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                    Awal T Momen

Titus Elanyu


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


Promoting SDGs and mountain targets during UN Day at UVU


On October 24, 2018,  the Utah Valley University (UVU) commemorated the United Nations Day by combining with a Sustainability Day. It was a great opportunity for faculty and students  to raise an awarenes among their peers and local community about United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS). Members of the Utah International Mountain Forum, a coalition of student clubs at UVU used both events in order to explain to the audience the importance of implementation of  mountain targets as a benchmarks to ensure sustainable development to the mountain communities worldwide.

Andrew Jensen speaks at the Sustainability Day Panel at UVU

Andrew Jensen reported during session of the Sustainability Day Panel about UIMF members participation and advocacy for the implementation of mountain targets during the 53rd session of the Commission on Social development in January 2018, 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women in March 2018 and High-Level Political Forum on sustainable development  in July 2018.

As part of contribution to the UN Day, UIMF members such as Laila MitchellHagen Isaacson,  Megan Davis and Mark Driggs hosted special tables with information about advocacy of the mountain targets at the UN during 2018, while Rebecca Bindraban  promoted the undergraduate student research journal “Youth and the Muntains” as an opportunity for UVU students to publish their academic papers on different aspects of sustainable mountain development both in Utah and globally.

Andrew Jensen with members of the Model UN Club, such as Megan Davis,  William Gum , and Hagen Isaacson on behalf of the UIMF participated on October 25th , 2018 in the Be the Change Tour Project. This program is specific to the UVU’s Center for Social Impact’s 25th-anniversary celebration. The Be the Change Tour involves the implementation of one service project a month on or around the 25th. Each project is focused on community needs and will be help on or off campus. Students and community members have been invited to participate in various projects and Model UN members  were assigned into different groups and designated areas to map all of the trees on UVU campus and create data points to help UVU become an accredited tree campus.

Kyle Warren, a member of the Rotaract, a new club member at  UIMF, reports how his peers contributed to the UN day by hosting a table during entire week to raise funds in support of the International Polio Eradication Day. On October 26, 2018 Rotaract members hosted a special event commemorating the  World Polio Day with inviting representatives of Rotary International from Salt Lake City,  and Orem City to name a few.

Samuel Elzinga, President, UIMF. 


Agenda of the Sustainability Day at UVU




Andrew Jensen-Sustainability Day Panel at Utah Valley University


Laila Mitchell-UIMF Engagement with Students on Sustainability Day


Kyle Warren – World Polio Day and UVU’s Rotaract 


Hagen Isaacson-UIMF Promotes Mountain Targets During UN Day


Megan Davis-Celebrating UN Sustainability Day by Tabling with UIMF


Megan Davis-UIMF Participates in UVU Tree Logging Service Project


Mark Driggs – UIMF Participates in UN Day


Rebecca Bindraban-Promoting the Youth and the Mountains Journal during UN Day at UVU


Andrew Jensen-Tree Mapping at UVU during UN Day


William Gum-Trees, trees everywhere


Hagen Isaacson-UIMF Participates in Tree Mapping at UVU


Kyle-Williams-UIMF members mapped trees at UVU campus

Azerbaijan on Multifaith Harmony and Peaceful Coexistence: Presentation at Utah Valley University by H.E. Nasimi Aghayev

The Utah Valley University (UVU) Office of Global Engagement hosted His Excellency Nasimi Aghayev, Consul General of Azerbaijan in Los Angeles on Monday, October 8, 2018. Mr. Aghayev, a senior official representative of the Republic of Azerbaijan to California and twelve other states, spoke on the efforts of Azerbaijan to foster multifaith harmony and presented a model on peaceful coexistence focused on religious cooperation. In his presentation, the Consul General described ways that Azerbaijan works with a number of religious communities both in and outside of the country to overcome interfaith challenges and promote religious diversity and civic unity.

Consul General Aghayev during presentation at UVU

Consul General Aghayev began his presentation by describing his country’s unique geopolitical importance, bordering Iran, Russia, Turkey, Georgia, and Armenia, and praised the long tradition of tolerance in Azerbaijan, noting the country’s grant to women and other groups of equal voting rights in 1919, which predated many other advanced countries, including the United States. The Consul General also stated that the desire for free religious expression and harmonious interfaith relations was augmented by the religious oppression experienced while under Soviet rule from 1920-1991, in which atheism was generally promoted and religious groups were persecuted.

After 1991, the Consul General stated that religious harmony became a large priority of the newly independent state. In describing the religious demographics of Azerbaijan, Consul General Aghayev emphasized the high level of religious tolerance in his country, which is uncharacteristic of other Muslim majority nations in the region. While 93% of Azerbaijan is Muslim, with 70% of those being Shiites and 30% being Sunnis, the country also is home to a number of Christians and Jews, who make up close to 5% of the population, and are able to pray, worship, and celebrate freely. The Consul General described a number of important non-Muslim religious sites in the country that predate the Republic of Azerbaijan itself, including a Zoroastrian fire temple in Baku, the nation’s capital, that has been maintained as an ode to the country’s roots as a place of religious tolerance. Additionally, the Consul General noted the early roots of Christianity with the evangelism of Bartholomew and the many old Christian churches found in Baku and throughout the country as evidence of Azerbaijan’s long history of interreligious engagement and tolerance.

Consul General Aghayev praised the strong religious dialogue of modern Azerbaijan as a model for religious diversity and civic peace that can be applied to other nations in the region and throughout the world to foster harmony, promote diversity, and coordinate interfaith efforts. Consul General Aghayev noted the high degree of religious tolerance between Azerbaijani Muslims, who do not see major differences between Shi’a and Sunni. The Consul General described the worship held at the largest mosque in the country, the Heydar Mosque, in which Sunnis and Shiites pray and worship together. Additionally, members of the two sects often intermarry, adding to the religious harmony of the country. Furthermore, Muslims and non-Muslims successfully coexist, interacting mutually in religious celebrations and civic life. The Consul General described the experience of local Jews who built a funeral tent and ceremony in the yard of a popular imam whose mother had recently passed away. Also, Pope Francis recently visited the country, citing the respect for diversity and harmony that Azerbaijan shows to religious groups, as well as the efforts of Azerbaijan to aid the Vatican in preserving catacombs and cathedrals in Europe. Furthermore, Muslims, Jews, and Christians hold offices in the government and work together, without respect of religion, to both foster religious diversity and support local religious groups and to solve local and national issues that transcend religious boundaries.

In a question and answer period, Consul General Aghayev further defined his model for multifaith harmony and peaceful coexistence. The Consul General noted that in a region of the globe that is not usually characterized by religious tolerance and acceptance, Azerbaijan became a model for such as a result of its long history of diverse religious groups living and interacting with each other, its staunch secularism, which emphasized normal relations, and its high level of education. The Consul General emphasized the 99% literacy rate in the country as key to understanding complex religious issues and working with other religions to cooperate on religious and non-religious issues. Additionally, Consul General Aghayev notes that the government of Azerbaijan often facilitates interfaith conferences and events that bring religious leaders of all faiths together. Yearly, the country hosts an interfaith conference that promotes religious leaders setting the example for coexistence, early education of youth on religious matters, and developing laws against discrimination. In particular, the Consul General noted the efforts of his government and religious leaders to coordinate efforts to shield the youth from extremism.

Consul General Aghayev presented a model of harmony and coexistence with the intention that Azerbaijan’s example be followed in other countries, especially Middle Eastern ones, who grapple with balancing religious fervor with diversity and the constraints of globalization and modernity. Reiterating the communality of Shiites and Sunnis in his country, the Consul General noted the importance of good relations by describing Azerbaijan’s geopolitical relationship with Iran, noting that the 30 million ethnic Azerbaijanis in Iran facilitate a mutual interest for normal relations. Consul General Aghayev stated that his country’s commitment to religious harmony assists in diplomatic endeavors and foreign relations in general, as the country is often a leading voice in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on matters of Muslim prosperity and, more recently, Muslim-Israeli relations. The Consular General noted the economic cooperation Azerbaijan engages in with Israel, Iraq, India, and others to foster regional and global unity.

Amy Barnett, UVU Office of Global Engagement Presents An Award to Consul General Nasimi Aghayev  

The visit of Consul General Nasimi Aghayev to UVU provided an important discussion of how religious groups can attempt to resolve differences and coordinate religious and secular efforts to improve local and regional relationships. The example of Azerbaijan as a regional leader in advancing constructive religious dialogue and interfaith efforts to improve civic, political, and regional issues is one that should be seriously considered by those interested in diplomacy, sustainable development, and religious relevance. Certainly, the model offered by the Consul General should be discussed as a tool that leaders and organizations can use to solve critical issues that involve and transcend religious identification. I very much appreciate the efforts of the UVU Office of Global Engagement to bring such a high-level official to our campus.

Michael Hinatsu, Political Science Major Student, Utah Valley University.


Power Point Presentation of the Consul General Aghayev


AZERTAG about the visit          Video about the visit


Photos of the CG of Azerbaijan, Mr. Nasimi Aghayev visit to UVU




Hagen Isaacson                                           Abeir Isawi

   Brandon Pedler                                     Emma Warner

  Cory Levin                                            Jesse Sandstrom

           Joy Black                                          Rebecca Bindraban        

McKay Peck                                       Nathan Wagstaff

Awal T Momen


UIMF follows up HLPF 2018 by co-hosting PR of Tajikistan to the UN, Ambassador Mahmadaminov at UVU

            On October 5th, 2018, The Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU), (  co-hosted the Permanent Representative of Tajikistan to the United Nations (UN), Mr. Mahmadamin Mahmadaminov. Ambassador Mahmadaminov visited Utah during October 3-6, 2018. He made his major presentation titled: Tajikistan and the SDGs before UVU students and faculty on October 5, 2018.    As part of established tradition, the UVU Office of Global Engagement provided an opportunity to members of the Foreign Affairs Club and UIMF through student engaged learning model to highlight UIMF’s accomplishments in SDG advocacy at the local, national, and international levels since 2011. This was as well as follow up on previous discussions and activities held by UIMF delegation and myself with PR of Tajikistan to the UN at the UN High Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development in July of 2018.  In addition, it was an opportunity for UIMF to discuss joint activities at the UN in 2019 with focus on implementation of mountain targets.

Personally, I really enjoyed helping to co-host Mr. Mahmadaminov due to my keen interest in Central Asia, and I am very grateful I can expand my own knowledge and raise an awareness about countries of the region among my peers.

A group photo with Ambassador Mahmadaminov

In order to demonstrate how the student engaged learning model works more than ten members of UIMF were involved in preparations and co-hosting the VIP-guest.  In order to coordinate their efforts as a team and to do that successfully we gathered every week and followed up with assignments defined in a special task list posted online, it was important for my peers at our coalition of clubs.

I helped to some members of UIMF, like Joseph Lloyd, Hagen Issakson, Megan Davis,  to learn how to coordinate with the UVU Office of Global Engagement our plans in highlighting before the high-level dignitary in a special meeting their concern about lack of sustainable development among mountain communities globally and what UIMF was able to do accomplish in that area since founding in 2011.

The meeting was attended by many students, including the Post-Soviet and Political Science classes, brought by our faculty, like Dr. Abdrisaev and Dr. England. During UIMF’s meeting with Mr. Mahmadaminov, many students were able to highlight UIMF’s accomplishments through a series of presentations. I introduced every speaker – member of UIMF.   Mr. Hagen Isaacson, the Foreign Affairs Club Treasurer, was the first to give an overview of UIMF activities in promoting the UN sustainable mountain development agenda since 2011 and presented Mr. Mahmadaminov with a folder of documents highlighting UIMF’s in the UN official documents and recent commendation in the Congressional Record. Hagen also discussed why mountain targets are so important and how UIMF has a long history of advocating for mountain people. He emphasized a focus of Tajikistan on implementation of the SDG#6 on water and that the mountain target# 6.6 is included in that SDG. He proposed that it would be great if Tajikistan will work with UIMF and UVU on their joint implementation in 2019 at the UN. Next, Ms. Megan Davis, Director of Public Relations at UIMF,  explained how UIMF implements student engaged learning to advocate for the implementation of mountain targets locally, nationally, and internationally since 2011. Next up was   Mr. Mark Driggs, Vice-President of Campus Outreach, who highlighted UIMF’s most recent activities at the United Nations, namely Commission of the Status of Women and the 2018 HLPF on Sustainable Development. Ms. Viktoriia Bahrii, vice president of logistics, spoke next on partnerships with various NGOs and permanent missions, noting our successful co-hosting of a side event with the Permanent Missions of Uzbekistan and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ms. Bahrii then invited Mrs. Marcia Barlow, Vice President of International Programs for United Families International (UFI) to discuss further United Families International-UN relations and also highlight activities her NGO participates in Central Asia. After that, I introduced to Ambassador Mahmadaminov the Youth and the Mountains Journal, a student-run journal student reasearch on sustainable mountain development.

At the end of the meeting, Abeir Isawhy, UVU student, was provided an opportunity to ask question about Tajikistan and in particular a new dam which country plans to build now. Ambassador explained how the dam would benefit both Tajikistan’s economy and its neighbors as well.

I learned a lot also when Mr. Mahmadaminov had a lecture on Tajikistan and the implementation of the SDGs in the country. Tajikistan is a country not many people know about and seeing members of UIMF and the Foreign Affairs learn about a unique country was truly great. Tajikistan, and Mr. Mahmadaminov in particular, have championed the cause of SDG6, which focused on clean water and sanitation. During my visit to the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development in July of 2018, I was invited to a follow-up presentation on Tajikistan’s Water Decade Initiative. Learning about this initiative at an in-depth level was very fascinating, and it was great to see how Tajikistan has continued to promote sustainable water use. This is particularly pertinent to UIMF’s activities as SDG 6.6 deals directly with water preservation in mountainous regions.

Ambassador Mahmadaminov also had a lot to say about counterterrorism and national security matters. I found this to be particularly interesting because I am focusing primarily on Central Asian national security issues, which Tajikistan plays a major role. I was very happy to hear about Tajikistan’s initiatives related to national security.

Another important part of student engaged learning was the participation of several members of UMF at lunch in honor of the VIP-guest. UVU Global Engagement office does that during last several years to provide students an opportunity to strengthen their diplomatic abilities. I was happy to see that Andrew Jensen, Hagen Isaacson, Megan Davis, and Kendra, Martell,  four members of UIMF were able to interact with Ambassador Mahmadaminov during lunch.

Overall, this visit was another success for UIMF and the Foreign Affairs Club in promoting the implementation of the mountain targets during 2018 and especially in co-hosting the first dignitary visit during the fall semester 2018. Many of them, like Hailee-Hodgson, Laila MitchellBrandon PedlerKyle Williams  and others were able to work sucessfully as a team and see results of their efforts.   Students in the audience, like Michael Hinatsu ,   Matthew Simon ,   Kenya LitsterMax Mortenson,  Mary Nelson  and Cory Levin    had an opportunity to see and learn how engaged learning model works and get involved in future activities of UIMF if they would like.  I am so incredibly proud of all my club members and the work they put in to ensure our contribution to hosting Mr. Mahmadaminov’s visit was successful.

Samuel Elzinga, President, UIMF and Foreign Affairs Club at UVU




Task list for the visit of Ambassador Mahmadaminov 




MP about the visit of Ambassador Mahmadaminov



Samuel Elzinga – An announcement about the visit of Ambassador Mahmadaminov to UVU

Hagen Isaacson                Hailee-Hodgson

Laila Mitchell                             Joseph Lloyd

Megan Davis                                Mark Driggs

Viktoriia Bahrii



Michael Hinatsu                    Emma Warner

   Matthew Simon                     Kenya Litster 

Brandon Pedler              Max Mortenson

Kyle Williams                          Mary Nelson 

Cory Levin                              Hannah Bieker

Abeir Isawi


A Coalition of UVU Clubs