide a middle ground for graduate LDC and non-graduate LDC countries, where the economies are fragile and could be put in serious danger at any time.

un1302smJesler Molina makes his statement to the committee ( Statement to U.N )

Jesler Molina and Dr. Rusty Butler also attended a special lunch hosted by the mission of Argentina to the United Nations on December 11, 2013 dedicated to the International Mountain Day celebration. As a part of the gathering a special publication commemorating International Year of Family Farming, which will be the theme for 2014, was presented to the audience. During the event UVU delegation had an opportunity to meet with representatives of international organizations, including Rosalaura Romeo, Mountain Partnership Secretariat Programme Officer and envoys from such mountain countries, as the Permanent Representative of Peru to the United Nations, Gustavo Meza-Cuadra Velásquez, the Permanent Representative of Spain to the United Nations Fernando Arias González, the Permanent Representative of the Kyrgyz Republic to the United Nations, H.E. Talaibek Kydyrov,  and the Permanent Representative of Morocco to the United Nations Ahmed Snoussi. At the end, the UVU delegation extended an invitation to the Permanent Representative of Argentina to the United Nations María Cristina Perceval to visit Utah Valley University as a part of the International Affairs and Diplomacy program.

The UVU delegation also met with Joseph McCain, a member of UIMF currently serving an internship with the Kyrgyz Mission to the United Nations.

un1303smJoseph McCain, Jesler Molina, and Carlos Alarco,
UIMF representatives at the United Nations

The trip was a resounding success as the UVU delegation was able to interact with Ambassadors and representatives from many nations and had an opportunity to share before the U.N. audience and officials UVU experiences in promoting sustainable development agenda with particular focus on mountain cause. The delegation expects that there will be many more opportunities for future interaction with UN missions, the UN and other NGOs.

Hungary-2014-UN-Ambassador-letter-to-UVU

Carlos Alarco and Jesler Molina, representatives of UIMF