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Mongolia’s Capital Leads Charge to Improve Transparency and Fight Corruption

October 8, 2014

By Bayanmunkh Ariunbold, Basanta Pokharel, and Tirza Theunissen

Ahead of a major forum on transparency and corruption in Mongolia’s capital of Ulaanbaatar this week, Capital City Governor and Mayor Bat-Uul Erdene set the tone for the discussions: “In Mongolia, corruption is so common that it has become a kind of social norm. In the end, it makes the state turn against the interests of the public. The state becomes the enemy of its own people. It ruins the main principles of democracy.”

On October 6-7, Mayor Bat-Uul, with the support of the International Republican Institute and various other organizations, hosted the “Transparent Ulaanbaatar 2014: Anti-Corruption Forum,” which brought together more than 200 guests from 16 countries including keynote speaker Dr. Larry Diamond, senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institute and the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, as well as attendees from city and national government, civil society, the business community, and academia to discuss ways to help combat corruption in Ulaanbaatar.

Mayor Bat-Uul signed the Ulaanbaatar Declaration Against Corruption,

At the end of the Forum, Mayor Bat-Uul signed the Ulaanbaatar Declaration Against Corruption, reaffirming the city’s commitment various anti-corruption measures.

Despite a strong commitment to combating corruption including national legislative and institutional reforms over the last few years, Mongolia continues to rank among the most corrupt countries in the world, according to international indices. As a resource-rich country with a population of just 2.9 million (the world’s most sparsely populated country), Mongolia is particularly vulnerable to grand corruption, conflict of interest, and petty corruption in selected service sectors such as health and education. With almost 50 percent of the country’s population living in Ulaanbaatar, what happens in the capital drives the country’s success – or failure – at combating corruption and increasing transparency. Mayor Bat-Uul hosted this dedicated forum to demonstrate his commitment to ensuring these efforts succeed.

The Asia Foundation, through our Strengthening Governance and Transparency Program funded by USAID, has been working together with the Ulaanbaatar City Municipality since 2013 to improve good governance and increase transparency in the capital. On Dec. 9, 2013, with Mayor Bat-Uul and Navaansuren Ganbold, commissioner general of the Independent Authority Against Corruption (IAAC), we signed a joint action plan for 2013-2014 to improve good governance within the City Municipality by working together with four of the city’s central agencies and one department. Here are some of the highlights of these collaborations so far:

  • To help resolve one of the most publicly disputed issues in Ulaanbaatar – land permission and issuance – we worked with the city’s Land and Property Office to digitize over 150 land demarcation maps out of which 20 maps for central district khoroos (neighborhoods) have been uploaded onto the city’s land and property office website. These maps and database provide information about public lands and serve as an important mechanism to prevent potential disputes over land. Over 40,000 pages of documents on land-related decisions were scanned and digitized and uploaded to the website and have also been transferred to the city archive agency.
  • To meet access to information law requirements and ensure the public is informed on land and property issues, we have worked on the production of 24 information transparency boards. These boards were installed at 10 district land and property offices, and 11 health offices/hospitals and head offices of main agencies. The boards will enable agencies to provide and update their human resources and budgetary information in an open and accessible manner for citizens.
  • Collaborated with the City’s Law Department to develop an integrated database containing key decisions and city legislation made by the Capital City Citizens’ Khural, the Governor’s office, and the City’s nine districts and agencies. Currently, over 16,000 decisions from the mayor’s office and the Citizens’ Khural have been entered into the database.
  • Supported an awareness-raising campaign for 1,400 employees of 12 offices, 26 district hospitals, and 98 primary schools. Additionally, two trainings on anti-corruption legislation, transparency, and auditing were organized for over 100 management-level officials and other employees of the city.
  • Organized a workshop in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and the City Education office at nine high schools across Ulaanbaatar for 17 history and social science teachers. The workshop focused on teaching the subjects of justice and anti-corruption to 2,500 6-11th grade students for three months during the winter semester of 2013-2014. Also, as a result of the workshop, a new draft teachers’ ethics code was developed that sets standards of good conduct.

Many of these initiatives came up at the forum during the panel discussions on ways that civil society and public institutions can enhance transparency and accountability, the institutional mechanisms that can be used to prevent and combat corruption, and the localized solutions and initiatives that the city and civil society are currently implementing. The results of the sessions were presented at a closing plenary session and will feed into the development of an upcoming Ulaanbaatar Action Plan to address corruption. At the end of the Forum, the mayor signed the Ulaanbaatar Declaration Against Corruption, reaffirming the city’s commitment various anti-corruption measures including a “Smart City Government” that is transparent, just, corruption-free, ethical, close to its citizens, and participatory.

Bayanmunkh Ariunbold is program manager and Basanta Pokharel is chief of party for The Asia Foundation’s Strengthening Governance and Transparency Program funded by USAID. Tirza Theunissen is the Foundation’s deputy country representative in Mongolia and can be reached at tirza.theunissen@asiafoundation.org. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the individual authors and not those of The Asia Foundation.

1 Comment

  1. I applaud the efforts of the Asia Foundation and of the Mayor of Ulaanbaatar. It is very difficult to change the culture of corruption, nepotism and favoritism that developed in Mongolia during the Communist era and has been perpetuated, since 1990, as people have sought to enrich themselves, their families and their friends via their association with one or other of the major political parties. Unfortunately, as we look for encouraging signs in Mongolia, we see discouraging signs in the rest of the world, which is becoming more and more corrupt with every day. But we must not lose hope. Idealists must continue to work for honest government and the public, in all so-called democratic countries, must start or continue to insist on transparency and accountability from all elected and appointed officials.

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