Students and teachers represent UVU United Nations Civil Society Conference

Reading Time: 3 minutes For the first time in its history, the annual United Nations Civil Society Conference was held in Salt Lake City, Aug. 26-28. UVU played a critical role in the decision to convene there.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

For the first time in its history, the annual United Nations Civil Society Conference was held in Salt Lake City, Aug. 26-28. UVU played a critical role in the decision to convene there. 

Activists, journalists, academics and government personnel filled the Salt Palace Convention Center in Downtown Salt Lake for the three day assembly, focusing on making cities “inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable by 2030”. Conference organizers received more than 248 applications from 37 countries to host workshops centered around eliminating poverty, creating peaceful societies, tackling climate change and giving more opportunities to youth and women.

The conference, which is in its 68th year, is traditionally held every year at the United Nations’ headquarters in New York City. This will be the first time this conference has been held in another US city. Efforts to bring the conference to Salt Lake City started at the Office for Global Engagement at UVU.

A few months ago UVU’s Chief International Officer, Baldomero Lago, approached Salt Lake City’s mayor, Jackie Biskupski, with the desire to be able to host the conference in Salt Lake.

In a post on the blog of Biskupski’s office, Lago said, “I knew the United Nations was interested in having the conference somewhere in the U.S., and with UVU’s new status, I thought Utah would be the perfect place.” 

Glenny Riley and Carlos Alarco present with UVU’s Office for Global Engagement in the exhibition hall Monday, August 26.

Not only was UVU central to the conference coming to Utah, but the school’s students and faculty also made their mark at the conference, with more personnel from UVU registered to attend than any other university. Between the hundreds of exhibitions and workshops at the conference, UVU students and faculty headed 12 workshops and four booths.

Day one of the conference featured President Astrid Tuminez moderating a panel discussion in a room full of youth, students and academics. In the discussion, Tuminez and the panel spoke about providing a way for education to be more available, including currently marginalized opportunities and how to make those opportunities more readily available.

“We need to find a way to have meaningful public and private partnerships to enhance education,”Astrid Tuminez

“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to once again present at the U.N. The fact that UVU has not one, but [several] exhibits at the conference shows how far we, as a university, have come. And it shows how much participation UVU has had at the U.N.,” said Rebecca Bindraban, a senior majoring in political science.

Bindraban hosted an exhibit representing UVU and the Utah International Mountain Forum, which aims to raise awareness regarding issues surrounding mountains. 

Other examples of UVU participation included:

  • MBA alumni, Beau Bennett, who spoke at one of many thematic sessions entitled “Creating Opportunities and Economic Success for Youth.”
  • Ellie Thompson, coordinator of UVU’s Reflection Center, hosted a workshop called “Shared Values and Equipping Interfaith Leaders.”
  • Philosophy major and co-president of the Interfaith Student Council, Elexis Kain, lead the workshop “Leaning into Religious Differences and Sharing Sensitive Stories.”
  • Associate professor of communications, Maria Blevins, headed the workshop “Community/Academic Collaborations for Water Management and Climate Change.”

The conference was also diverse in the demographics that were represented. Of the 7,543 registered attendees, 2,872 were from outside the U.S. and 43 percent were under the age of 33. There was also an equal distribution of genders, with 47 percent of the participants being male and another 47 percent being female.

At the conference’s closing ceremony, the director of the outreach division for the U.N. Department of Public Information, Maher Nassar, gave credit to the partnerships which made it possible to bring the conference to Utah. UVU was recognized in their efforts toward leadership and inclusiveness. 

“I would like students to understand the impact of conferences like this. It is historic events like this that will have the biggest impact on your life,” said Bennett.

Correction: A previous iteration of this story stated that UVU students, faculty and staff headed five workshops and 12 booths. A correction has been made to reflect the involvement of UVU students, faculty and staff who lead 12 workshops and four booths.

Photos by Erik Hight