Guest Post: Mongolia in the OSCE – One Year On

Paul Bryce

Further Expansion of the OSCE

In the years immediately following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of Yugoslavia, the membership of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) appeared to have expanded as far as it could. If this, the world’s largest regional organization, were to grow beyond its 56 participating States, the assumption was that any new members would come from the secession of a sub-national unit within the existing boundaries of the OSCE. When Montenegro broke off from Serbia in 2006 and joined the OSCE the same year, the regional limits of the organization certainly seemed well-entrenched. Yet, on 21 November 2012, Mongolia defied these expectations and became the 57th participating State.

This announcement did not entirely ‘come out of the blue’. Mongolia has been a kind of observer state in the OSCE since 2004, becoming one of the Asian Partners for Cooperation together with Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and Afghanistan. In addition, a formal letter was sent by the Mongolian authorities to the Lithuanian Chairmanship in October 2011, indicating Mongolia’s desire to join the OSCE and the country’s willingness to comply fully with the terms of the OSCE’s foundational agreements: the Helsinki Final Act, the Charter of Paris for a New Europe, and others.

But nearly a year after the accession, how has Mongolia met its obligations as a new member? How active has Mongolian participation been in the months following the country’s admission?

Mongolia and OSCE Obligations: Elections

One of the chief obligations OSCE participating States is to hold ‘free and fair’ elections. To this end, countries are also generally expected to invite relevant bodies – namely the Parliamentary Assembly, and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) – to observe and report on the election activities. Not all of the founding members comply with these expectations, however; Russian authorities have frequently interfered with the conduct of OSCE election observer missions, while Canada has not invited observers since 2006. But Mongolia complied by inviting OSCE institutions to observe the June 2013 presidential election. In its final report, OSCE/ODIHR positively assessed the election, but noted that there were some administrative shortcomings which advantaged the Democratic Party candidate and victor, Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj. The report sets out a series of interesting legislative remedies which could further enhance Mongolia’s democratic process. Fortunately, Mongolia will have plenty of time to consider these proposals prior to the next parliamentary elections in 2016.

Mongolia and OSCE Obligations: Human Rights

Mongolia has also demonstrated a strong commitment to upholding OSCE obligations regarding the protection of human rights. In 2011, months prior to the formal application for OSCE membership, Mongolia adopted a ‘Law on the Promotion of Gender Equality’. This legislation prohibits gender-based discrimination in the workplace, but goes further by setting out clear incentives for political parties and other government institutions to actively involve women in decision-making processes. For example, Article 8 specifies that “representation of any one sex in any central or local body of a political party shall not be lower than 25%.” The country also enjoys an independent National Human Rights Commission, which was originally established in 2001 and fulfills the role of an ombudsman in multiple fields. The Constitution, which was amended in 2007 with input from the aforementioned Commission, also extends protection for human rights in line with OSCE standards.

Mongolia and OSCE Security Cooperation

However, with regard to security cooperation, Mongolian participation is (understandably) limited. For example, Mongolia does not seem to be engaging in the exchange of military information mandated under the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty. But the only OSCE participating State which Mongolia shares a border with is the Russian Federation, which suspended its participation in the CFE Treaty in 2007. The capacity for Mongolia to project its military power elsewhere in the region is also limited; demonstrative of this point, the Mongolian Air Force currently consists solely of one squadron of attack helicopters and one squadron of transport helicopters. In April 2013, the Air Force expressed interest in acquiring three C-130J transport planes from Lockheed Martin, mainly to support the deployment of Mongolian troops as part of international peacekeeping missions. As such, the CFE Treaty has limited applicability for Mongolia.

As has been outlined here, Mongolia is meeting the obligations of OSCE membership with enthusiasm. The invitation to observe the presidential election just seven months after joining is a clear demonstration of Mongolia’s commitment to the values and principles on which the OSCE was founded. If the recommendations of the OSCE/ODIHR observers can be implemented gradually before the 2016 parliamentary elections, Mongolia will have entrenched itself as an example to the region and a reinvigorating force for the wider OSCE.

About Paul Pryce

Paul Pryce is a Research Fellow at the Atlantic Council of Canada. With degrees from the University of Calgary and Tallinn University, he has previously worked at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.

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