Nalaikh Mining Education Centre

By Mendee Jargalsaikhan and Julian Dierkes

The 25th of December 1922 was a very important date in Mongolian history. It was the day that the first government-operated coal mine at Nalaikh was re-opened. This was the birth of industrial mining, with all its ancillary industries, but also the birth of the town of Nalaikh and of the Mongolian proletariate.

The 100th anniversary of this momentous occasion should be celebrated.

We suggest that the celebration focus on the creation of a multi-disciplinary mining museum and education centre in Nalaikh! It would be a centre of excellence for sharing Mongolia’s past and current experience with mining, educating the public on the importance of mining in the country’s development, and the example of linking mining activities with community development and tourism.

Education Centre, Museum, and Historical Site

People, who worked and lived in Nalaikh during the socialist period, have lots of memories to share with new generations – to talk about the Nalaikh mine, railroad, power plant, Mongolian-Soviet military bases, glass factory, 14th transportation company, mining vocational school, military sewing company, etc.  Many may have artifacts – ranging from photos, equipment, and to all types of mementos from the socialist period.

Unless we save these artifacts before they disappear and capture oral histories, all would be gone in next 5 to 10 years.

Mining Education

Public mining education has largely been missing from Mongolia. There have been some limited projects to bring knowledge about the mining industry to specific audiences, but there has never been a large-scale effort funded by the government or the mining industry to familiarize the Mongolian public with the basis for and operations of the industry that is coming to dominate the Mongolian economy.

While a Nalaikh mining education centre would not substitute for broad public education, it could target the Ulaanbaatar-area public at least, and could serve as a think tank for the development of wider campaigns or the introduction of knowledge about mining into school curricula, for example.

There currently is no education centre that explains how mining (both industrial and artisanal) work to the Mongolian public. Except a very few curious mining students, no one might be interested in going to Nalaikh, the very first mine of Mongolia, which is within 35-40 kms from the capital city. The Mining School of the Mongolian University of Science and Technology still does not have an educational centre, where mining students run experiments, learn about the country’s mining industrial history, and discuss implications of policy failures (not having a proper mine closure plan, for example, in the Nalaikh case).

A mining education centre at Nalaikh could target different audiences. Initially, it might serve as a destination for school-aged children from around the Ulaanbaatar region. It might also attract families to visit, especially during vacation, and foreign visitors might come as well.

Then it could serve as a centre of excellence in mining education that could be involved in the drafting of materials to contribute to public education, or for inclusion in school-based teaching.

The Mongolian military is slowly taking over and maintaining the old military bases, but still do not know what to do with old Soviet planes and equipment.  There is a small, albeit growing activities, originating from Russia. For example, Russian Legend Tour company offerring tours for many, who served and lived in Mongolia, to visit Nalaikh. Successful business and political entrepreuners from Nalaikh would hopefully make commitment to re-build the memory of Nalaikh – which would narrate the history of the industrial mining and ups and downs of the Nalaikh coal mine.  If the Nalaikh mine could successfully restored its past and becomes the part of the sustainable mining (the mine still possesses 2/3 of its deposits) and tourism, it would be the most visible ones.  It is right under everybody’s nose – as the district of Ulaanbaatar.

Historical Significance

The historical accounts indicated that Nalaikh was one of the few mines, operated in Mongolia.  The Nalaikh coal mine was run by four Russian managers, 80 Chinese workers, and Mongolian horse-cart transporters. From 1915 to 1922, the mine provided coal for the capital city settlers as well as royalties to the Bogd Khaan’s treasury.  The state took over the mine in December 1922.

Mongolian socialism faced an even greater theoretical hurdle in Marx’ prediction of a succession from feudalism to capitalism to socialism. Well, there had been no capitalism to speak of in Mongolia prior to the revolution, much less than even in Russia. No capitalism = no industry = no working class. Nalaikh became as meaningful a project to the foundation of socialism as Erdenet later did to its modernization. The Nalaikh Coal Mine emerged as Mongolia’s first industrial site of any kind.

Fuelling Ulaanbaatar and a Resource Economy

But Nalaikh had other big implications. Its coal heated Ulaanbaatar and made the settlement, construction, and growth of the capital possible.  For example, in February 1939, the first power station (2500 kw) was built in Ulaanbaatar.  This resulted in building the first-ever railway (narrow-gauge) between Nalaikh and Ulaanbaatar in 1938 to deliver the coal for the first power station.

Looking back at Nalaikh coal mining today, it is also very significant as it was a milestone in the development of a resource economy. Yes, there were mining activities before then, of course, but Nalaikh was the first industrial scale mining, and thus presaged the future of Mongolia as an emerging mining economy in the 21st century.

The coal mine was further expanded in 1947 to fuel newly established light industry in Ulaanbaatar and first-ever government and residential buildings. By 1947, there were 700 employees and the annual production reached 246,200 ton. To meet growing demand for coal, the Soviet Union provided extensive assistance (169 million tugrug) to modernize the coal mine to the highest standard of that time. With the Soviet assistance, 200 Soviet specialists worked in 1954-1958 and trained over 200 Mongolian specialists in the Soviet Union between 1956 and 1966. As a result, Nalaikh became the first mechanized, underground coal mine in Mongolia.

Nalaikh Coal Still Sells High in Ulaanbaatar, 2017, by Mendee Jargalsaikhan

Many early mining engineers were first trained and employed at Nalaikh given its central status to industrialization and to Ulaanbaatar. Since all other new coal mines, especially in connection with urbanization as well as construction of provincial centres, came after Nalaikh, it is not surprising that most of local mining specialists began their careers in Nalaikh. At the same time, the mining vocational school in Nalaikh was the first and largest to meet the rising demand at the 1970s -80s for mining specialists.

Kazakhs in Nalaikh

Nalaikh demonstrated another interesting facts of Mongolian ethnic groups, especially the Kazakh minority.  The expansion and modernization of Nalaikh mine had required over 1500 miners; as a result, the government encouraged in bringing more workers Western provinces, including Bayan-Ulgii, a muslim-dominated province. As a result, Nalaikh gained a substantial muslim population, which had two separate Kazakh khoroo (sub-administrative unit) and Kazakh-secondary school.  This pattern was replicated in many later mines, including Erdenet.  All have substantial number of Kazakh workers and culturally distinct communities.

The Soviet Air Base

Later on, Nalaikh gained significance as a location for a Soviet air base following the Sino-Soviet tension in 1960s.  Nalaikh hosted the largest Soviet-Mongolian airbase, equipped with the fleet of MiG 21, supersonic inceptor-fighter jets, and several M-24 combat helocopter squadron.  The Soviet military positioned extensive radar units in surrounding Nalaikh, with a central HQ at the outskirt of the city, while Soviet-Mongolian military logistical units were hiding at several key locations.  For many Soviets, Nalaikh was one of the largest military base in Mongolia, where family members were allowed to accompany.  Therefore, two separate military-family housing town (with Soviet-style high-rise complexes), secondary school, medical facility, and shopping centres were built in Nalaikh.

Post-1990 Collapse

And, finally, in terms of its historical significance, Nalaikh has become a symbol of the post-1990 collapse of state enterprises and its most dire consequences with slumification and ninja mining.  According to the district authority, about 1,200-1,500 people (depending on the coal demand) have been engaged in artisanal mining activities while many others making their living by selling or transporting the coal.

Nalaikh Mine, 2016 by Mendee Jargalsaikhan

Nalaikh is now considered the world’s most dangerous underground coal mining site, as reported in the International Business Times.  As reported by the mining rescue unit, 198 people died from the artisanal mining activity since the state abandoned mine in 1992.  The mining rescue unit saved over 600 people during this period.  Just to take a look at the last few years statistics, the mining rescue unit responded to 16 accidents in 2014 (5 died, 35 rescued), 8 in 2015 (8 died, 23 rescued), 9 in 2016 (11 died, 13 rescued), and 17 in 2017 (5 died, 32 rescued).

Mining Rescue Unit, 2017, by Mendee Jargalsaikhan

Archival and Curatorial Opportunity

We see a number of opportunities linked to the Nalaikh site.

Building remains

There are two significant buildings that are in ruins, but remain at the coal mine site, the administrative building and part of the old processing plant. The administrative building is in significantly worse shape than the photo below suggests, however.

The remains of the factory can be seen here, and in many other photos from Nalaikh. While these buildings are in disrepair and may even be beyond repair, they do hold the promise of a site that includes original buildings.

Another interesting historical building, the Nalaikh railway station, which could be sentimental to many, including families of Soviet military personnel, who rode the train from Ulaanbaatar to Nalaikh. Whenever the weather acted badly, the train had been the most convenient transportation to the next closest station in Khonkhor, where passengers got on trains – travelling on the trans-Mongolian railway between south and north – or just going to Ulaanbaatar. The train did provide convenient travelling with several stops all throughout the capital city.  For many, this prototype socialist period railway station could easily demonstrate the history of the Mongolian railway – along with one stationary locomotive and one passenger train restaurant could bring the memory of the railroad in 1950s, 1970s and 1980s.

Nalaikh Railway Station, 2017, by Mendee Jargalsaikhan

Potential for Collaborations with Existing Mine Museums

There is a significant number of mining museums around the world that would provide examples of exhibits, curatorial and pedagogical approaches, etc. For us, based in Vancouver, the Brittania Mine Museum is closest, but there are other examples of such museums in =Australia, Europe and North America, possibly even beyond. In many locations, these museums have been built on decommissioned mines as we are proposing for Nalaikh, suggesting that this is a viable opportunity.

Community Development

Finally, we see a Nalaikh Mining Museum and Education Centre as an opportunity for community development in Nalaikh.

Planning would emphasize re-training opportunities for miners still active in the area (those with licenses, as those who may be mining illegally), offering employment in museum and tourist infrastructure that would provide a boost for the local economy.

Nalaikh could form the centre of an emerging tourism cluster built around the Chinggis statue and Terelj, requiring further infrastructure and thus also providing employment.

Requirements and Plans

There are numerous hurdles to the establishment of a Nalaikh Mining Museum and Education Centre. Obviously, many actors, from local and national officials to the local community would have to be consulted and invited to participate in the planning.

Ultimately, the Centre might hold some promise for economic development, but few of its activities would be fee-generating and the desire to educate the public about mining activities would prohibit a fee-base for the budget of the Centre. Financial contributions would thus have to be secured from local and national governments. And, we would hope that the domestic and international mining industry may be interested in supporting such a centre.

Beyond beginning to talk about this idea as we are doing here, a first step might be a feasibility study that could expand this post to include more definite plans, particularly on budget, alternative approaches, opportunities for funding and collaborations, etc. We are hoping to apply for funding from various sources to support such a feasibility study as a first step.

Posted in Education, Kazakhs, Mining, Museums, Nalaikh, Primary and Secondary Education | Tagged | Leave a comment

MNB World Interview

In August, Julian Dierkes was interviewed on MNB World by Belgutei Tumendemberel.

Posted in Air Pollution, Civil Society, Corruption, Democracy, Elections, Governance, Party Politics, Politics, Younger Mongolians | Leave a comment

Pervasive Sense of (Political) Crisis

By Julian Dierkes

During my most recent visit to Mongolia, I heard talk of political crisis everywhere. [A strong argument for visiting more often!] Not the kind of crisis that could be resolved by a change of government, although rumours of that are in the air as well – as is customary for the Fall. And also not the kind of crisis that can be resolved by constitutional change, proposals for which may well be introduced in parliamentary committees in the Fall session. No, this is perceived to be a crisis of leadership, lack of delivery on policy aspirations, and corruption.

I heard talk of this crisis among acquaintances and friends, but also in public fora and in smaller discussions. Such talk was pervasive among all, well-connected Ulaanbaatarites as well as folks in aimag centres and in the country.

This crisis could be viewed as a crisis of democracy when we think of democracy in part as an attitude, not just as the sum of rights and legally prescribed paths for participation. Much of the research on political transition (see for example H Hartmann’s “The Erosion of Democracy in Developing and Transition Countries“) is focused on legal rights and rule of law, of course, rather than on the spirit of democracy. When it comes to rights, Mongolia is still in a very fortunate situation as is demonstrated by many global indices, but it may be voters’ perception of their opportunity to make their voices heard that is declining,

Elements of Crisis

Three topics recur in most of the currents discussions of crisis:

  1. Corruption
  2. Leadership
  3. Lack of implementation of laws


At this point and as I have written before, corruption is perceived to be pervasive and intractable. Most Mongolians I speak to would say quite literally that there is no single person or group in national politics whom they don’t suspect of being corrupt. This corruption is mostly of the kind that MPs and politicians more generally are acting on their own behalf, not on behalf of the nation. This is generally linked to the prominence of businessmen (and some women) in politics, but also to the factions and particular individuals in leadership positions. Perceptions of corruption are in no way limited to one particular party or grouping, but hold for all current actors, even those who might represent a party that an interlocutor is affiliated with. The pervasiveness of corruption is also indicated by a perception of the inefficacy of anti-corruption institutions or anti-corruption claims by politicians.


At this time, both large political parties appear to be unable to reform themselves.

While factional fights had previously been somewhat contained within the MPP, they seem to be breaking out in the open more. Last year’s battle before Khurelsukh was elected as prime minister were a sign of such battles, but so is the loss of some of the energy around Khurelsukh from his initial drive for reform. Khurelsukh has been a very quiet PM for the past six months or so in my observation and appears to be somewhat resigned to resistance against any kind of change.

On the other hand of the MPP divisions is M Enhkbold. It is a rare circumstance where a political leader ran a very lacklustre presidential campaign and has been accused of the most corrosive kind of corruption (!) for two years now (the alleged pricelist for state offices associated with the ₮60b scandal), but is still clinging not only to a parliamentary seat, but to his role as speaker of parliament. The fact that allegations have been known for two years now, but that no concrete action towards an investigation that might lead to real and actionable conclusions seem likely, heightens the sense of crisis for most Mongolians and observers.

Of course, the DP is not immune to this leadership crisis in public perception. While Pres Battulga is nominally of the DP, he is perceived to be largely in politics for his own good, for his power and, allegedly, his profit. In that he is perceived as not entirely dissimilar to M Enkhbold by partisans from the opposite side.

Factions in the DP persist, but what may weigh even more heavily on Mongolians’ perception of the party is that there is no sense of the likelihood of turnover in the party’s leadership, despite the devastating defeat the long-time leadership suffered in the 2016 election. If Mongolian voters stick to their habit and decide to alternate between parties again, they will give the DP an election victory in 2020, something that seems to be assumed to be a likely outcome by many, including many in the MPP which – it needs to be noted – is currently governing with a super majority! But what would a victorious DP do in policy terms and who would lead it? Most Mongolians have no idea and very little hope in this regard.

Meanwhile, the MPRP may be regaining some credibility with a solidifying alliance between N Enkhbayar and S Ganbaatar at the (sometimes-disputed) helm of the party. But few would see the MPRP as a driver of meaningful reform or concrete policy changes.

While this leadership crisis does fuel a hunger for some kind of third and, possibly, fourth party, confidence in the chance at success for any new party appears to be low.

Lack of Implementation of Laws

The perception that Mongolia has many good laws, strategic plans, and intentions, but that few of them ever get a chance at impact through implementation has been a topic on this blog before. Many Mongolians now appear to agree with that assessment.

This agreement, of course, is devastating to any activism on specific topics. A common response to musings about reforms in particular areas is, “But will that be implemented?”. An example is the current projects aiming at a civil service reform. Yes, most would agree with the need for and even some elements in such a reform, but confidence that a reform would be a major step in combatting corruption, for example, is low.


Mongolians are in a political funk. That is obviously cause for concern in Mongolia, but also beyond in a world where democracy seems to be on the defensive.

Clearly, what appears to be a consensus on the presence of a crisis is important. The general agreement on the causes of this crisis is also important, the diagnosis appears to be agreed upon.

But, now what? Since the crisis is perceived to be one of the political leadership not being able to or willing to address challenges, many Mongolians seem disheartened and are shying away from addressing this crisis through personal or even collective action, many people seem resigned to the crisis.

Yet, this resignation must be a pool of potential support for any reform movements that might emerge, whether these might be within formal (party) politics, or outside of it, aimed at gradual reform or at more rapid change.

The formal and legal situation is such that collective action is quite possible, of course. Rights to association, protest and participation in the political process continue to be in place. Even when some people may be wary of taking action for fear repercussions from powerful actors or out of a sense of resignation, they do have the formal opportunities to organize.

[See what I did there in my optimism?]

Posted in Democracy, Governance, Ikh Khural 2020, Nationalism, Party Politics, Politics, Public Opinion, Social Media, Social Movements, Society and Culture | Tagged | Leave a comment

Inside Policy Workshops

By Julian Dierkes

This will be very familiar to Mongolian readers, but perhaps of more interest to non-Mongolian readers, or those who have not travelled in the countryside beyond tourism.

My experience comes from election observation on the one hand, and various workshops and projects on the other hand. I have thus been in Mongolia during the campaign period of the last six national elections, and have served as an election observer on election day during five of them (2008, 09, 12, 13, 17).

During election campaigns, I have visited propaganda yurts, party headquarters, election commissions, and other offices.

Elections themselves are always held in public offices, most likely kindergartens, and schools.

I have also conducted many workshops with Mongolian and international participants, typically in institutional buildings in Mongolia, including a recent series organized and funded by the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation Mongolia.

Institutional Buildings’ “Look and Feel”

There are many common elements to institutional rooms and buildings in Mongolia. Some of those have disappeared or are disappearing in Ulaanbaatar, but are still very present. Most of the buildings are of indeterminate age. Obviously, Mongolia’s climate is hard-wearing on buildings and materials are generally of somewhat low quality so that even newer buildings often look well-used.

Generally, walls of Mongolian buildings are very thick for insulation. Windows are thus deeply recessed which means that direct sunlight into rooms is also quite rare. (Scroll through photos in Instagram posts below for examples.)

To make up for the absence of direct light, almost all rooms seem to be lit by the whitest of neon lights, very often in a fan-like formation without any kind of decoration.

Floors are generally made of broad wooden panels, but they are almost inevitably covered with a roll-out layer of parquet-printed plastic of some kind. You can see these floor-coverings from governors’ offices, to schools, into families’ gers. I do not know whether such floor-coverings already existed during the socialist period. I imagine that they protect the floors, but they are also easier to maintain as they are easily swept. In gers, they also provide a level of separation from nature by providing a wooden-looking floor instead of a dirt floor.

Carpets appear surprisingly often in public rooms. Many rooms have a stage, whether that is schools or meetings rooms of administrative buildings or even hotels’ meeting rooms.

Details of institutional buildings in #Mongolia

A post shared by Julian Dierkes (@jbdierkes) on

Furniture ranges from a rough, log-cabin look, to some traditionally-decorated items.

And then, there’s always that awkward half-step on the stairs of almost all but the most recent buildings.


Posted in Architecture, Curios, Development | Tagged | 1 Comment

The Tavan Tolgoi Study: Disenfranchised Drivers

By Mendee Jargalsaikhan and Byambajav Dalaibuyan 

Who Are They? 

There are about 7000 ~ 9000 drivers – carrying out massive coal transportation from three mines, Ukhaa Khudag (known as Energy Resources LLC), State-Owned Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi, and locally-owned Tavan Tolgoi company.  They came from all across Mongolia to make their living in the harshest and least regulated work environment, as succinctly described by one of our respondents, “they are in Mongolia’s Syria.”

Only a few hundred drivers belong to the Energy Resources LLC and other properly-run transportation companies – that comply the country’s labour, health, and transportation laws, regulations, and standards.  They have annual medical check-ups, all types of insurances, and receive salary and benefits. Another hundred drivers have homes or relatives in three soums – Tsogttsetsii, Khanbogd, and Bayan-Ovoo.  The rest 6000~8000 (the number changes depending on job availability and Chinese demand) literally live and work in their trucks, except a few nights in their ger camps.

The most, nearly 99 percent, don’t own their trucks.  Without proper labour contracts and legal protections, they make their living by driving for someone, who either Chinese or Mongolian, owns trucks and exploits vulnerable, disenfranchised drivers. But they are, along with these secret owners on either side of the border, powerful enough to cause the force majeure for Oyu Tolgoi and all mines at Tavan Tolgoi by blocking or delaying the only export routes for the country’s copper and coal.

What They Do? 

Obviously, driving for 24 hours and seven days in a week.  They drive along the 270 km road between three coal mines at Tavan Tolgoi and Chinese buyers across the Sino-Mongolian border.  Although in the past, drivers used to only transport the coal directly to Chinese side, a new customs control zone, known Tsagaan Khad Customs Control Zone, was established about 20 kms from the border crossing (Gashuun Sukhait/Gants Mod Port) to unload and reload the coal.  For anyone, especially for mining companies and buyers, the extra unloading and reloading doesn’t make sense.  But, the key rationale behind the unnecessary (un)loading zone for local authorities to increase the value of the coal, but for the government officials to ameloriate drivers – who had been complaining about the long lines.  Drivers choose one of three routes:  long & long (270 kms from mines to across Chinese border), long (170 kms from mines to Tsagaan Khad customs zone), and short (20 km from Tsagaan Khad customs zone across Chinese border).  A typical task for the driver is queuing along the dusty road in the scorching Gobi climate.  The length of the wait time depends on how many trucks have been permitted to enter by the Chinese customs (average is 500-600 trucks per day).  A driver will spend 2-4 days for getting the coals from mines, 12-15 days waiting in the line to cross the border, and 3-5 days to return.

Tsagaan Khad, June 24, 2018 Photo by Byambajav

What are Problems? 

All fine laws – respecting human rights and labour rights – have not been enforced.  Local authorities, especially law enforcement, starting from traffic police, police, inspectors, and to health professionals, are overwhelmed by the number (7000 – 9000 temporary residents, plus another 1000 for providing services (e.g., delivery taxis, mechanics, ger restaurants, prostitutes).  Moreover, public servants dispatched from the government agencies (e.g., customs, borders, professional inspections, road transportation) are understaffed and, again, overwhelmed by numbers.  One can easily imagine when the police chief frustrates over the challenges of his small police detachment, with a few vehicles, handle unorganized thousands of drivers.

Congestion at the gate of a customs control area, Tsagaan Khad, Source: Apple Maps

Just like mining companies, these drivers want to maximize their gains and to minimize their expenses. In addition to paying fees for truck owners, they try not to pay insurances (health, social, driver’s), to split his pay by having alternative drivers, and even not to pay road taxes. Some look for all possible opportunities to make money – smuggling (contraband) appears to be tempting choice.  But, this increases their risks of getting into accidents, paying enormous penalties to truck owners, and being charged by either Chinese or Mongolian authorities.

According to the authorities, there were 1500 traffic accidents and 8 deaths in 2016 and another 1000 accidents and 7 deaths in 2017.  By March 20, 2018, four people died because of traffic accidents.  Causes are multiple:  low visibility for driving during the dusty days and nights, poor road maintenance & markings, inexperienced, careless, or intoxicated drivers, and, tired drivers who had been at the wheels more than 8-10 hours per day.

March 20, 2018 Photo by Byambajav

The most daunting problems, or disenfranchised labour rights – to have good work environment.  But, their basic sanitary needs have not been fulfilled.  No washrooms, showers, and rest-areas are on the Mongolian side along this 250 km route.  But, there is a well-regulated rest area on the Chinese-side, where drivers usually get refreshed.  Alcoholism, prostitution, and fighting are obvious problems among this mostly male community.  Without any effective enforcement of public laws, all three problems have been making the work environment for these drivers worse.  All doctors, local and private ones, in our interviews, highlight the prevalence of STDs among drivers and potential threat for the public health – as they become careers of different types of infectious disease.

Inside the cab of a coal truck. Truck June 24, 2018 Photo by Byambajav

How to Fix?

The most logical solution is to build the railroad as soon as possible.  But, if the current political pattern continues, it is very unlikely to see that’s happening.  This leaves us three solutions.

Keeping the Status Quo – the informal economy prevails.  Hidden Chinese and Mongolian owners of coal trucks continue benefitting from the massive, environmentally unfriendly coal transportation while paying no taxes to the government.  Frustrated, stressed drivers remain disenfranchised while risking lives of their own as well as others.  Poorly represented, powerless public servants become the victims of the blame game. One could easily imagine abandoned war zone images along the 270 km roads – trashes, salvaged vehicles, abandoned empty camp grounds.  Certainly, politicians would pay visits prior to next election cycles (2020/2021) and government dignitaries continue to have their televised stop-overs while making false promises.

Closing down the coal transportation – one might try to enforce the rules by stopping the coal transportation by informal drivers.  But, it would present devastating ‘lose-lose’ scenarios.  Groups, whose informal cash flow have interrupted, would easily assert their influence over the government.  Drivers would easily force the Oyu Tolgoi and Tavan Tolgoi mines declare another force majeure as it happened when Chinese haulers protested in January 2018.  Since Tavan Tolgoi is becoming the most important honey pot for the government and politicians, the closure of the coal transportation solution appear to be costly.  But, it happened once briefly in the past.

Enforcing the Rule of Law  – appears to be the rationale solution even though there are many would like to keep the ‘Wild Wild West’ scenario.  First, the government needs to provide more resources for the government services along the coal transportation routes.  This means it should place more human resources – police, health, customs, and professional inspections, and emergency responders.  The government agencies improve its interoperability and data-sharing.  Second, the state-owned enterprises (Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi), whether like or not, must establish and enforce contracts with transportation companies – requiring these companies – to comply labour and health standards, to maintain their own camps, and to control trucks.  A simple solution such as requiring GPS in all coal trucks could easily reduce the traffic violations and queue jumping or even the police-(bribed) escorted queue jumping. Finally, the taxation officers and labour/health/transportation inspectors should increase their inspections and auditing on these transportation companies.  This will help the informal economy shrink and hold those owners accountable, responsible for these drivers.  It will require transparency and accountability from 120 companies with international transportation licenses (C and D) for coal transportation.

Even though all understand concerns of coal miners and exporters, private and state alike, to open more routes and ports for the coal transportation from Tavan Tolgoi to China.  For example, many suggesting to open the Khangi port, which is over 400 kms from Tavan Tolgoi.  But, if the government cannot properly run and control the 270 km coal transportation route, how can one be sure that the other route would be environmentally and socially responsible one?

Unlike artisanal mining operations, which is, indeed, difficult to control and enforce laws, the coal transportation business is less complicated to control when there is a political will to rule out the corruption and to enforce the laws, regulations, and standards.

Posted in Corruption, Environment, Mining, Mining Governance, Tavan Tolgoi | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Preliminary Results of Tavan Tolgoi Study: Irresponsible State, Disenfranchised Drivers

By Mendee Jargalsaikhan & Byambajav Dalaibuyan 

The Mongolian Institute for Innovative Policies conducted a human rights assessment in areas affected by Tavan Tolgoi coal mining and transportation operations in Tsogt-Tsetsii, Bayan-Ovoo, and Khanbogd soums of Umnugobi province in March – July 2018.  The study was mandated by the National Human Rights Commission of Mongolia and funded by the United Nations Development Programme. However, violations of human rights issues have been raised by multiple stakeholders, ranging from local herders, local government, and affected drivers – to all possible levels of the government as early as 2010.  But, our study finds the situation has not been changed and it might even worsen if the government opens another route (i.e., Khangi Port) to Chinese border.

The sudden growth of the fleet of drivers with mostly Chinese-owned heavy coal trucks now caused more rights problem not only for the local community in Tsogt-Tsetsii and Khanbogd soums, but also for themselves and government officials working along the 270 km coal transportation route. Besides the failed railroad construction project, which could have reduced the need for coal transport by truck, and strong desire of mining companies to export as much as coal to China, has exacerbated irresponsible mining operations in Tavan Tolgoi. Instead of enforcing all fine laws of labour, health, environmental protection, and transportation, and relevant regulations and standards, the government has not provided sufficient resources for enforcing the rule of law. Even though parliament and government decided to take several measures – to build rest areas for drivers and to require mining companies to establish contracts with the transportation companies following visits of senior government officials – all decisions remain on paper only.

Upholding our academic neutrality to any biases, researchers found that operations of Energy Resources LLC have shown more concern for sustainable and responsible mining than the state-owned Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi and local Tavan Tolgoi companies. Energy Resources is the only business entity which follows all labour and health related legislations, regulations, and standards in regards with coal transport (e.g., insurance for drivers and vehicle, camps, and technical/safety inspections). In contrast, the other two companies have been extremely reluctant to follow standards. Since the state and state-owned entity have not been obeying the very laws of the state, this results in irresponsible, powerless state image in Tavan Tolgoi and 7000-8000 disenfranchised drivers – conducting coal transportation in most hazardous, unhealthy, and uncontrolled terrain.

Here, we would like to share a few survey results from drivers. Based on random sampling, 150 truck drivers participated in the survey, including 4 women.

What are the most challenging issues related to your work?

In your opinion, how often does any of the followings occur among drivers? (Please rate each of the following objects on a rating scale of 1-5)

Posted in Business, Environment, Erdenes Mongol, Gobi, Human Rights, Infrastructure, Mining, Mining Governance, Policy, Public Opinion, Tavan Tolgoi | Tagged , | Leave a comment


By Julian Dierkes

I have been encountering “unemployment” as a political challenge in Mongolia for many years. Most recently, in a set of six workshops on policy-making and political parties organized by the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation Mongolia for the Mongolian People’s Party youth organization (НАМЗХ) and the Trade Union Federation (МYЭХ).

[This is the first of a number of blog posts that benefited very much from conversations with Niels Hegewisch of the FES office in Mongolia, and with Mendee and Gerelt-Od.]

When we asked participants in the workshops to list the most pressing policy problems that Mongolia is facing, unemployment is inevitably named among the top 10 problems.

Unemployment is also a challenge that has been top-of-mind for voters in recent elections as I learned repeatedly in talking to campaign works for various parties, but as confirmed by surveys (presidential election 2017) as well.

But, What is Employment in a Mongolian Context?

When countryside residents or even inhabitants of the provincial capitals list unemployment as a challenge, what does that mean? Or, asked differently, what would employment be?

The frequency with which unemployment is mentioned as a challenge suggests that Mongolians have very high expectations of their government for providing employment. After all, even the most neoliberal perspective will be challenged by countryside residents living in a 2,000-person county that is battered by an extreme continental climate and the virtual absence of most kinds of infrastructure. Any kind of manufacturing or and most element of a service industry other than small-scale retail seems almost unimaginable in these contexts.

But, of course, there are many forms of recognizable employment. Even the smallest accumulation of houses will have a kiosk and some kind of basic fast food on offer. Gas stations have also become common at least in soum centres. The small retail businesses in particular are small private businesses with a lot of family involvement. They are supplied by occasional deliveries, but surely also by local herding/agricultural activities.

There are various other services such as repairs of cars, motorcycles and machinery.

Xaan Bank has branches in many small towns, sometimes at least a cash machine. More varied retail (clothing, electronics, etc.) is typically only available in aimag centres.

As the road network has been expanding, construction is clearly also a business that is very present with gravel pits along highways, construction sites, etc.

If there is manufacturing, it is well-hidden to me, but there must be small workshops for some basic countryside needs that I simply do not see. I do not think that herders have any retail needs to be herders, as they do not buy feed, fencing, or any equipment to handle animals.

That, basically, leaves the public sector, i.e. administration, schools, health.

Given the patronage nature of Mongolian politics, it is these jobs that are up for grabs and to be distributed after elections.

However, the frequent mention of employment suggests that Mongolians are either expecting different kind of jobs, or more of the kind that does exist.

Herding as Employment

In the discussions of (un)employment it is unclear to me whether herding is seen as employment. There are anecdotal reports that larger herds are increasingly managed by herders-for-hire suggesting that employment in this sector is becoming more common.

Traditionally (that is, with privatization of the national herd in the early 1990s), herders are seen as self-employed. As herding is continuing to change from a subsistence to a cash-crop/meat/wool business, the nature of that self-employment is also continuing to change.

There seem to be few (political) discussions of herding that see this as an employment sector for investment, although there are various public subsidies for and recognition of herding.

Employment in Cities

Obviously, there are many more viable forms of employment in Mongolia’s cities, including manufacturing and service enterprises. Here, unemployment takes a form that may be much more similar to unemployment in an OECD economy. And, employment initiatives would focus on a more varied type of business, as well as a different scale. Clearly, Ulaanbaatar is a large enough potential market to make a variety of businesses potentially viable, but even Darkhan and Erdenet offer some such opportunities.

(Un)employment as Cleavage for Definition of Political Parties

Curiously, despite the frequency with which voters/citizens mention unemployment as a if not the central policy challenge, political parties have not defined themselves in programmatic terms around employment. Yes, there are occasional claims from the MPP that it is a social-democratic party, just as the label “liberal” is sometimes attached to the DP, but even though these two characterizations could be treated as ends of a political spectrum of employment policies, in part elections the parties have not presented programmatically different positions on (un)employment. More typically, candidates/parties claim that they will create jobs, but not how.

Is job growth meant to come from private employment? If yes, what would these businesses be? What would the look like in cities, in provincial capitals, in towns? What role would the state play in the emergence of businesses or in the creation of jobs? Should herding be a privileged kind of employment that is supported or protected by the state? Given continued population growth, where will employment growth come from in the future?

These are questions that would lend themselves well to programmatic debates between the parties given their salience to voters, but also the pronounced differences between market-led employment policies vs. arguments for state involvement or investment.

Please, a Dissertation, Someone!

But, it’s not just Mongolian political parties that should be talking about employment more and more substantively. This would be a topic that would be a great focus for a dissertation.

What does employment mean in a Mongolian context?, could be the guiding question for ethnographic research. Is herding employment? Is employment primarily a source of income, or is it akin to a Weberian “Beruf”? What varieties of employment forms exist across different contexts? Are there any jobs that appear to offer job security?

If you are considering focusing on such topics in graduate school, let’s talk about supervision possibilities!

Bottom Line: Some Heretical Thoughts

When considering employment, I sometimes have a creeping suspicion that elements of a planned economy may actually have suited Mongolian industrialization quite well. I’m not advocating a return to a fully planned economy, but when it comes to some forms of industry, particularly in the countryside, private enterprise and entrepreneurship faces overwhelming hurdles, so it seems that an active state investment aimed at job creation, diversification of the economy, and some kind of allocation of industrial capacity may serve a good part of Mongolia’s geography and population well.

Posted in Business, Countryside, Diversification, Economics, Employment, Policy, Public Policy | Tagged | Leave a comment

New to Ulaanbaatar August 2018

By Julian Dierkes

I’ve been keeping a list of things that are arriving to/disappearing from central Ulaanbaatar: October 2017June 2017 | May 2016 | December 2015 | May 2015 | May 2014 | October 2013. More informal versions of these observations also appear in the /ulaanbaatar/change/ category.

I’ve copied the 2014-17 lists here and am adding to it. New items since previous posts appear in italics.

What has arrived?

  • sadly: Louis Vuitton, KFC, Burberry Kids, Ugg and a Porsche dealership
  • Mini, Bentley
  • child seats
  • sidewalks
  • parks
  • farmers’ markets
  • yoga
  • dogs on leashes
  • Sunday morning joggers and bikers
  • burgeoning coffee culture
  • river walkway along the Dund River (under construction in May 2015 but looking very promising)
  • city park along the Tuul
  • sports cars
  • organic shopping
  • gated communities (virtually all the new developments towards and in Zaisan)
  • wheelchair accessibility (moved from “What Will Appear” category as ministries are now (meant to be) wheelchair-accessible
  • the “#замчөлөөл” hastag, a city campaign to shame property owners about their infringement of public space. Seems – quietly – very successful when you look at many photos posted.
  • large-scale BBQ extravaganza on the banks of the Tuul river, particularly near the ASEM Road. On summer weekends, so many cars parked right on the riverside, BBQs planted right next to them, families camping out, some literally
  • Harley-Davidson (now seemingly endorsed by new PM U Khurelsukh)
  • drive-home service for drivers who have been drinking. You call the service, they drop off a driver who drives you home in your car and is then picked up again. Given – fortunately – much stricter enforcement of drunk driving laws, a great service!
  • bike lanes and bike parking, being shooed off bike lanes by riders
  • street names and signs in the city
  • fat tire bikes
  • home air filtration systems that everyone is talking about
  • Hummer stretch limousine
  • airport road is getting ever fancier, now there’s a giant overpass under construction just before crossing the Tuul on the way into town. Lots of fancy on/off-ramps popping up everywhere on roads.

What has disappeared, or at least nearly?

  • stationary 80s-office-phone-looking old-granny cell phone booth
  • for-pay scales (actually, they seem to be hanging on)
  • free WiFi on Sukhbaatar, er Chinggis Khaan, er, Sukhbaatar Square, er, Chinggis Khaan Square
  • open gullys/missing manholes
  • street kids (they seem to come and go. In summer 2017 there were very few of them again.)
  • packs of dogs
  • smoking
  • the sixth-floor souvenir shop at the State Department Store (though perhaps seasonal)
    oversized sunglasses for women that were so popular across Asia (?) some years ago
  • Nescafé (see above on coffee culture)
  • surprise at seeing bicycles
  • hillside Chinggis visible from the city centre as more tall buildings are constructed

What will appear in the future

  • navigation systems
  • mental maps shifting to street names/addresses instead of landmarks
  • new airport, apparently opening in 2018. I drove by there in summer 2017. Oh my, it far from the city!
  • subway (really, I wish they had selected light rail instead)
  • urban renewal and historical restorations embracing district north of government house (National University of Mongolia, German embassy, etc.)
  • road signs in the countryside (and not just the very random, very occasional ones that can be found now)
  • network of cross-country riding trails (though not in central Ulaanbaatar)
  • parking (meters)
  • Combined Heat and Power Plant #5 (yeah, right!)
  • hipsters discovering УАЗ (minivan and jeep)
  • Canada Goose, Arc’teryx
  • giant whole blown into Bogd Khaan mountain to “drain” polluted air out of the valley (that actually is a proposal, but it will not appear!)
  • some kind of traffic routing system with overhead displays

What will disappear in the medium-term future

I’m going out on a predictive limb here… 2-3 years is what I mean by “near future”.

Actually, since I have been predicting this as “near future” change for some years now, I guess I was wrong with all these predictions, and have changed the listing to medium-term future.

  • stray dogs
  • stretched-out hand to signal for a car ride
  • that awkward extra half-step on most stairs
  • whitening make-up.

What will disappear in the long-term future

I mean around 7 years or so. None of these seems to be coming true quite yet, so I’ve changed the name of this category from medium-term to long-term.

  • new (to Mongolia) cars that are right-hand drive
  • the neo-classical Ministry of Foreign Affairs building, with its Stalinist (if that’s an architectural style) spire [Tough call to make as the MFA building is now dwarfed by its own annex]
  • deels in the city
  • some of the downtown university campuses
  • buildings of 4 floors or less in the urban core
  • Russian minivans (УАЗ452) but see above
  • the Winter Palace. It won’t disappear entirely, but it is more-and-more surrounded by a very urban and very tall landscape making it look somewhat forelorn.
Posted in Change, Curios, Ulaanbaatar | Tagged | Leave a comment

Local Level Agreements in Mongolia: A Need for Government Leadership and Policy Clarity

By Byambajav D

Before any mineral exploration and mining can take place in Mongolia, the country’s 2006 Minerals Law requires that the host local government and license holders sign a “local level agreement” (LLA). LLAs typically include commitments and obligations that help enhance environmental protection, local content and infrastructure investments.

And yet the implementation of the law has been inconsistent, and local governments and mining companies alike have pled for clarification around LLAs’ objectives and scopes. With this in mind, the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI) and the Open Society Forum (OSF) have worked together to improve the legal frameworks for LLAs as well as improve practices on the ground. We do this in various ways: establishing the independent monitoring of LLAs via civil society organizations; presenting research-informed policy recommendations; and facilitating regional capacity building workshops for all relevant actors.

There is now growing momentum to define the core objectives and principles of LLAs. But in order to attain true clarity around this issue, the national government itself must do a better job of facilitating a national dialogue. Below, I outline the main reasons why this is necessary, and suggest how the government can take the lead in improving LLAs.

Government-issued model agreement has caused more confusion

Mongolia’s national government showed a commitment to improving the uptake of LLAs when it issued a model for LLAs in 2016­­, called the “Model Agreement on Protecting the Environment, Developing Infrastructure related to Mine Operation and Plant Construction, and Creating Jobs.” Unfortunately, this five-page document did not provide much help to either local governments or mining companies—at best, it has been used as a reference, but most actors ignore it entirely because of its narrow scope and ambiguity about the model’s legal power. In fact, participants in regional workshops have said that the model has led to more confusion than clarity.

For it to become useful, the Ministry of Mining and Heavy Industry (MMHI) should revise the model agreement and define it as a hybrid document that consists of a) a mandatory framework that defines the core elements of an LLA and b) a non-binding guidance document for potential agreement processes and content that local governments and mining companies can adjust to their respective contexts and needs.

Mining-affected communities are marginalized in the current subnational revenue sharing system

In 2015, the national government took an important step when it increased the share of mining revenues for host areas: the budget law was amended to transfer 30 percent of royalty payments of non-mega-projects and 50 percent of license fees to host provinces and districts. However, that 30 percent figure was reduced to 10 percent by the end of 2016. Worse, in 2017 the revenue-sharing scheme was suspended entirely until 2020. LLAs are perceived by local governments and communities as the main mechanism through which they gain benefits from resource projects, and such unpredictable shifts in the revenues to which they are entitled creates both confusion and frustration. To remedy this, the national government––especially the Ministry of Finance and the MMHI­­––should urgently foster clarity around its sub-national revenue sharing policy and which financial flows should be included in LLAs.

State-owned enterprises (SOEs) should play by the same rules as private companies

All license holders should obey the LLAs requirement in the Minerals Law. However, EITI Mongolia reports show that SOEs do not establish LLAs in Mongolia. (The Erdenet Mining Corporation was the only SOE to establish an LLA, for three years beginning in 2013.) The lack of transparency and accountability of SOEs needs to be remedied if the overall governance of the country`s extractive sector is to improve. Local governments and mining-affected communities are increasingly frustrated by the weak performance of SOEs on environmental and social obligations—making these enterprises comply with the LLAs requirement can help improve their relations with local communities, as well as increase their contributions to local sustainable development.

Both the national government and donor-support civil society should adopt a collaborative and scaled-up approach

Mongolia’s civil society organizations (with support from donor organizations) are most concerned about ensuring consistent and effective implementation of the legal mandate around LLAs. They have developed toolkits and sourcebooks, provided capacity building, and directly engaged in agreement-making on this subject. But the impact of these sporadic efforts has largely been localized and subject to the changing winds of local political dynamics. The national government must take the lead in helping to consolidate these efforts into a larger, national push that can make a real difference.

The way forward for LLAs

Despite the inconsistent implementation of the LLA requirement in the Minerals Law, local governments and mining companies have established at least 100 LLAs in the past decade, and there are examples of good and bad practice. The lessons learned from these LLAs can help improve the existing regulatory framework and agreement-making on the ground. The government can reaffirm its commitment to promoting LLAs by leading a national dialogue on the core principles of legal and policy frameworks for LLAs in Mongolia, collaborating with donor organizations, and facilitating multi-stakeholder deliberation.

Note: This post first appeared on the blog of the Natural Resource Governance Institute on 17 April 2018.

Posted in Governance, Mining, Mining Governance, Public Policy | Tagged | Leave a comment

Guest Post: Flooding in Mongolia

By Jangar Ts

Recent floods in Mongolia have brought about a lot of discussions. Continuous heavy rains all over the country quickly resulted in multiple floods, destroying communication lines, affecting some villages and infrastructure. In the northern part of the country, where Ulaanbaatar is located, heavy rains resulted in flooding rivers and occasional submergence of some ger district areas or basements of certain buildings by raised water table. Most of the interest, however, is continuous and heavy rains in the Gobi Desert regions, unseen for more than 3 decades.

Flooded desert

In the past, semi-arid and arid zones of the Gobi desert had small populations dispersed over a vast area. However, the development of the mining industry increased human activity in this region. Paved roads, and thus an even more extended, dense network of dirt roads, and growing soum centres and mining towns increased the possibility to be hit by disasters such as heavy rain. There were multiple reports of damage to paved roads caused by flooding road, or recent accident in Airag soum, when locomotive with several cars run off the rails, fortunately without fatalities.

Whom to blame?

Partially, floods can be explained by global warming; according to Science Magazine summer temperatures are rising higher than winter temperatures especially in Mongolia. But, no lesser than important cause is human activity. Pasture management and a dense network of the dirt roads should be carefully planned and managed. The first one is commonly known; the number of livestock grows continuously for decades. The vegetative cover is heavily grazed and the soil beneath is compacted simultaneously. Another reason is a dense network of unpaved or earth roads that acts as an extended channel, delivering substantial amount of rain-water to the nearby river or area with lower elevation causing floods. This was clearly seen from a photo of Airag Soum flood in the picture taken by Mr. Zorigt Munkhchuluun. Compacted soil hardly saturates, and when heavy rain even for the short period of time falls in area, it causes so called Hortonian overflow. Many herders, nowadays, are using cars and motorcycles; adding more roads; I even have seen nomads herding on the car!

Nature “works”

Overgrazed pastures, with dense network of roads, fire suppression that breaks natural way of vegetative growth and climate change with other multiple factors will generate disasters such as a desertification, volatile wildfire or flooding. I am not saying that flooding or other disaster is something unseen in Mongolia, these are types of abiotic disasters typical and required to sustain our ecosystem. But increase of occurrences, when every extensive rain becomes a disaster regardless of its location is evident and based on our activities.

About Jangar

Jangar Tsembel was born in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia (1974). After graduation from the School of Foreign Services of the National University of Mongolia (1996), Jangar worked as an interpreter in ongoing development projects in Mongolia and since 2000 was employed in consulting companies such as PCI and CTI Engineering International, as acting resident representative of company in Mongolia until 2014. Currently he is a graduate student in the Faculty of Forestry, University of British Columbia.


Posted in Countryside, Environment, Flooding, Gobi, Grassland, Jangar Tsembel, Natural Disaster, Ulaanbaatar | Leave a comment

Rose-Tinted Views: My Optimist View of Mongolia

By Julian Dierkes

Had a really interesting conversation! Wow, what a network of worldly, interesting Mongolians, Bataa has assembled!

A number of his friends were kind enough to mention that they read the blog and it turned out that I had actually interacted with a number of them online.

Am I too Easy on Mongolia in my Analyses?

I have heard this comment before. The blog focuses on vaguely positive aspects of developments in Mongolia. I look for the good side of people/programs/events.

Yes, I think that’s true.

Here’s why:

  1. evidence
  2. comparative perspective
  3. long-term trajectory
  4. respect

1. Evidence

For many analyses of current developments in Mongolia, evidence is hard to come by. Take my strong sense that corruption really has become paralyzing for Mongolia over the last several years and that from the perspective of Mongolians I interact with, there are virtually no political leaders whom they don’t suspect of being massively corrupt (i.e. putting their personal, often financial, gains ahead of the good of the country). There, I’ve said it. But, note that I’ve said, “from the perspective of Mongolians I interact with” that is a big caveat. A. I’m not reporting on any kind of systematic research of popular opinion. B. There’s a lot of hedging in that statement.

So, why don’t I come straight out and say, “Politician X is corrupt and should be removed from politics” to stay with the corruption example?

Well, one of the most unfortunate aspects of Mongolian politics in my mind is that it is dominated by allegations, hearsay, and conspiracy theories. Those are not helpful factors in a democracy. If there are allegations of corruption or other malfeasance, they need to be investigated or dropped! In every election that I’ve observed, voters and party officials have told me that rampant vote-buying, etc. is going on. But since there is never any solid evidence offered, I have no time for such allegations.

I do not want to make allegations that I cannot back up with evidence.

For anyone who actually follows through on allegations by collecting evidence, presenting that to the public and demanding prosecution where needed, I have the deepest respect and strong belief that they are the people that will save Mongolian democracy. There are not enough people like that, but I am not one of those people.

2. Comparative Perspetive

As much as I wish I was, I am not Mongolian. I know this comes as a surprise to some of you. ????

I write about Mongolia from a foreign perspective and I think about Mongolia very often in comparative terms. Sometimes those comparisons are explicit (i.e. mining regulation in Mongolia compared with Australia, Canada, Kyrgyzstan, etc.), more often implicit (my German, Canadian, sometimes Japanese, Western or whatever biases).

Most of our readers are not located in Mongolia. Over the seven years of our blogging, approximately one quarter of our over 108,000 thousand readers are located in Mongolia. Note that I say, “located in Mongolia” not “Mongolian” as that’s what’s reported by Google Analytics. Many of those readers located outside of Mongolia will be interested in Mongolia in a comparative perspective, i.e. not “Is Mongolia democratic?” (of course it is!), but “What elements of democracy are strong in Mongolia compared to …?”.

If I focus on two of the main areas that we cover in the blog, democracy and mining policy, Mongolia looks like a great success in an international context.

When I speak to Mongolians about politics, I discuss many flaws in Mongolian democracy. When I speak to Russians, Chinese, or even Americans about democracy, Mongolian politics look wonderful!

Of course there are challenges related to the emergence of a mining economy in Mongolia, but some ten years into the second coming of that industry (the first being Erdenet), I would have to summarize that Mongolia is not cursed by its resources, but blessed, at a very high level of generalization, obviously, especially compared to many other cases.

3. Long-term Trajectory

I believe that Mongolia is on a positive long-term trajectory. While I do have some romantic attachments to country living or nomadic pastoralism (though, somewhat typically, more for others than for me, or more during vacation that otherwise), I do believe that Mongolians are better off today than 150, 50, 10 years ago because they have greater freedom to choose their fate, and they have more resources to act on these choices. I do recognize that economic growth does not lead to spiritual happiness and that the days of necessary de-growth may be upon us sooner than we anticipated, but even in that, there will be a greater quality of life, I believe. Democracy and freedom is good for Mongolia, and Mongolians are good at it. There are many young(er) Mongolians who are very well-educated, and very well-intentioned. Their future and thus the country’s future is bright.

And, at the end of June 2020, vote for Julian, candidate of the Canadian-German Party. Just kidding.

4. Respect

My role is not to praise Mongolia or Mongolian decision-makers, but it is also not to criticize. My role is to offer research-informed analyses! I do so with respect for the sovereignty of Mongolians over their affairs, their responsibility for these affairs, but also with a great appreciation for the hospitality I enjoy in Mongolia and with Mongolians.

Yes, I’m Guilty of Optimism

So, yes, I am guilty of optimism and will continue to focus on good news about Mongolia, to raise Mongolia’s profile in the world for positive reasons, and to believe that Mongolia’s future is bright.

Those of you who read our analyses regularly know about that biases and can make up your own mind whether even unsubstantiated criticism and talk of corruption allegations and conspiracies are more powerful explanations of current developments. I hope that you will continue to call me out, perhaps even more often, when my goggles are too rose-tinted.

For very occasional readers, be aware of my fundamental optimism, but do not reject it simply because there are a plethora of negative voices around.

Posted in Corruption, Media and Press, Politics, Reflection | Tagged | Leave a comment

Guest Post: Grappling with Wrestling Titles

By Zorigtkhuu B

Puntsagdorj.T (Т.Пунцагдорж Аймгийн заан) “Naadam” 2018 Seattle, USA

National wrestling is considered a Mongolian precious cultural heritage. It holds the Guinness World Record that involved 6,002 wrestlers during the largest Mongolian wrestling tournament which was organized  on 17th September. 2011. Wrestlers have been entertaining the audience during all national holidays and ceremonies. The biggest ceremony is “Naadam” which is organized between the 10th and 13th of July every year. It has also been inscribed as an intangible heritage of humanity by UNESCO.

Only during Naadam wrestlers are awarded state titles based on their achievements, starting from the round 5 out of 9 (10 rounds sometimes). A few of the titles which represent some powerful birds and animals have been awarded since 13th century. However, some changes were made for the law of national “Naadam” ceremony with regards of state titles in 2005.

Puntsagdorj.T (Т.Пунцагдорж Аймгийн заан) “Naadam” 2018 Seattle, USA.

State titles are classified as follows:

1st round No title is awarded
2nd round No title is awarded
3rd round No title is awarded
4th round No title is awarded
After the result of 5th round Nachin Начин
After the result of 6th round Khartsaga Харцага
After the result of 7th round Zaan Заан
After the result of 8th round Garid Гарьд
After the result of 9th round Arslan Арслан The Naadam with 9 rounds takes place every year with 512 wrestlers
After the result of 10th round Champion Аварга The Naadam with 10 rounds (1024 wrestlers) usually takes place 2 times in a decade when there is a special state anniversary.

The highest two state titles are awarded immediately for a wrestler who wins round 9 or 10 no matter what kind of title he previously holds.

State Titles and Military Ranks

In recent years, a bizarre practice has been occurring in Mongolian national wrestling culture. A wrestler who wins the “Naadam” wrestling tournament is awarded either the second highest state title (Арслан) or the highest (Аварга) depending on his current title, the wrestler is also given a higher rank of military title (like a bonus) such as lieutenant-colonel or colonel by the law enforcement authorities if he belongs to one of the sport clubs that are run by any law enforcement authority. This practice divides the audience into two sides. Many criticize that military titles should not be awarded as prizes, especially for the wrestlers who do not have any experience in the military while real military officers who work 20-30 years for the military sector retire without these titles. Others justify that reaching a higher level of state title is challenging, so they deserve it. Although there is a long list of names of wrestlers who have been awarded both military and wrestling titles at the same time in recent years, the sensation was not as serious as this year’s result.

Surprisingly, N.Batsuuri, the  of this year’s “Naadam” stirred a huge discussion among the audience. He was awarded the highest state title along with a lieutenant-colonel by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) because he belongs to its sport club. Most critics blame Batsuuri rather than “NEMA”. If someone must be blamed, the target should be either a legal gap or the authority of the law enforcement authorities instead of an individual. Obviously, he did not award that military title for himself.

Ethnic Divisions

Many claim that the only reason why Batsuuri is being blamed and criticized by many people is that he was born and raised in the western part of Mongolia, in Uvs aimag where about 3% of Mongolian population hails from. Discriminating each other by ethnicity is regretfully common in Mongolia, in all arenas including politics and sports.

It is uncertain that when and who is going to eliminate the attitude among the citizens of Mongolia to discriminate each other by his or her ethnicity that has been continuing since 14th century. It is regretful and painful to see such an ethnic discrimination in a small country.

Other Challenges in Organizing Wrestling

The problematic practices in wrestling do not end with these issues of military titles and ethnic discrimination are not only the things that have to be resolved. There are other serious things such as buying/selling state titles of wrestling, prevalence of doping and associational rivalry which lead by politicians (former champions) between an old association (Үндэсний бөхийн холбоо) which ruled roughly 28 years and newly stablished association. Buying/selling the titles has become very common, especially it can be clearly seen during the round 5 for the lowest state title. Also, the two associations often announce that their purpose is to eliminate the negative images of national wrestling. However, associational rivalry is suspected that their main goal is merely to own the “Wrestling Palace” under the pretence of reform.

Although, Mongolians would never get rid of national wrestling, all the negative images should be reformed as people enjoy any sport when there is no cheating. If the reform could be done as soon as possible, I strongly believe that the audience is not only measured by Mongolians, it has the power to attract international audience, like Sumo in Japan.

PS: Every Mongolian is looking forward to Naadam. Every man of all generation wrestles as a kid for fun and play. I (accidentally) won the wrestling championship of the BC Mongolians Community Naadam this year (4 rounds only and no title was awarded). This is to say that wrestling is a part of a cultural identity, therefore the matter of where it is heading is of a great concern to me.

About the author:

Bat-Erdene ZORIGTKHUU currently lives in Vancouver, Canada. He graduated from MUST and is aiming to complete a Master’s degree at Norman B. Keevil Institute of Mining Engineering of the University of British Columbia. Zorigtkhuu’ research will focus on Mining Local Procurement (Local Content) in Mongolia.

Professional background: Zorigtkhuu worked for the biggest coal mining company (Energy-Resources) in Mongolia and an “International Medical Center (Intermed Hospital)” project that was jointly commissioned by MCS group in Mongolia.

Posted in Naadam, Wrestling, Zorigtkhuu Bat-Erdene | Leave a comment

IAAC: To Change Directors or Strengthen the Institutions?

By Mendee Jargalsaikhan and Julian Dierkes

In a previous post, we discussed the joint efforts of President Kh Battulga, MP L Oyun-Erdene (MPP), and concerned citizen O Darkhanbaatar, regarding the current leadership of the IAAC.  The most publicized reason for the removal of Director Kh Enkhjargal and Deputy Director Ts Nyamdorj is their unwillingness to investigate and resolve the ’60 billion tugrug’ case, which is closely linked to M Enkhbold, Chairman of the State Ikh Khural. For many, this is a valid point, but we wonder if the change of IAAC leaders will be a cure for the country’s endemic corruption. Instead, all senior leaders need to strengthen the existing institution by staying out of corruption investigations and letting corrupt individuals be prosecuted lawfully.  This would help the nation develop its economy, political parties getting rid of the gradually-evolving cartel-type structures, and politicians gaining public trust and support.

Is anti-corruption a new effort?

The fight against corruption is not a new effort, it is rather an interrupted one. Historically, besides the communist party investigation commission (Намын Хянан Шалгах Хороо), there was the People’s Committee for Control and Investigation (Ардын Хянан Шалгах Хороо), which reported to the Presidium of the People’s Great Khural. The main duty of the committee was to investigate complaints and potential corruption cases (mostly misuse of the public office and state property), and then to transfer to law enforcement organizations and judiciary for further investigation and prosecution. Under the Law on People’s Control and Investigation (1980), the People’s Committee for Control and Investigation had a main office (50 permanent staff), branches in all provinces, major cities and districts (90 permanent staff), and was supported by 1027-2683 control groups in state industries and organizations as well as 1930-2487 control posts in agricultural units. 26-30,000 people were elected to these control groups and posts.

We are not making a nostalgic argument that the People’s Committee for Control and Investigation was effective and efficient. But there are several points we would like to highlight: First, both corruption and efforts to fight against corruption have existed during any periods of Mongolian history just like in other countries. However, the fight against corruption requires institutionalization. The institutionalization process needs a time and endorsement from top leaders.  For example, Mongolian political leaders gave such efforts in the period of 1972-1990.

Second, it is an interrupted effort. The People’s Committee for Control and Investigation was de-commissioned in 1990 resulting in a loss of all experienced professionals,   dismantling of institutions, and dismissal of cases under investigation. In 1995, parliament established a weak State Control and Investigation Committee; however, leaders and staff were constantly changed following the elections. It was understaffed and non-operational body. Then, another body, the State Auditing Agency, was established in 2003, but remained less influential and dependent on the politics. So, Mongolia had 15 years for corruption to gain its institutional strength while anti-corruption efforts lost their institutional champion.

Just as the communist party was regenerated (re-born), if the People’s Committee for Control and Investigation had been regenerated into new political and economic circumstances, the country could have at least expertise in place, rules and laws were valid and enough evidence could have been archived. Hence, political leaders, including those at the decision-making bodies, must refrain any efforts to make the IAAC a merely political tool, but rather to strengthen the institutions.

If the IAAC is a political tool, do we need it?

If this current effort is just directed at strengthening one’s position vis-a-vis other political opponents (e.g. Battulga & Khurelsukh versus M Enkhbold) or to control this key institution for their own political/economic gains (e.g., elections, major economic projects), we should begin to question the very existence of the IAAC, which is, indeed, an additional financial burden on tax-payers.

We have seen political competition around appointments of the IAAC leadership before. No past IAAC directors fully served their six-year tenure, which extends beyond the four-year electoral cycles (parliamentary and presidential elections). In December 2007, the first director, B Dangaasuren (judge), was mysteriously found dead in Australia after serving just one year.  The second director, Ch Sangaragchaa (police), was nominated by President Enkhbayar and approved by an equally divided parliament in 2007.  From 2009 on, he was pressured by members of the Public Council  newly appointed to this body of civilian oversight by President Elbegdorj, and then sentenced for misusing his investigative authority in 2011. The second director lasted almost four years. The third director, N Ganbold (police), was nominated by President Elbegdorj and approved by parliament in November 2011, but requested an early release from his duty just prior to the 2016 parliamentary election. Then, the current director, Kh Enkhjargal (police) was nominated by President Elbegdorj in May 2016 and the MPP-dominated parliament approved his appointment in July.  Now he is under pressure from the new president. Because the appointment process of the IAAC director and deputy director becomes heavily dependent on the power dynamics of political competitions (instead of the professional merits), they seem to care more about safe-play or navigation on the shaky political landscape than going after major corruption cases.

Apparently, for any political leader, it is important to have control, if not, influence over law enforcement and judicial institutions. First, with the control of the IAAC, you could eliminate your opponents. At least, you could marginalize your opponents by not resolving the case completely, rather using for blackmailing purposes. Second, the IAAC could provide protection from any investigations simply by not pursuing it, delaying it, or even destroying evidences. Therefore, if top-politicians consider the IAAC as an political instrument to advance and protect their parochial interests, it is not fair for tax-payers to fund this costly, ineffective endeavour of fighting against the corruption.

If IAAC is a tool of justice, we need to strengthen it

Instead of sacking leaders of the IAAC, who are already constrained by political pressures, the country’s top politicians should strengthen the institutions fighting against corruption.

It would take at least 15-20 years for any effort to become fully institutionalized – meaning rules, regulation, and procedures to become norms, organizations to be established and become operational, and activities to gain legitimacy and support from the society. In order words, the war (or battle) against corruption is not a job only for the IAAC.

Politicians, especially those involved in law-making and decision-making processes, should make all necessary changes in the legal framework to enable judiciary and law-enforcement organizations to investigate and prosecute corruption cases. This has been repeatedly and publicly requested by IAAC Directors. For instance, several directors explained any high-profile cases were dropped by the decision of the Chief Prosecutor’s Office (even at the district level). Both Ganbold and Enkhjargal asked for a change in the law to pursue off-shore accounts. These requests were simply ignored. Therefore, politicians need to make decisions and stick to their decisions for anti-corruption efforts to succeed. For their own and public interests, politicians could not judge or demand whether one or two cases are investigated and prosecuted.

It is also important to provide the necessary resources (human and material) for all organizations involved in the anti-corruption efforts. The development of professionals (e.g., training, expertise, experience), setting the legal framework for drawing a clear line between organizations, and streamlining inter-agency procedures would require more time and patience. For instance, it would take at least 15 years for any new detectives to gain expertise and experience to lead the anti-corruption agency. Since all organizations, especially those – judiciary, police, intelligence, tax, are usually in constant turf war over resources (e.g., professionals, budgets), it would require at least 10 years to figure out their co-existence and collaboration. Any policy needs to have a lifetime.  Finally, anti-corruption efforts would need time to gain legitimacy and support from the society.


From time to time, it has been quite surprising to hear influential politicians ask and talk about the importance of the IAAC investing into more efforts into the enlightment and education of anti-corruption. Each new president wants to replace the leaders of the anti-corruption agency and it is becoming the pattern since 2007. But, we would argue that politicians need to strengthen and support the institutions – by asking what main obstacles for the overall efforts against corruption and importantly, by presenting themselves as a role model of not-interferring in the investigation process. Since mostly literate and educated public knows what corruption is; therefore, politicians should not demand the IAAC to be an educational organization rather than an investigative agency.

Posted in Corruption, Governance, Judiciary, Politics | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Akçay Mobilization

By Julian Dierkes

The late July apparent attempt to kidnap a Gülen-affiliated educator in Mongolia is still animating a lot of discussions one week later. The most pressing questions still surround the cooperation that some Mongolian authorities must have given to Turkish efforts, but no revelations around that topic have come and judging by past similar events, we may not ever quite know who might have been involved.

But here, I want to look at the mobilization in “defence” of Veysel Akçay.

International Perceptions

The international perception of what happened on August 27 reinforced perceptions of Mongolia as a “scrappy democracy in a tough neighbourhood”.

[I almost wonder if we need an acronym here? SDiaTN? Any other suggestions? #гэнээ]

Journalists and other observers (including myself) saw the fact that the abduction was prevented as a triumph of either the rule of law, or civil society, or both. Matthias Müller (Beijing correspondent of the Swiss Neue Zürcher Zeitung) thus entitled his article “Mongolian Rule of Law Denies Turkish Arbitrariness” (Der mongolische Rechtsstaat trotzt türkischer Willkür) for example.

Similar, Niels Hegewisch (country manager for the German Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation) subtitled his report “How the abduction of a Turkish teacher from Mongolia was defeated by resistance of civil society” (Weshalb die Entführung eines türkischen Lehrers aus der Mongolei am Widerstand der Zivilgesellschaft scheiterte)

Who Protested?

Protesters could perhaps be grouped into three categories: 1. people close to Akçay, 2. current and former students, 3. officials and other voices that amplified initial protests.

1. Protesters with direct ties to Akçay

Two people in particular spoke directly to the Mongolian public through social media channels, Ganbat, a colleague of Akçay, and Meryem Akçay, Akçay’s wife. Both were eloquent in their appeal, but their involvement is not very surprising as they were personally and directly effected.

2. Mobilizing current and former students

There are five Turkish-Mongolian high schools in Mongolia. [Of course, technically, these are no longer Turkish-Mongolian schools but operated out of Germany under the “Empathy” brand, but most people seem to continue to refer to them as Turkish schools.] They were started in 1994, their alumni are thus all under 40 years old.

According to a number of alumni that I was able to ask, these students were mobilized through direct, person-to-person contacts via social media. It does not appear to have been the case that there was any kind of quasi-universal appeal for help, but instead A told B what was happening and how to protest, B passed this on to C, etc.

Alumni of the schools do not seem to be particularly well-organized or unusually loyal to their schools or to Turkey. They seem to continue to appreciate the strong English and STEM curriculum at the schools, but connections to Turkey are remote for high school students. Many of the students and their families do not seem to be aware of the political battle between the Erdoğan government and the Gülen-movement, nor is there much of an indication from the former students I corresponded with that the schools are obvious conduits for Gülen ideology.

There is also no strong sense of the perspective of the many Mongolians who have studied in Turkish universities. Many of them have received scholarships, but for many of them, that interaction might have been before the Erdoğan-era, but there seems to be very little mobilization protesting changes in Turkey or supporting these among these alumni.

Instead, people who protested themselves emphasized that they protested on behalf of Akçay in recognition of his status as a charismatic and beloved teacher who has been teaching in Mongolia for a long time. Put bluntly, these protesters might not have mobilized to defend the rule of law if Akçay had been a recently-arrived minor figure at one of the schools.

3. Other voices amplifying protests

After this initial mobilization that was focused directly on Akçay himself, other voices amplified the protests, and these voices emphasized the rule of law and the importance of preserving Mongolian sovereignty more explicitly. Two prominent examples of such voices would be MP Lu Bold who drove to the airport to observe and film the private jet, but also NUM legal scholar O Munkhsaikhan. Bold has frequently spoken about human rights in the past and thus lent the considerable weight of his long time in politics to such causes. Munkhsaikhan has also been a frequent academic voice on rule of law questions.

Another MP, O Baasankhuu also spoke up, but he does not have much of a history of activism on human rights or rule of law.

Their support of the thrust of protests, i.e. to prevent the departure of the private jet with Akçay on board, is more directly linked to the perception of a defence of rule of law. It may have also been the prominence of these voices that forced other parts of the Mongolian government to respond to the initial mobilization.

4. Some Voices that We Did not Hear From

While these were some of the groups that made themselves quite conspicuous in the events, there are a number of actors that might have reacted, but did not.

The relative youth of graduates of the Turkish-Mongolian schools means that few of them have moved into positions of influence, yet. The only MP who has such a link is T Ayursaikhan who graduated from a Turkish university with a BA. However, he is a first-time populist Ulaanbaatar MPP member of parliament who has not even bothered to fill out the template for his parliamentary website (note the conspicuous and telling “your name here” at the top of the page and the photo of M Enkhbold as a placeholder). He does not appear to have commented on the events in the past week.

Other civil society groups like Amnesty International did not seem to join the fray on this particular issue, though AI did issue a statement on the evening of the 27th.

The Turkish embassy obviously remained silent during this time, but other embassies also did not weigh in. For many Western embassies, the fact that Turkey under Erdoğan remains a member of NATO continues to make confrontation problematic and the murkiness of the Gülen-movement and its political and religious status surely also keeps many countries from taking a position.


Yes, it does seem like civil society mobilization may have saved Akçay from abduction. But it seems like that mobilization occurred more spontaneously and centred on him as a person, rather than larger political issues surrounding the rule of law.

Posted in Civil Society, Primary and Secondary Education, Protest, Security Apparatus, Turkey | Tagged | Leave a comment

Study Tours, Policy Implementation and Necessary Context

By Julian Dierkes

Over the years I have been – mostly peripherally, though not for lack of trying – involved in various attempts to describe good practices from other countries to Mongolian policy makers in the hopes of seeing elements of it adopted in Mongolia.

The amount of learning among Mongolians has been amazing, especially considering the on-going hurdle that staff turn-over linked to the lack of independence of the bureaucracy represents.

For example, it seems fair to me to say that Mongolia is an example of a generation of emerging resource economies that is well-aware of the dangers that rapid development of non-renewables might bring with it. Sometimes it seems like all the attention to various aspects of the “resource curse” is overwhelming attention to even more fundamental necessities like an independent civil service, for example, or the fight against corruption.

Policies Failing in Implementation

All the attention to international best practice seems to have brought many well-intentioned and up-to-date plans, agendas, strategic plans, etc. with it, but in observing all of these plans, it is obvious that many of them fail because of a lack of implementation. Often, there seems to be a disconnect between the strategic planning, legislation and the actual resourcing and implementation of these plans and laws. This is something that Mendee wrote about in his 2015 series on policy failures already.

Over the years we have hosted many government delegations at UBC on study tours.

It is very noticeable that these tours have become more and more professional over the years. While early tours (around 2010) still always ran a risk of a significant number of participants not showing up, over the past several years, these tours have been taken much more seriously by participants. This has to be something that the organizations that fund such tours are pleased with. I do recognize that much can be learned on such tours. The fact that Mongolian policy-makers are entirely conversant with many policy paradigms that have been developed in OECD countries over some decades attests to the impact that such study tours can have as an element in the sharing of good practices.

However, I also wonder about some aspects of these tours.

(Budget) Scale

Much of today’s discussions, hosted by UBC’s Faculty of Forestry, focused on the British Columbia context, in large part because forestry management is largely practiced at the provincial level. And that is a useful context to Mongolian policy-makers, I think. Mongolia is 1 1/2 times as large as BC (1.5m sqkm vs 940k sqkm) and BC’s population is 1 1/2 times as large as Mongolia’s (4.6m vs 3m). Obviously, BC has much more forest than Mongolia as forested areas are restricted to the North and West of Mongolia whereas almost all of BC is forested. On the whole, some comparisons between Mongolia and BC thus seem useful.

However, there are some elements to policy-making and, more importantly, perhaps, policy-implementation that are VERY different between BC and Mongolia. These were evident in presentations that were made to the Mongolian delegation (consisting of four MPs, including the Min of Environment and Tourism, and forestry professionals).

Take a different scale then geographic area and population, i.e. finances. The dean of the Faculty of Forestry, John Innes, talked in some detail about the changes that forestry is undergoing as a discipline, as an industry, and as a policy field. Fascinating because I am much more familiar with the changes the mining industry is undergoing and there seem to be many parallels. For example, “social license” or “sustainability” terminology as it comes up and the notion of a field/industry really undergoing a major transformation. Of course, forestry remains focused on a renewable resource unlike mining. This all struck me as potentially very useful to a Mongolian delegation.

John Innes also highlighted some of the research and projects housed in his faculty. He noted, for example, that the Faculty of Forestry acquired around $11m in funding last year (I forget the exact figure, I guess I should have taken a photo of the slide like so many people are doing now). In discussions during the break, I learned that the budget for the Ministry of Environment and Tourism is on the order of $30m!

In another presentation, on fire management in BC, we learned that the province spent roughly $500m on fire fighting last year (an unusually active year, but on the scale of what we may be seeing regularly in the future). That is not the budget of the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, just emergency fire-fighting. Last year’s fire-fighting budget thus represents something like two decades’ worth of cumulative budgets for Mongolia’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism.

When financial means are thus on different orders of magnitude, what chance does knowledge that is gained have of being implemented on return of a study tour?

Would More Context Enable More Implementable Knowledge?

As I was listening to presentations, I was trying to think of a way to make these presentations more praxis-oriented for the participants in the study tour. This particular study tour is actually quite applied in all the terrific meetings that have been set up, but is the knowledge applicable?

All the research that is done at UBC’s faculty of forestry and contributes to the development of the field as well as of policy, happens in an elaborate context of higher education, provincial and federal research funding, recognition of the contributions and perspectives of academia, but also of industry, civil society and the media. There is an entire system of high-level stakeholders in this that does not exist in the same way in Mongolia.

Take universities as an example that I know well. UBC operates in a very different way from the national universities in Mongolia. Yes, as a provincial university we have a strong mandate to educate the BC population. But there is also an expectation from the BC population that we do basic and applied research that will ultimately, sometimes more, sometimes less directly, benefit the province (and often also the country and the world). Funding and governance systems have thus been designed to enable independent research. On the whole, faculty (associate and full professors) cannot be fired for the type of research they do or the conclusions they reach. Note that I have written about this in making the case for why Mongolian readers might be interested in my writings on this blog.

Research funding in turn relies on peer review and other quality-of-research indicators to distribute funding from the federal government in particular in an independent manner. The federal government is aware that it may be funding research that directly examines government policies and thus might find that these are not working, for example. This might even benefit an opposition party in the next election. But, the system of research funding has been created to ensure independence for research because there is a consensus that, ultimately, Canada and British Columbia will benefit.

All of this could be outlined in a 30min presentation on higher education/research funding, for example. After such a presentation, a study tour might think differently about a piece of information like the annual amount of research funding acquired by a faculty at UBC.

But context would also be useful in the other direction. It was only in a response to the 2nd or 3rd presentation that the Minister mentioned that they are looking especially to build industry capacity. Some presentations could have focused more on that, if that’s what the delegation was looking for.


I imagine that many development professionals plan to provide similar context for study tours. Yet, listening to the presentation was a good reminder to me that the implementation of policy may well depend on a whole system of support mechanisms, including independent voices that comment on proposed policy. Perhaps, some populations, including Mongolians, would be better-served if these fundamental/systemic challenges were addressed before specific solutions are adopted in the form of un-implemented strategic plans.

Posted in Bilateral Aid, Canada, Development, Environment, Public Policy, Public Service | Tagged | 1 Comment