Sam Elzinga and Andrew Jensen contributed to the IMD 2018 at the United Nations

On December 11th, 2018 two of us had the opportunity to present on a panel at a side-event co-hosted by the Permanent Mission accredited to the UN of the Kyrgyz Republic, Canada, Austria, and the Principality of Andorra. The theme was “Tackling climate change and building resilience in mountainous and rural communities.”  Sam and I had were able to secure this opportunity after meeting briefly with the Permanent Representative (PR) of the Kyrgyz Republic to the United Nations, Ms. Mirgul Moldoisaeva in New York during the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on sustainable development  in New York in July 19, 2018. The mission was impressed with UVU’s preparedness and presentation during the HLPF, and as such we were contacted by the Permanent Mission of the Kyrgyz Republic about participating in their side event.

Group photo of panelists before the IMD 2018 at UN

At the event, we joined the PR of the Kyrgyz Republic to the UN, Ms. Moldoisaeva, the PR of Austria to the UN Mr. Jan Kickert, the Deputy PR of Andorra to the UN, Mr. Joan J. Lopez, and Deputy PR of Canada to the UN, Ms. Louise Blais. The event was moderated by H.E. Ms. Carla Mucavi, who is the Director of the FAO Liaison Office in New York. Each country had the opportunity to address the topic of sustainable mountain development. H.E. Ms. Mirgul Moldoisaeva, the PR from the Kyrgyz Republic, was the first to address the gathered group, highlighting that because 95% of the country is mountainous they are highly invested in the process of sustainable developing those mountainous regions. She mentioned the various programs and conferences that the Kyrgyz Republic has worked on to promote Sustainable Development of Mountains. Next, the PR of Austria to the UN, H.E. Mr. Jan Kickert,  had the opportunity to address the assembled delegation. He highlighted that Austria too is a stakeholder in the mountain process, referencing statistics that show glacier retreat in Austria has accelerated form 1% in the mid-20th century to 2-3% at the current rate. This double and triple rate increase means that half of the glaciers in Austria will soon be gone. This affects both mountainous communities and their downstream counterparts. Following him, the DPR of the Principality of Andorra to the UN, H.E. Mr. Joan J. Lopez, addressed the delegation. He highlighted that Andorra, as a small country that has a minimum elevation of 2000 feet, is entirely mountainous. He referenced Andorra’s recent shift to sustainability as an indicator of future opportunities for growth. Following the PRs and DPRs, the panel of assembled experts had the opportunity to address the delegation.

First to address everyone was Landry Riba, the representative from the Department of Agriculture, Ministry of Environment, Agriculture, and Sustainability in the Principality of Andorra. He addressed the topic of adapting agriculture and livestock sectors to climate change impacts in mountainous areas. He talked about how 90% of available land is used for cattle grazing and management. He mentioned that an additional 8% of land is used for tobacco farming, which provides 78% of income from the natural land resources. He established that this is a worrying statistic and that the Principality of Andorra has found that they must diversify economically to sustainably develop the mountain. Following Mr. Riba, Dr. Benjamin S. Orlove, Professor of International and Public Affairs at Colombia University addressed the delegation and spoke on responding to climate change in mountain communities. He highlighted the COP24 Conference that has been held during the month of December and its implications for sustainable mountain development. He also highlighted the IPCC Special Report and Assessment and their partnership with the UNFCCC. Next, Giorgio Grussu, Project Coordinator of the FAO- Mountain Partnership Secretariat, who we met with during our trip to the HLPF in 2018. He addressed the delegation, highlighting the #MountainMatter movement and how the Mountain Partnership is working with developing countries throughout the world to bring attention to the issue of mountain communities. He addressed the need to work together in partnerships for mountain-related SDGs. The next speaker was Ms. Yoko Watanabe, the Global Manager of GEF Small Grants Programme for the UNDP, who we met at HLPF 2018 during a side-event hosted by the Principality of Andorra. She spoke on the UNDP’s experience in protecting livelihoods and biodiversity in mountain ecosystems. She spoke of the Small Grants Programme and how it has impacted different developing countries around the world. She highlighted that the average grant receives $50,000 of funding and that these project shave helped to develop many projects around the world.

(R to L) Samuel Elzinga, Andrew Jensen and Yoko Watanabe during panel discussion 

Finally, Samuel  Elzinga and Andrew Jensen had the opportunity to address the delegation, using statements that we had prepared before the conference. We addressed the panel by focusing on UIMF and UVU  commitments and contribution to the sustainable mountain development agenda.  We also presented  distinguished panelists folders with copies of the official invitation letter from Dr. Lago to Mr. Mastrojeni to host a side event on mountains during the conference, copies of written statements made in 2018 at three ECOSOC forums,  a copy of written statement accepted for the 63rd session of the Commission on Status of Women, a a copy of the statement of Congressman John Curtis about UIMF, a copy of the Report on SMD in North America for RIO+20 with the UIMF contribution and the 2017 issue of the journal Youth and the Mountains.

After the event, H.E. Carla Mucavi, the moderator of the events and the Director of the FAO Liaison Office in New York, and Andrew Jensen talked about UVU’s future implications in the international community. She said she was impressed to see people so young and active in the United Nations. She talked about our increased need to work towards climate resiliency because we are the generation that will inherit many of the problems of today. Overall, the event was an excellent opportunity to network with United Nations professionals and learn more about mountain development in a sustainable way.

Samuel Elzinga, President, Utah International Mountain Forum, a coalition of student clubs at UVU and Andrew Jensen, President, Model United Nations Club


Concept Note of the FAO-UN liason office to the UN about IMD 2018


Statement of Samuel  Elzinga      Statement of Andrew Jensen


Andrew Jensen-Meeting with GUS in New York City



Letter of invitation from Dr. Lago to Mr. Mastrojeni

Report on SMD in North America for Rio+20

2017 issue of the Youth and the Mountains journal \

Written statement for 53rd session of the Commission on Social Development 

Written statement for 62nd session of the Commission on Status of Women 

Written statement for High-Level Political Forum on sustainable development 2018

Written statement for 63rd session of the Commission on Status of Women 

Statement of Congressman John Curtis (R-UT) about UIMF from the Congressional Record


UVU Press-Release