Impacts of International Exchanges

By Julian Dierkes

[With thanks to CIRDI’s Marie-Luise Ermisch for contributing some of these.]

During the first workshop we co-organized with the Mongolian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ International Cooperation Fund, a number of impacts arose in an incidental manner, but bolstered my belief in the utility of providing a forum for exchange between actors in emerging resource economies.

Here, I list some unintended impacts of the second workshop  held in Bishkek in early November.

Some of these are professional impacts, some of them a bit more personal or curious.

Mongolia-Kyrgyzstan Links

At the workshop we co-organized in Bishkek, one of the most concrete impacts right then/right there was that the Mongolian Mining Association and the Kyrgyz Mining Association signed an MOU to collaborate and exchange experiences.

Another very palatable impact was fellow blogger Mendee‘s joy at discovering a bit of Central Asia. It was very interesting to observe him speak Russian with Kyrgyz who were clearly puzzled, but to whom he immediately explained that he was Mongolian, a fact that was not obvious to them by his facial features, dress or mannerisms. And, Mendee felt quite at home in Bishkek, it reminded him of Ulaanbaatar in the 1980s!

Exchange between National Resource Companies

At the workshop, we were very pleased to have delegations from Timor Leste and Myanmar participating along with a group from Mongolia and many Kyrgyz participants, obviously.

As Myanmar and even more Timor Leste are much more focused on the oil and gas sector, the question of exchanges between national oil companies arose and came along the observation that there are relatively few points of interaction between national companies, even of emerging oil economies. When these are looking to expand/invest should they not follow their expertise and look for projects in other emerging economies?

Mongolian Public Servants’ Health

Following our workshop, we had a chance to visit the Kumtor gold mine. As the mine is located at 4,000+m, we had to undergo several health checks that were primarily concerned with blood pressure.

Curiously, all the male members of our delegation from the Mongolian Ministry of Mining were unable to participate in the site visit due to elevated blood pressure levels. Perhaps enough of a reason for the Ministry to examine its health policies or the health of its public servants more closely?

The Mongolian delegation bought a significant amount of fruit before their departure. We are pretty confident that vitamin C levels among the delegates and their families spiked in mid-November, hopefully promoting good health outcomes.

Language Skills in Hotel Staff

Some of the young receptionists and waiters at the hotel we stayed were thrilled to have an opportunity to practice their German. I am always happy to indulge German practice, so perhaps language skills were slightly elevated by the time we left.

Overall, I was very surprised to bump into real German skills at several moments. This is something that I delight in during Mongolia travel, but I didn’t know it was prevalent in Central Asia, or at least Kyrgyzstan as well.

Canada’s Reputation

Central Asia seems to be a bit off the map for Global Affairs Canada (despite the very competent and energetic work done by the Canadian embassy in Astana). Given the somewhat troubled history of the Canadian Kumtor investment, perhaps our workshop left a positive impression of Canadian initiatives.

About Julian Dierkes

Julian Dierkes is a sociologist by training (PhD Princeton Univ) and a Mongolist by choice and passion since around 2005. He teaches in the Master of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. He toots
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