“Rio+20” is the short name for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development to take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 2012 – twenty years after the landmark 1992 Earth Summit in Rio. Rio+20 is also an opportunity to look ahead to the world we want in 20 years. At the Rio+20 Conference, world leaders, along with thousands of participants from the private sector, NGOs and other groups, will come together to shape how we can reduce poverty, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection on an ever more crowded planet. The official discussions will focus on two main themes: How to build a green economy to achieve sustainable development and lift people out of poverty; and how to improve international coordination for sustainable development. It is a historic opportunity to define pathways to a sustainable future – a future with more jobs, more clean energy, greater security and a decent standard of living for all.
On June 18, 2012 Utah Valley University (UVU) sent a delegation of representatives to the Rio+20 Global Conference on Sustainable Development. Among NGO’s, governments, and major financial institutions, academic institutions and universities have played key roles in the contribution to Sustainable Mountain Development (SMD). UVU is such an institution that has taken the lead in specific fields pertaining to SMD, and in turn has made significant contributions to this conference.
In the past, Utah Valley University (UVU) has displayed specific interests in SMD, and on numerous occasions contributed greatly to the field of SMD concerning gender issues. In 2006 UVU officially became a member of the Mountain Partnership, a coalition of global institutions who promote sustainable mountain agenda globally along with the United Nations. Because of the important role of family and women in Utah’s heritage and culture UVU decided to focus their efforts specifically on the gender issues of the SMD-agenda.
As a practical step towards implementing the gender agenda, UVU, along with the International University of Kyrgyzstan, hosted the first Women of the Mountains Conference in 2007. The conference highlighted women and children’s issues and the need for Mountain Partnership members in the region to work jointly in addressing these issues. This conference continued the traditions of the Thimphu Declaration, a document created during the 2002 celebration of the Mountain Women Conference. The Thimphu Declaration highlights issues that are critical to women and children within mountainous regions. The final document produced by the Women of the Mountains Conference, the Orem Declaration of Mountain Women, has become one of the official documents of the international community on gender issues.
As a result, the Secretary General of the United Nations in the report on sustainable mountain development of the to the General Assembly of the U.N. on August 03, 2009, highlighted UVU’s efforts in the following way: “In response to the Orem Declaration of Mountain Women (the final document of The Women of the Mountains Conference, 2007, organized by Utah Valley University and the Utah-Russia Institute in Orem, Utah, United States of America), several institutions in the Rocky Mountain States of North America established a regional network on sustainable mountain development and gender issues. This led to exchanges of state legislatures/parliaments between Rocky Mountain States and mountain nations in Central Asia; including support of sales by Vista 360, a non-governmental organization based in the United States of hand-made local handicrafts from the mountains of Central Asia in the United States and the funding of cultural exchanges.”
In 2011 UVU held the Second International Women of the Mountains Conference. Continuing in the traditions of the first International Women of the Mountains Conference, and implementing the decisions of the Orem Declaration of the Mountain Women, UVU hosted the second international conference on gender issues in 2011. The conference was mentioned in the Report on North American SMD of the Mountain Partnership for RIO+20 Conference in Brazil: “The second conference served to strengthen the regional approach for advancing the SMD and gender agendas by expanding the network of North American Mountain Partnership members and involving youth from Utah high-schools and UVU students in the conference activities.”
In preparation for the contribution of UVU to the Rio+20 Conference, a third International Women of the Mountains was held on June 13-14 in Puno, Peru to continue the traditions of the two previous international conferences, organized by UVU and IUK in Orem, Utah in 2007 and 2011. UVU sent a delegation of Professors and students to participate. This conference was an integral step in the continued involvement of UVU in SMD as this conference would implement a number of decisions of the Orem Declaration of Mountain Women, which aimed to both strengthen regional alliances in the promotion of gender issues and encourage membership in the Mountain Partnership and Mountain Forum; as well as alternate convention sites between Utah and the other mountainous countries around the world, with the aim of identifying and resolving problems which women in mountainous regions face. This would serve as a historic event, as this was UVU’s first venture internationally in this particular field.
Following the tenets of the Orem declaration and ripe from the Third Women of the Mountains Conference in Puno, Peru, the UVU delegation furthered its regional reach and participated in the Rio+20 conference. During the “RIO+20” Conference the global mountain community pushed to garner more U.N. and international attention. UVU took part in a variety of activities, including a special event/presentation and exhibition, during the Rio+20 conference at the the Third Global Mountain Meeting of the Mountain Partnership on June 19, 2012. The goal of this meeting was to define a five-year plan for the international global mountain community to promote common goals and place the mountain agenda more squarely on the radar of the United Nations. Through its presence and participation the UVU delegation aimed to strengthen the University’s status as an important player in the promotion of the SMD agenda. Additionally, it was an opportune experience for faculty and students of this academic institution to be involved in real life advocacy and decision making at the U.N. level.
John McClure speaks during the Third Global MP Meeting in Rio de Janeiro
Delegates Dr Sara Ulloa and I represented UVU as at the conference and both gave presentations at the Mountain Pavilion entitled “Contribution of the Mountain Partnership members from the Rocky Mountains in promoting gender and sustainable mountain development (SMD) agendas in North America” and hosted at the same Mountain Pavilion on June 19, 2012 (http://pavilion.minam.gob.pe/en/programme). Guests present at UVU’s presentation at the Mounatin Pavilion included H.E. Atadjanov, Head of State Agency for Environmental Protection and Forestry in Kyrgyzstan, Deputy Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan H.E. Djoormart Otorbayev, and Zaya Batjargal Regional Program Director for the Mountain Partnership Secretariat, Decentralized hub for Central Asia, University of Central Asia. This presence in the audience was of major significance considering the history and cooperation between UVU and the Region of Central Asia. In my address, I gave mention to the robust history between UVU and its efforts in the area of gender issues in their relationship to SMD. I gave specific note to past events that have involved collaborative efforts between both student and faculty of UVU to create regional cooperation and promote the structuring of research in SMD on the academic level and informational databases that will prove to be of major importance to SMD initiatives. I touted the importance of “grooming a generation of new leaders in the field of SMD”, and how this type of work accomplished on an academic level is of dire importance to future causes.
Dr. Ulloa, a language professor at UVU, gave an address on the the value of service learning and her works with the Women of the Mountains Conferences. It was in her address that the correlation between civic interaction between different mountainous regions around the world could build academic ties that benefit the further study, interest, and advocacy from higher learning institutions and NGO’s to promote the focus of gender issues in mountain regions.
The UVU delegation also gave an extensive poster presentation, which highlighted numerous events in which UVU had facilitated. This presentation aimed to give a greater visibility to the Rocky Mountain Region, more specifically UVU, and their action in creating an academic hub responsible for the training of new individuals in the area of SMD.
UVU’s delegates were also present at the Third Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership on June 19, 2012, when the majority of the global stakeholders in promotion of the SMD- agenda, gathered together at the Mountain Pavilion and discussed a common strategy for the global mountain communities in working jointly for the next five years. (http://www.evk2cnr.org/cms/files/evk2cnr.org/Third-Global-Meeting-Mountain-Partnership.pdf )This meeting included the discussion of strategic objectives to be exercised by Mountain Partners from 2013-2017, which include the visages of an improved livelihoods and opportunities of mountain people, and the mission of continuing a voluntary alliance of interested parties and stakeholders committed to working together with the community goal of achieving sustainable mountain development around the world. These processes were presided over by Olman Serano of the Mountain Partnership. Opening remarks included those of H.E. Gyan Chandra Acharya, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Nepal to the UN, who was a contributor to the Second International Women of the Mountains Conference, and H.E. Manuel Besseler, who represented the Swiss government, who was also instrumental in financial support for the first two Women of the Mountains Conferences.
Much of the focus in the Third Global Meeting of Mountain Partners was to discuss new strategic objectives and a new governance structure. Leading the Kyrgyz delegation to the Rio+20 Summit, Vice-Prime Minister, Djoomart Otorbaev, told Business Bhutan: “We want to get advice. We want to apply the best practices for economic development that values the natural environment.” With mountains comprising a whopping 94% of its land area, “Kyrgyzstan doesn’t want to have economic development at the expense of nature”.
(R to L): John MccLure, Dr. Sara Ulloa, Dr. Joomart Otorbaev, Vice-Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan and unedentified official from Kyrgyzstan during RIO+20
What had proposed to be a fruitful and amorous meeting turned out to be more eventful than anticipated. The theme of the Mountain Pavilion was “The Future We want”. What became the theme of the majority of the addresses throughout the Third Global Meeting of the Mountain Partners though, was “stop talking about the future we want, and start acting on the present we need. The Mountain Partnership has grown in exponential numbers within the last decade. Though the number of memberships to this network of sustainability have continued to thrive, those who operate and financially back this organization were less than pleased.The Mountain Partnership has 131 members including 50 countries, 19 intergovernmental organizations and 113 major groups like CSO, NGO and the private sector. However, the Mountain Partnership appears to have lost its momentum in the past few years. Since 2002, it has not held any global meeting. In a strongly worded speech, the Assistant Director General of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Mr Manuel Bessler, said that “eight years of silence is not acceptable.” What the swiss government had expressed in disappointment was not alone in its assessments. Many others had similar views on the waning energy toward real work in global efforts.
Bhutan’s agriculture and forest minister LyonpoPemaGyamtsho said something had definitely gone wrong. “Why are we still talking about the need to have a stronger partnership?” He emphatically stressed, “We had ten years of talking. Now, it is time to work.” Much of the discussion at the meeting consisted of the ineffectiveness of the garnering of mountain partners and the lack of tangible action amongst them. What was proposed is a more decisive and pragmatic approach to sustainable actions from the existing partners. He emphasized that the Mountain Partnership needs a strong leadership and more sense of ownership from the mountain countries and its members. Levels of action that were taken at this conference included the dismissal of the existing secretariat and the Swiss government clamping down on the disbursal of its funding to projects involving the various mountain partners. Each action taken in the hopes of creating a more functional relationship between existing mountain alliances working with a greater efficacy in the agreement that more needs to be done to save mountains that covers 24% of the earth’s surface and supports 120 million people directly.
(L to R): Dr. sara Ulloa and Dr. Miguel Saravia, CONDESAN during RIO+20
Though much of the energy coming from the speakers at the Third Global Meeting of the Mountain Partners was of disdain, much good did come from this meeting. While having many shortcomings and foibles laid out on the table, it was put in a very simplistic view what needed to be accomplished by the Mountain Partnership. The outcome document from Rio+20 contains three paragraphs of text. Paragraph one states that fragile mountain ecosystems are crucial for sustaining life and essential for sustainable development. The second paragraph states the indigenous people of mountain communities have already developed sustainable practices, and that issues of poverty and food security with these stakeholders is also essential. The third paragraph is a call for greater efforts in the conservation of these ecosystems with respect their individual biodiversity through the incorporation of mountain specific policies into national sustainable development strategies.
The outcomes of the meeting presented a clarified plan of action to its attendees. More needed to acted upon, real tangible results needed to be achieved, and less focus on the procurement of new members should be given. With these directives set in place the existing partners have to re-evaluate both their structure and plans of action. Taking a more functional and pragmatic role toward SMD will be of utter importance.
John McClure, President, UIMF