Ninth International Mountain Day Celebration at Utah Valley University

On December 5, 2018, the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF) hosted the Ninth International Mountain Day (IMD) event at Utah Valley University (UVU). This was an opportunity for UIMF to highlight the achievements of students, faculty, and the community in promotion of mountain targets within the year of 2018. These people were recognized with an official certificate from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN). This year’s event ran along with the theme of #MountainsMatter. During the event four guest speakers shared on the importance of mountains and what they had accomplished within the past year. The audience also heard from UIMF President Mr. Samuel Elzinga, who spoke first.

Samuel Elzinga speaks before the audience

Mr. Elzinga started by talking about all of the achievement that UIMF was able to accomplish in 2018. One of these being the opportunity that Mr. Elzinga himself and two other UVU students had to speak for three minutes at the High Level Political Forum on sustainable development in July 19, 2018 on advocacy for mountain targets. He then spoke about all of the foreign dignitaries that UIMF was able to co-host in coordination the UVU Office of Global Engagement. He referenced the Permanent Representative of Tajikistan to UN, His Excellency Mahmadamin Mahmadaminov, who visited UVU earlier in the year. Guest from Tajikistan then famously said that “if the mountains go, everything else will go to.” Mr. Elzinga also announced his recent invitation from the Permanent Mission of the Kyrgyz Republic to speak at the UN on December 11 in New York City in commemoration of the International Mountain Day. He will be attending with Mr. Andrew Jensen, who also spoke at the HLPF in July and is a student at UVU. After Mr. Elzinga’s presentation, Ms. Megan Davis presented him with an official certificate from the FAO-UN commending his advocacy for mountain targets in 2018. After this, a video clip was played of the three students speaking at the HLPF.

Dr. Baldomero Lago speaks before the audience

Mr. Andrew Jensen, a student at UVU and President of the Model UN Club, introduced the next guest speaker, Dr. Baldomero Lago. Dr. Lago is the CIO/Vice-Rector for Global Engagement at UVU. He plays the key role in bringing the United Nations DPI conference in August to Utah, which UVU will co-host with the Salt Lake City. Dr. Lago spoke about the conference that will be coming to Utah next August and how it came to be. He also spoke a great deal on the UVU student’s involvement in all of these activities. Without student engaged learning, none of this would be possible. Dr. Lago emphasized that students are the future and will pick up everything that is happening now. So being involved at such a high level now will result in great progress when students in the audience will graduate and start to take over. Finally, Dr. Lago spoke on how popular Utah is becoming at the United Nations. He answered questions for hours during a teleconference discussing details of the UN DPI conference coming to Utah. He read a letter of invitation to Mr. Mastrojeni and the Mountain Partnership to be part of the side event on mountains during the next year conference. After his presentation, Dr. Lago was presented with a gift on behalf of the UIMF and a FAO certificate presented by Ms. Megan Davis, for his contributions to the 2018 International Mountain Day campaign.

Mayor Richard Brunst speaks before the audience

Mr. Michael Hinatsu, who is studying political science at UVU and is a member of UIMF, introduced the Mayor of Orem City, Mr. Richard Brunst. Mayor Brunst’s presentation focused on why mountains matter. He gave examples of how almost everything we have either comes from mountains or is connected to them. He advocated for the protection of mountains, especially for water, lumber, and clear air. Finally, he commended UIMF and UVU for the progress made in 2018 and committed Orem to helping in UIMF goals and in the future. Mayor Brunst also received a gift from UIMF and was presented with a FAO-UN certificate from Ms. Megan Davis.

Mr. Joseph Lloyd, Vice President of UIMF and student at UVU, introduced the next speaker at the event, Dr. Ross Butler. Dr. Butler is the main representative at the United Nations for the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences (RANS). RANS is an NGO in general consultative status under ECOSOC since 2002. Dr. Butler discussed the importance of NGO involvement at the United Nations. He also recognized the role that students have in working with his NGO, RANS. He addressed the example of letting the three students speak at the High Level Political Forum in August, instead of himself. He mirrored some of Dr. Lagos’s points about youth involvement. He stressed how important it was to allow the youth to be able to participate and have a voice on issues that matter. He stated that himself and RANS would continue to work with the students at UVU, in particular UIMF, to bring them to the UN and give them a chance to have their voices heard. Dr. Butler was also presented with a gift from UIMF and an official certificate from the FAO-UN, recognizing his contribution to the 2018 International Mountain Day campaign and advocating for mountain targets.

Ms. Hannah Bieker, a member of UIMF who is studying national security at UVU introduced the fourth speaker, Ms. Wendy Jyang, the President of the Utah China Friendship Improvement Sharing Hands Development and Commerce. Her organization was granted the special consultative status of NGO with ECOSOC in 2015. Mrs. Jyang focused on the family as a factor in lifting people out of poverty. She also used the power of education as a salient factor in doing this. Her organization takes people from all over the world, provides them the opportunity to come to the US to pursue higher education and teaches them the importance of family. Mrs. Jyang shared stories from her experiences and had pictures to go along with them. Her NGO, along with RANS, played a key role in UIMF advocacy at the UN in 2018. Mrs. Jyang received a gift on behalf of UIMF and an official certificate from the FAO-UN, presented by Ms. Megan Davis.

The final guest speaker to present was Ms. Rebecca Bindraban, a current student at UVU and vice president in UIMF. She is also the editor-in-chief of the Youth and the Mountains journal, an on-campus journal that highlights students’ work on sustainable mountain development topics. Ms. Bindraban gave a brief presentation on this year’s journal issue and presented journal copies to William Crist and Derk Horlacher, student authors in the issue. Ms. Megan Davis presented Ms. Bindraban and both authors with official FAO-UN certificates for their contributions to mountain target advocacy.

After the guest speakers presented, the event moved to presenting certificates to students and faculty at UVU that advocated for mountain targets and causes in 2018. The ceremony was started with those who participated and helped with the 62nd Session on the Commission on the Status of Women at the UN. All of these people received official certificates from the FAO-UN. Next, certificates were presented to faculty and staff who contributed to the mountain agenda. The first in the list was Dr. Alexander Stecker, who was faculty at UVU and one of the main organizers of the first Women of the Mountains Conference in 2007. His contribution to the advocacy of mountain sustainability was recognized through the Honorary Professorship at the International University of Kyrgyzstan. After Dr. Stecker received his certificate, the rest of the faculty who contributed were given certificates as well. Finally, the event was ended with the presentation of FAO-UN certificates to students who contributed to the mountain sustainability targets.

UVU faculty and students during IMD 2018

This year’s International Mountain Day was a great success. This was my first time organizing an event like this and it was a great learning experience. This event did a great job of honoring all of those who contributed this year and can be used a springboard into next year, which will also be a fantastic year for UVU, UIMF, and the sustainable mountain development goals. The focus of UIMF will be on advocacy of mountain targets at UN forums in New York City and during the UN NGO conference in Salt Lake City in August 2019.

Hagen Isaackson, member, UIMF


Photos of the IMD2018 celebration at UVU


Letter of invitation to Mr. Mastrojeni and the Mountain Partnership  




Task List – International Mountain Day 2018


An announcement about IMD Celebration at UVU



Michael Hinatsu – Reflections on UIMF Celebration of International Mountain Day


Mark Driggs-UIMF and IMD A Celebration and Reminder of Why Mountains Matter



UIMF Continues to Discuss Online Zero Draft Outcome Document for CSW63 (Part 3)

On November 29 at 10:00am, Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU), participated in a third conference call session led by the NGO Commission on the Status of Women, New York (NGO CSW/NY). This session was the continuation of a session held on November 16th, 2018, in which a number of civil society participants from around the world, led by Winifred Doherty, Main NGO Representative to the United Nations (UN), and Jourdan Williams, Youth Representative to the UN for the International Health Awareness Network, gathered via video call to discuss topics, concerns, and groups of people that will be included in the Zero Draft Outcome Document of CSW63 (see The November 29th session continued in-depth contributions by the participants with a focus on the topics of human rights and access to justice.

The duration of this session consisted of presentations by interns and representatives affiliated with NGO CSW/NY on a number of topics relating to human rights and access to justice. These topics were outlined in a number of papers presented at an Expert Group Meeting held by NGO CSW/NY in September, and dealt with how human rights and justice are related to the priority theme of CSW63 (social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls).  The presentation also discussed the need to make the CSW63 priority them as inclusive and comprehensive as possible, especially for groups not normally considered in related agreements and work. A number of presenters also focused on the role of education to empower women in relation to the CSW63 priority theme.

Because much of the session’s time was taken up by such presentations, other participants along with UIMF were not able to bring up further additions to the Zero Draft, nor voice additional concerns. However, UIMF was able to further contribute to the Zero Draft in a positive way by adding more references to UN official documents and high-level agreements that focus on mountainous areas and mountain families, women, and girls. UIMF specifically added language to sections of the Zero Draft on climate change and sustainable infrastructure, further adding the influence of UIMF’s advocacy for mountain women and sustainable mountain development in this important draft document. Via messaging, UIMF was able to direct the attention of session moderators to UIMF’s additions, which were relevant to the topics addressed by the NGO CSW/NY interns regarding education and marginalized groups of women.

Overall, this session was an additional important step in bringing mountain women into the focus of high-level forums and for implementing the mountain targets into the 2030 Development agenda. UIMF’s contributions to this draft document continue to increase and provide a necessary component of the future Zero Draft. Additionally, UIMF will continue to build bridges of cooperation with other participants who have similar concerns about empowering women and advocating for often-ignored groups of women, particularly through education. UIMF will continue to attend subsequent sessions to contribute to the Zero Draft, which will be crucial in making sure that mountain women are included in the negotiations for both the agreed conclusions of CSW63 and global sustainability efforts.

UIMF continues to prepare for CSW63 by lobbying the UN Secretary-General, President of ECOSOC, and 46 member states who gave Voluntary National Reviews at the 2018 High-Level Political Forum on sustainable development. UIMF also will be focusing efforts on 14 of those member states who are also members of the Mountain Partnership. Furthermore, UIMF is pleased to announce positive feedback and encouragement from the permanent missions of Malta and Australia to the UN, in response to letters sent on October 29 describing UIMF’s concern about the lack of transparency in negotiations of final documents for CSW and ECOSOC forums by member states, as well as the lack of implementation of mountain women and girls into the global sustainability agenda.

Michael Hinatsu, UIMF member

UVU Hosts UN DPI Director of Outreach Division, Mr. Maher Nasser

The Utah Valley University (UVU) Office for Global Engagement hosted Mr. Maher Nasser, the Director of the Outreach Division in the United Nations (UN) Department of Public Information (DPI) on November 28, 2018. Mr. Nasser visited UVU after taking part in the press-conference a day before together with Mayor of Salt Lake City Mrs. Jackie Biskupski to announce about Salt Lake City with UVU hosting the 68th UN DPI/ NGO Conference to be held in Salt Lake City 2019. The conference next year will bring together thousands of civil society members from NGOs and other groups around the world to discuss the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Mr. Maher Nasser speaks at UVU 

While promoting the conference, Mr. Nasser spoke on the need for multilateralism and why achieving the SDGs is a collective responsibility. In his presentation, Mr. Nasser advocated for working with the UN at local, regional, national, and international levels to implement the SDGs and foster international cooperation.

Mr. Nasser began by addressing misconceptions about the UN, stating that while the UN is a collection of diplomats and international organizations, the issues that it addresses cut across all borders and affect the global population. In arguing why multiculturalism matters, Mr. Nasser said that all aspects of life are touched in some way by a part of the UN, and that the most important global issues cannot be solved without the UN. In describing the pillars of UN work—peace and security, development, and human rights—he mentioned terrorism, organized crime, disease, , human rights, natural disasters, and climate change in particular as examples of interrelated issues that cannot be solved without the UN and multilateralism.

Mr. Nasser described how UN organizations have been working with governments, organizations, and other groups to coordinate a global response to such issues, highlighting the work of the World Food Programme (WFP), which assists nearly 92 million people each year with food and nutritional issues, and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), which has provided vaccinations to 45% of the world’s children. Mr. Nasser noted that many UN successes go unnoticed or are eclipsed by a few instances of gridlock and reports about the failures of UN endeavors, but that overall, the UN has achieved many successes, citing the adoption of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, formation of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the general improvement of living conditions and avoidance of war because of UN efforts.

Faculty and students during lecture of Mr. Nasser at UVU

Mr. Nasser also described one of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ main priorities, to mitigate the effects of climate change and reduce mankind’s impact on the environment, adding that the world must do more in this regard. Mr. Nasser also emphasized the Secretary General’s priority to reform UN processes and to realize the interconnectedness of global issues and the importance of multilateralism.

On the SDGs, Mr. Nasser said that the goals are not simply UN development goals, but are really the goals of individuals, given the nearly 10 million people who contributed to the 17 goals and 169 targets’ language. In saying this, Mr. Nasser stressed that people, organizations, and governments should view the goals in this way, noting both the importance of local action and global coordination by the UN. Mr. Nasser specifically urged young people to take ownership of their futures and unitedly face global issues related to the world population, climate change, and food access. Mr. Nasser also called upon civil society in general to push politicians to be true to multilateral commitments, emphasizing that such action is about working for the good of the future, not about political goals or simple awareness.

In a brief question and answer period, Mr. Nasser again addressed climate change, noting that he finds it difficult to measure which country has done the most to respond to climate change, but that a measurement of success should go beyond specific countries and focus on coordination and effective solutions. Mr. Nasser cited a New York Times article about deforestation cause by the US palm oil biofuel mandate to show how responding to climate change should be comprehensive and reliant on multilateral decision making. Mr. Nasser also discussed how the UN works to promote human rights and give aid in the midst of opposition, describing the way that the UN has worked to shrink the deficit in funding to Palestinians.

Overall, Mr. Nasser’s visit constituted a timely discussion of the role and efficacy of the UN. Clearly, global issues require global responses and international-level work, and, as Mr. Nasser mentioned, the UN is the recognized, legitimate body in the eyes of nations that can coordinate and drive such efforts. While a discussion about the UN’s successes and failures, as well as the strengths, weaknesses, and necessary reforms of the organization should not be ignored—especially given current geopolitical issues, transnational conflicts, and the current state of poverty and hunger—civil society, politicians, and other groups should also pragmatically consider how to work multilaterally to achieving solutions to global issues, especially the critical ones described in the SDGs, so that the benefits of globalization are extended more effectively and comprehensively.

Full video of Mr. Nasser’s presentation is available here.

Group photo of UVU faculty, students and Orem Rotary members with  Mr. Maher Nasser

Mr. Nasser’s visit also provided an important opportunity for students and members of the Utah International Mountain Forum, a coalition of student clubs at UVU, to interact with dignitaries at both UN and local levels. It helped in their professional advancement and to make connections with influential officials to not only promote the UVU engaged learning model but also the specific issues UIMF advocates for. Sam Elzinga, UIMF President, Kyle Warren, Vice President, UVU Rotaract and myself were also invited to a luncheon in honor of Mr. Nasser with UVU faculty, and members of the Orem Rotary Club  in attendance. Personally, I was able to speak directly with Mr. Nasser to explain UIMF efforts to prepare for the 63rd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, highlighting UIMF’s written statement as well as advocacy of mountain women with permanent missions. Additionally, UIMF members and I introduced ourselves to members of the Orem Rotary, which will play an important role in the UN Conference next year as part of Rotary International. Rotary International is a respected globally institution, which is registered as a non-governmental organization under the UN Economic and Social Council since 1993. We had conversations with a number of Orem Rotary Club members about the mission of UIMF and the importance of local cooperation with implementing the UN sustainable mountain development agenda in Utah and the UN. From our interactions, it was clear that local action is highly effective at bringing high-level leaders such as Mr. Nasser to work with local causes, but also to advocate for global issues and more effectively have important voices heard.

Michael Hinatsu, UIMF member


Deseret News about UN Conference




Laila Mitchell                             Hagen Isaacson

Brandon Pedler                        Nathan Wagstaff

Steven Thompson                   Cassandra Klindt

Kyle Williams                                    Megan Davis

Aldon Trimble                                       Cory Levin

Jesse Sandstrom                              Reagan High

Paige Graves                                             Taylor Bell

Joseph Lloyd                                         Mary Nelson

You’re Going Where? A Brief Adventure Journal With Western Fly Fishermen

We Ttraveled, with fly rods in hand, to an obscure land in search of pristine rivers, Sevan Trout and Fishermen.

For years, the “Stans” have been loosely placed on the list of destinations “I’d like to visit before I die.”  But those lands moved to the forefront when my mom overheard my dad and I discussing the location, geography, climate and seemingly endless pristine rivers of a little and almost forgotten Central Asian country. The conversation quickly progressed to the idea of bringing western fly fishermen to Kyrgyzstan to help the local economy grow through a success model of sustainable, fly fishing tourism.

My mom, Marcia Barlow, quickly connected the dots between Kyrgyzstan (one of the mountain nations in transition to build a market economy and open society), Utah Valley University’s Utah International Mountain Forum – UIMF (a coalition of student clubs with whom she advocates for mountain women at the United Nations Economic and Social Council), and our concept of sustainable-fisheries management coupled with fly fishing tourism.

In less than one month, my partner and I found ourselves sitting in an office with a UVU team discussing ways we can work with a Mountain Partnership, which advocates a SMD agenda globally, to bring sustainable economic growth and destination-fly-fishing tourism to the mountain people of Kyrgyzstan.  After an hour and half of chatting, we concluded we needed to travel to the pristine mountains and rivers of that land to find the fish.

Four months later, in October 3-15, 2018, with a team of photographers/ videographers/fishermen, Sam Woods, Zach Heath and I stepped off an airplane in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan with fly rods, camera gear and a healthy anticipation for adventure.

Our first stop was the Suusamyr River.  It had everything we had hoped for, clean coldwater, fast runs, deep holes, acceptable sub-straight to sustain the abundant insect life necessary to prop up a healthy trout population.  With no history of industry or significant mining in the area, this drainage was high on our list of potentials. We spent an entire day combing the runs, using multiple different fly fishing techniques, only to find a few trout. This would become the common thread; pristine rivers filled with life giving food for trout and very small to non-existent fish populations.

As we traveled the countryside the people became more welcoming and more interested in spending time getting to know us and learn about where we came from.  Everywhere we went the locals were trying to take us home to learn about the strange Americans they found on the road or in hopes of giving us a glimpse into their life.

We had the opportunity to share tea and spent the night with a young family and their friends in Toluk. On the upper reaches of the Suusamyr/Kokomeren river drainages we broke bread with a nomad family in their yurt – after we helped them to break down their summer camp before winter set in.  The people of the Kyrgyzstan are probably the most gentle and welcoming people I’ve met.

Hungry to find more trout, we inquired of anybody that would listen.  Following a lead from the Dedushka at the homestay, we loaded up for an 80-km-round-trip excursion up a tributary to the Suusamyr River.  As we prospected dozens of likely spots, it became obvious that fish counts were extremely low and that seine netting* was probably the cause. We had traveled to a half a dozen other rivers and found a similar situation; spectacular water, prolific insect hatches, very limited numbers of beautiful trout and discarded seine nets.

The Opportunity                  

One thing was clear, if the fish in Kyrgyzstan were allowed a chance to live and grow unmolested in rivers and lakes, a world-class fishery could quickly evolve.  There are few places on the planet that offer the abundance of healthy rivers and streams that Kyrgyzstan offers.  These simple facts, combined with fly fishing’s ethic of “catch and release,” could be a winning combination for the mountain populations of Kyrgyzstan.  The economics of world-class fly fishing tourism can be summarized like this:  “A large trout is worth far more to the local population in the water than on a dinner plate.”

As the world searches for that last untouched, authentically natural place on this earth, we conclude it may be that ancient, majestic land and culture now known as Kyrgyzstan.  It is our commitment to be a part of assisting the Kyrgyz people in welcoming the world, while preserving and enhancing all of its natural resources.  To this end, we view fly fishing tourism as a sustainable, regenerative, profitable opportunity for the mountain people of Kyrgyzstan.


*Seine fishing (or seine-haul fishing) is a method of fishing that employs a fishing net that hangs vertically in the water with its bottom edge held down by weights and its top edge buoyed by floats. Seine nets can be deployed from the shore as a beach seine, or from a boat.

Taylor Barlow, Co-Founder, Mondo Fly Fishing,

UIMF Addressed Sustainable Development Issues of Indigenous Sovereign Nations in the State of Utah

The Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU) hosted an event with UVU students who belong to indigenous sovereign nations on Wednesday, November 14, 2018. This was a part of their outreach efforts to promote sustainable mountain development agenda of the UN in the State of Utah and among diverse members of local communities in particular.

Panel on sustainable development and Indigenous People in Utah

The UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues warns recently that “The 2030 Agenda…involves serious risks for Indigenous Peoples, such as clean energy projects that encroach on their lands and territories. To avoid negative impacts, the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals needs to take place in conformity with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. . . . It is also important that programs to implement the 2030 Agenda are culturally sensitive and respect Indigenous Peoples’ self-determination as well as collective rights in terms of land, health, education, culture, and ways of living.”

Taking into account efforts of the United Nations to include Indigenous People in the UN 2030 Development Agenda, the UIMF invited a panel of students to highlight the economic sustainability issues for Native Americans in the State of Utah and how they are impacted by complicated international relationships between the United States and Indians. UVU students Jacob Crane, Chase Hobson, and Jaclyn Booth were asked to be on the Indigenous Sovereign Nations panel. Professor Jansen, who teaches Native American Studies at UVU, joined them at the panel as well.

Outreach was established as an important initiative of the UIMF early this semester. The reason outreach is an important part of the UIMF’s agenda is because engaging the student body, foreign themed clubs, and local community is important to the UIMF’s leadership. As the UIMF grows, it seeks more opportunities to network with clubs that have similar interests. With hope this will be the first of many events with specific focus on contribution and involvement of Native American communities in the implementation of the UN 2030 Development Agenda.

United States may have its most complex relationship with indigenous sovereign tribes. Hundreds of years before the US was established, England had acknowledged “Indians” as a sovereign entity. Over time and in part due to western expansion, Indians have found themselves in a difficult position. Primarily, Indians are having a hard time creating economic sustainability. Jacob Crane, Chase Hobson, and Jaclyn Booth (panel members) concluded that part of the problem is that over time the US hasn’t honored treaties made with Indians throughout the centuries. This has isolated indigenous people from being able to control their own development and has caused stagnation.

Jacob Crane speaks during panel

For instance, Jacob Crane studies Business Management. He lives on a reservation near Calgary in Alberta, Canada. Crane’s passion is learning how to start businesses on reservations, but in his words, “its hard to find seed money,” and “there are grants but it’s not enough.” To Crane, there are people who can make goods and provide services, but educating locals about business and connecting them to a market can be hard. Jacob wants to focus on marketing to Indians when he said, “I want to make videos,” and linking their products to the internet when he stated a goal to “find a way to link natives to [e-commerce].” Crane seems to be indicating that the reason economic development is not sustainable is because of the lack of access to a market.

Chase Hobson who studies several subjects including economic development at UVU and lives on a trust land in northern California. He found his motivation to help his community after being confronted with serious problems on his reservation. Hobson stated that there is a lack of jobs, “if you don’t work for the government, the tribe, or in the tourism industry then it’s hard to find a job north of minimum wage.” He said that where he is from, “there is a decreasing population with negative four percent growth” and “if you want an education you have to leave.” According to Hobson, in addition to high unemployment, drugs and housing are the reasons that economic development sustainability is a challenge.

Professor Dusty Jansen speaks during panel

Professor Dusty Jansen, who teaches classes regarding Native American Studies at UVU, added “if there are no jobs on the reservation after you have gotten your education, why would you go back?” This is a great point. As Indians become better educated, opportunities back home are absent. This contributes to the dwindling population on reservations, but there are more problems facing Indians. Economic development will certainly be a challenge if there is no population.

Jaclyn Booth speaks during the panel at UVU

Jaclyn Booth is studying deaf studies at UVU, described her life growing up on Navajo reservation, watching other Indian families struggle with addiction, abuse, and poverty. She added to the conversation that, “there are people being raised in abusive households surrounded by drugs; it’s hard to get out of that situation.” Booth explained that her mother had became a psychologist in hopes of learning how to better address these issues facing their community, but as Booth admits, “how can you fix these problems? It takes a long time to overcome substance abuse.” Booth helps us understand the stagnation of economic development. Drugs and physical abuse can be devastating for any community, especially mountainous regions.

Student audience listens to the panel

The Indigenous Sovereign Nations Panel concluded that the long standing complex international relationship with the US has resulted in the difficult position that Indians find themselves in. To Crane, the problem is a lack of funding; Hobson believes that the problem is centered on jobs and education; Professor Jansen finds it hard for Indians to want to return home after obtaining an education because of the lack of jobs there; and Booth sees a long road ahead for Indians facing physical abuse and drug problems.

All of these are problems that are contributing to economic development difficulties. The UIMF has reached out to international students at UVU who face challenges of sustainability in mountainous regions. Jacob Crane, Chase Hobson, Professor Jansen, and Jaclyn Booth shared their experiences on Native American reservations as they relate to economic development sustainability and the complex relationship it has with the US.

Dirk William Gum, member, UIMF


Mark Driggs-UIMF Hosts Indigenous Panel Discussion


UIMF Continues to Discuss Online Zero Draft Outcome Document for CSW63

To further prepare for the 63rd Session of the United Nations (UN) Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63) in 2019, on November 16th, 2018 from 8:30 to 9:30am, UIMF again participated in a conference call session led by the NGO Commission on the Status of Women, New York (NGO CSW/NY). This session was the continuation of a session held on November 2nd, 2018, in which a number of civil society participants from around the world, led by Winifred Doherty, Main NGO Representative to the United Nations, and Jourdan Williams, Youth Representative to the United Nations for the International Health Awareness Network, gathered via video call to discuss topics, concerns, and groups of people that will be included in the Zero Draft Outcome Document of CSW63 (see The November 16th session built off of the previous one and was characterized by more in-depth contributions by the participants, including greater, more specific implementation of language advocating for mountain families, women, and girls in the draft on the part of UIMF.

Winifred Doherty, Main NGO Representative to the United Nations speaks during online session,

The session agenda was more abbreviated that before, partly because the participants were the same as before, but also because more time was needed by them to add language about their individual concerns. In this regard, UIMF was more effective than before in adding specific language about mountain women, about Utah Valley University’s (UVU) student engaged learning model, nontraditional students, and how education can empower students to have both professional advancement and contribute in a meaningful way to the UN 2030 Development agenda, particularly for the advocacy of mountain women and sustainable mountain development.

The working document for the Zero Draft is organized according to topics relevant to the priority theme of CSW63 (see, including topics such as Education, Health, Human Rights, and Infrastructure. Because the working document is an amalgamation of many civil society concerns, it is important for participants such as UIMF to be detailed in proposed concerns and potential language, so that the language will have a better chance of being included in the actual Zero Draft. Equally important is the inclusion of sources that back up proposals, which can be official UN documents, international agreements, scholarly studies or other research, or otherwise.Michael Hinatsu during online session

By providing detailed language and citing important sources such as UN documents, studies, and official statistics, UIMF was much more successful in this session with contributing in a meaningful way to the potential Zero Draft document. As a result of UIMF efforts, the issues that mountain women face, as well as UVU’s engaged learning model and facts concerning nontraditional students, are now integral parts of the working document. In fact, UIMF’s contribution to the Education section constitutes a substantial portion of the proposed language offered by civil society, citing the engaged learning method as well as how UIMF members have used the model to contribute to UN forums on sustainable development. UIMF also was able identify with a civil society participant from Canada, who, like many UIMF coalitions, has been advocating for specific issues regarding education among adult women at the UN level for many years, with no results.

While many of UIMF’s contributions to the first conference call session relating to mountain women were removed afterwards, by providing detailed language and citations in this session, language about the problems faced by mountain families, women, and girls, as well as language advocating UVU’s student engaged learning model and nontraditional students was not only incorporated in the working document, but the leaders of the project stated that such contributions were not only meaningful but necessary to the document. This is a very important step in UIMF’s efforts to get mountain women into the language of the Zero Draft document. Furthermore, UIMF is continuously building relationships with other civil society members, whose concerns intersect with the mission of UIMF, which makes our efforts more relevant and opens up the possibility of better coordination among civil society.

Michael Hinatsu speaks during online session

UIMF will continue to attend subsequent sessions to contribute to the Zero Draft, which will be crucial in making sure that mountain women are included in the negotiations for both the agreed conclusions of CSW63 and global sustainability efforts. Additionally, UIMF is continuing to lobby the UN Secretary-General, President of ECOSOC, and 46 member states who gave Voluntary National Reviews at the 2018 High-Level Political Forum on sustainable development, particularly 14 who are members of the Mountain Partnership, in preparation for CSW63, where UIMF has submitted a written statemen and is planning a parallel event advocating for student engaged learning to advocate for sustainable development, in particular for mountain women and girls.

Michael Hinatsu, member, UIMF


Ambassador of Hungary to the US, Dr. Laszlo Szabo Visited UVU

On November 6, 2018, Dr. Laszlo Szabo, Hungarian Ambassador to the United States, visited Utah Valley University to speak to the students and faculty in attendance about “Hungary and the Geopolitical Importance of Central Europe: What’s in it for the United States?”

Ambassador of Hungary to the United States, Dr. Laszlo Szabo speaks at UVU

After his introduction, Ambassador Szabo briefly explained his background in the pharmaceutical industry and his experience as vice president of fortune 500 company, Eli Lilly, and as the CEO of TEVA Hungary until 2014. To transition into his current role in diplomacy, Szabo joked that he now works in a world where he does twice as much work for a fraction of what he used to earn. From 2014 to 2017, Szabo served as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary, and from 2017 to now has represented as top envoy of Hungary in the United States.

Ambassador Szabo briefly touched on Hungary’s history since its establishment in 896 AD. Because of Hungary’s geographic position, it has been subjected to many great empires throughout time, including the Ottoman Empire and the Soviet Union. Szabo explains that the Hungarian people draw much of their national identity from their years of living under different foreign powers. Ambassador Szabo then spoke on the Hungarian economy and how Hungary currently has the lowest tax rate in Europe. Szabo referenced the global economic crisis and said that Hungary had almost gone bankrupt during this time, and that it has been able to survive due to its early repayment of International Monetary Fund loans and also in part due to its partnerships with several countries throughout the world, including the United States. Mr. Szabo then talked about many of the inventions that have originated from Hungary, ranging from electrical engines to ballpoint pens to the Rubik’s Cube. He explained also that due to Hungary’s inventive capacity, it has become a technological gateway into Europe for the United States. Ambassador Szabo described Hungary’s economic relationship with the United States as a symbiotic one, where Hungary can provide a product and the U.S. can effectively market the invention. From Ambassador Szabo, we learned that there are nearly 1,700 American companies that have centers in Hungary and there is an unseen Hungarian influence in the American entertainment industry, Hollywood, specifically.

Following a presentation that depicted Hungary’s role in Hollywood to help Utah Valley University students find common ground with Hungary, Ambassador Szabo began to dive into Hungary’s geopolitical situations, citing that one of the largest challenges for Hungary is illegal immigration. According to Ambassador Szabo, Hungary deals with approximately 10,000 illegal entrance trials every day. Hungarian official addressed his country’s rich Jewish culture and their good relations with Israel, stating that the current Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, labelled Hungary as “the best country in Europe for the Jewish people.” Ambassador Szabo also spoke about Hungary’s humanitarian efforts to aid Christians that are being persecuted in countries located in the Middle East and North Africa.

Audience during Ambassador Szabos presentation

Ambassador Szabo then opened up for questions. One event attendee asked about Russia’s influence in Hungary’s trade economy and education. In response, the Ambassador said that while it is true that Russia is a large gas supplier for Hungary, Hungary has followed and supported the sanctions against Russia. In regards to education, Szabo stated that Russia did not have any influence in the Hungarian education system, despite being under the U.S.S.R. decades ago. Another attendee asked Ambassador Szabo about the negative depictions on some aspects of life in Hungary, including extremism and state sponsored media. Ambassador Szabo responded to this question by addressing that every country and every political ideology has extremists. The Ambassador Szabo then spoke regarding news agencies by saying that even in the United States, there are news agencies such as Fox or CNN that are partial to a specific political party and that state-sponsored media is not exclusive to Hungary. As Utah Valley University student, I was grateful to Ambassador Szabo for taking the time to visit and provide an inside perspective on the country of Hungary.

Matthew Brady Simon, UVU student  




Laila Mitchell                           Stuart Cannon

Cory Levin                                    Raige Graves

Steven Thompson                  Cody Conklin

Zachary Smith


UIMF Is Preparing for UN-NGO Conference in Salt Lake City in August 2019


On October 27th, 2018 Utah Valley University (UVU) hosted a United Nations (UN) NGO conference for local NGOs to learn about the United Nations (UN), the role of civil society and NGOs in the UN, and what NGOs can do to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Utah and the state at large. This was also a preparatory step for the UN-NGO Conference, which UVU will co-host with Salt Lake City in August 2019.

Conference agenda

UN NGO Director Jeff Brez Addressing the Conference

During the conference the following officials of the UN made a presentation: Mr. Jeff Brez, Director of UN NGO Relations; and Mr. Felipe Queipo, member of UN NGO Relations;  in addition to the Mayor of Salt Lake City, Jackie Biskupski, UVU President Astrid Tuminez, and leaders of NGOs, such as Mr. Ahmad Corbitt, Director of Public Affairs, LDS Charities; Ryan Koch, Director of Public and International Affairs in New York for LDS Charities; and Jennifer Hogge, Executive Director of Engage Now Africa among others.

UVU President Astrid Tuminez Addressing the Conference

As a recognition of the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at UVU contribution in the advocacy of the UN agenda of sustainable mountain development since 2007, I was invited to not only participate on the steering committee for this conference, but also speak at the conference itself.  Megan Davis, Hannah Bieker, Joy Black, Kyle Warren, and Hailee Hodgson, members of UIMF, helped with protocol, logistics and other activities at the conference. The entire process, from planning to execution of the conference, was a valuable experience for all of us. My peers and I were very grateful for the opportunity to represent UVU students at this forum.

Dr. Baldomero Lago, UVU’s chief international officer, tapped me at the beginning of the fall semester to represent UIMF and the Foreign Affairs club at the steering committee. Joining me and Dr. Lago on the steering committee were representatives from a variety of international NGOs based in Utah and Mr. John McIlmoil, one of the co-presidents of the Utah Valley Institute of Religion. The Utah Valley Institute of Religion co-president and I were the only students on the committee, and we ensured student needs were met during the conference. Overall, the planning process gave me many interesting insights to learn how to interact with nonprofits and prominent members of the nonprofit sector. However, the most satisfying part of the conference activities was participating in the conference itself, both as a speaker and as a participant.

Samuel Elzinga Addressing the Conference

I was asked by the steering committee to speak at the conference on the 2030 agenda as it relates to youth. This topic was a great fit for me as I participated and made an oral statement with focus on the implementation of mountain targets during general debates at the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development over the summer this year.  Due to that,  I was able to give a very insightful presentation. I summarized why youth involvement was so important, how youth can get involved by participating in this conference, and what involvement UIMF and the Foreign Affairs Club have participated in. I specifically highlighted UIMF involvement in the UN Open Working Group on the SDGs during 2013-2015, and how Jesler Molina, one of UVU students and my predecessor as UIMF President, advocated then for adoption targets under the SDGs specifically relating to sustainable mountain development. Though I didn’t have any PowerPoints or videos, I felt as though my presentation was engaging for youth and adults alike. I am very grateful for the opportunity I was given to present at this conference alongside officials from the UN. It was definitely a highlight of my semester.

Overall, the conference ran very smoothly, and I am glad everyone worked together to make sure all aspects were attended to prior to and during the conference. I am excited for the big conference this coming August and the opportunity to promote then again the cause of the mountain communities among other issues.

Samuel Elzinga, President, the Utah International Mountain Forum


PHOTOS OF THE CONFERENCE- Copyright of Hailee Hodgson 



   Deseret News           UVU Review 




Hannah Bieker-Working Together Making a Difference during UN Conference at UVU-AB-HB


Joy McKenna Black-Contributing to the Utah Valley University UN NGO Conference


Kyle Warren-Rotaract and 2018 UN NGO Conference


Brandon Pedler-Utah Valley University Hosts UN NGO Conference

UIMF Discusses Online Zero Draft Outcome Document for CSW63

From 8:30am to 9:30am on November 2nd, 2018 Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU), participated in a conference call session led by the NGO Commission on the Status of Women, New York (NGO CSW/NY) (see, to prepare the Zero Draft Outcome Document for the  63rd Session of the United Nations (UN) Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63) in 2019. Around twenty-five civil society participants from around the world gathered via video call to discuss topics, concerns, and groups of people that will be included in the Zero Draft. The Zero Draft consists of policy recommendations relating to the priority theme of CSW63 (social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls) that member states agree to support (see, and is the foundation for member state negotiations on agreed conclusions at Commissions on the Status of Women.

Michael Hinatsu during online session to discuss Zero Draft Outcome Document for CSW63

The session agenda consisted of participant introductions, reviewing prior work, a review of current work, and a discussion period for participants to advocate for specific topics or issues to be added to the Zero Draft by adding them directly to a working document. Led by Winifred Doherty, Main NGO Representative to the United Nations, and Jourdan Williams, Youth Representative to the United Nations for the International Health Awareness Network, the session was a continuation of efforts in September, when an Expert Group Meeting was held by NGO CSW/NY to discuss current research related to the CSW63 priority theme, as well as to hear presentations by experts and researchers on a number of aspects of the priority theme as well as case studies of social protection and public services from around the world (see

After introductions by participants, some of which were calling from overseas, and a brief review of the Expert Group Meeting, the session focused on the current version of the Zero Draft, which currently is designed to identify how the UN and other international organizations have addressed social protection systems, access to public services, and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and empowering women and girls. The working document also is a place to list areas neglected by the international community that need to be addressed in the Zero Draft and, ultimately, in the agreed conclusions of CSW63. Thus, our participation was not only relevant because of mountain women concerns, but necessary to laying groundwork for advocating mountain targets and mountain women and girls in the Zero Draft and in implementation of mountain targets in the UN 2030 Development agenda. We mentioned as UIMF priority to repeat our effort to include a language about mountain women in the final document of the CSW63. Then it was interesting to hear from Winifred Doherty, that she remembers that they included relevant language to the CSW62 draft of the final document and after that were disappointed when it was removed during negotiations of the member states.

During the discussion period, every participant gave recommendations and contributed specific language according to the specific work they do for advocating gender issues, with issues such as food security, xenophobia, indigenous education, and other added to the working document. The process itself was simple, as a Google Doc was open to all for inspection and adding recommendations, but was also very detailed, as participants advocated for many diverse issues affecting women. Along with Professor Baktybek Abdrisaev, UIMF mentor, I added specific language about mountain communities, women, and girls, as well as Utah Valley University’s student engaged learning model, to relevant working sections of the document such as the Education and Infrastructure sections. These working sections are places where individuals can add specific language and citations of official documents and studies that will eventually become part of the Zero Draft Outcome Document. We also became team members with others who will directly contribute to the specific issues in the Education and Infrastructure segments, which furthers our chances of implementing language about mountain women and girls into the actual Zero Draft Outcome Document. The discussion period was not only interesting because of the diverse topics brought forth, but also because it gave valuable insights into how civil society contributes to the agenda of the CSW, and how UIMF can better implement language about mountain women into documents that will be seen by member state representatives who have a say in the outcomes of CSW63.

In sum, the session was an important step in advocating for mountain women and implementing mountain targets into the 2030 Development agenda, because it allowed UIMF to get a say in the formation of the Zero Draft Outcome Document which will eventually inform member states on policy proposals for global sustainable development and put mountain targets and mountain women and girls into their focus. We will continue to attend similar sessions in the future to contribute to the Zero Draft, which will be crucial in making sure that mountain women are included in the negotiations for both the agreed conclusions of CSW63 and global sustainability efforts.

We have provided to NGO-CSW/ NY members copies of UIMF letters recently sent  to UN Secretary General , President of ECOSOC, and 46 member states who gave Voluntary National Reviews at the 2018 High-Level Political Forum on sustainable development. It included also a copy of UIMF’s statement submitted to CSW63. We notified these high-level officials of our concern about the lack of transparency in negotiations of final documents for CSW and ECOSOC forums by member states, as well as the lack of implementation of mountain women and girls into the global sustainability agenda. UIMF is planning to attend CSW63 to lobby high-level officials on mountain issues and host a parallel event advocating for student engaged learning to advocate for sustainable development, in particular for mountain women and girls.

Michael Hinatsu, member, UIMF; member, Model UN Club at Utah Valley University


Letter to UNSG from UIMF


World Polio Day and Utah Valley University’s Rotaract

Over the past several days with October 26, 2018 as its culmination by commemorating the World Polio Day, I had the pleasure of engaging in the fight against polio with Utah Valley University’s (UVU) Rotaract organization. Rotaract is a student club of the Rotary International, a worldwide organization with the mission of creating a more sustainable world. Rotaract recently joined the Utah International Mountain Forum ( , a coalition of student clubs at UVU with focus on the advocacy of the United Nations sustainable mountain development agenda. One of Rotary International’s focuses is the fight against polio. To many, the fight against polio has gone quiet during the rise of the 21st century. However, for some people, the fight and struggles against polio is a daily event. Rotary International has made it their goal to eradicate polio from the face of the earth. In the history of mankind, only small pox has ever been eradicated permanently. Now, through the help of thousands of dedicated Rotary International members and the efforts of the “End Polio Now” program, the goal to eradicate polio is in sight.

UIMF hosted before members of the Utah Rotary International as part of celebration of International Mountain Day 2016. On November 16, 2016, Dr. Scott Leckman, then District Governor designate, who has done a lot of work in India, Mrs. Ruth Riley, the President of Provo Rotary  and Mr. Dean Jackson, a member of the Provo Rotary  informed UVU students about helping people worldwide and in particular mountain communities to eradicate polio.

Mr. Jay A. Jacobson, Emeritus Professor at University of Utah School of Medicine and Intermountain Healthcare Speaks during World Polio Day at UVU

The 2018 World Polio Day activities culminated in an event held at UVU on October 26, 2018 when several members of Utah Rotary International made presentations how they helped educate the public on the effort for polio. Major presentations at the event were made by Mr. Jose Velasco, Rotaract Advisor from the Rotary club of Midvale, UT, and Mr. Jay A. Jacobson, Emeritus Professor at University of Utah School of Medicine and Intermountain Healthcare. Mr. Jacobson shared with audience polio history and where we stand on the issue today. Mr. Velasco told us about Rotaract programs overseas and in Mexico in particular, which sounds very interesting for me to take part.

 Mr. Jose Velasco, Rotaract Advisor from the Rotary club of Midvale, UT and Clark Merkley, President-designate, Orem Rotary during World Polio Day at UVU

“End Polio Now”, Rotary International’s program to end polio has become a world-wide effort. ( ). With nearly two and a half billion children around the world vaccinated for the disease, polio cases have become limited to only three countries: Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. To spread awareness, End Polio Now is promoted every year on October 24th, which has become World Polio Day. Sponsored by UNICEF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, World polio day generates significant awareness and funds for the eradication of polio.

William Gum, UVU student marks his finger in pink

During the days leading up to World Polio Day, UVU Rotaract participated in hosting tables to help spread the word about causes, challenges and importance of fighting with polio. Together, we gave out information and accepted donations to help vaccinate children for polio around the world. Those who donated, had the chance to have a finger marked pink to broadcast their aid in the polio effort. Children in the affected countries are marked the same way to show that they have been vaccinated for polio.

Overall, the experience was very insightful to see how far humanity has come in the eradication of diseases, and that soon, we will have our second eradication.

                Kyle Warren, member, Rotaract at UVU


Photos of the World Polio Day at UVU


A Coalition of UVU Clubs