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An Abuse Of Privilege?

Police say the wealthy and eccentric owner of a Bedford Road museum and rooming house sexually assaulted young men over a period of 17 years. Others say he is a victim of unfair persecution. Norman Elder isn’t saying anything.

By David South

Annex Gleaner (Toronto, Canada), May 1997

The tattered sign on the door is barely noticeable, and its message gives little away: “Dr Elder has moved to Fort Torrance, Ontario. Sorry no tours.”

I peek in the window of the Norman Elder Museum on Bedford Road and see the eyes of a zebra staring back at me. To the left are formaldehyde jars filled with oddly shaped objects.

While Norman Elder, amateur anthropologist and full-time Annex eccentric, may be hiding at his Muskoka cottage, he has left behind a community stunned by police allegations that he sexually abused young men. His story is one of a man born into wealth who cultivated an image of eccentricity as carefully as he surrounded himself with the things he loved.

According to police, the assaults took place at Elder’s 140 Bedford home – a brooding Victorian mansion that’s one part rooming house, another part museum holding his large collection of artifacts plucked from the world’s tribes.

Detective Robert Mann of Metro’s 32 Division Youth Bureau says Elder has been charged with 12 counts of indecent assault/male, spanning 1972 to 1989.

“Some were minors, some were adults over the age of 16. Most were adolescent and teenage males between the ages of 15 and 19.” While the charges laid were at the end of February, police have still not disclosed the details. Without that information, Elder hasn’t entered a plea.

Last Wednesday, I walked past the gravestone that marks the front yard and approached three young men having a cigarette outside the house. Two of them said they lived in the house. One man with a skinhead hairstyle who looked to be in his mid-20s nervously said, “I don’t want to talk about it.” He admitted he was taking messages for Elder from the answering machine and had passed on my numerous calls. Calls to his cottage weren’t answered, and none of Elder’s friends and acquaintances contacted by The Gleaner wished to comment on the charges.

Mann alleges that Elder’s modus operandi was to offer homeless youths a place to stay in return for sexual favours. The multiple charges stem from men contacting police after reading articles in Toronto’s two dailies about the first charge, which was laid in February.

Elder’s trip to the cottage isn’t a case of spring fever; he is out on bail and has been court-ordered to not return to his house.

Off the record, several sources suspected that some of the young men living at the house were involved in the sex trade and weren’t innocent of trading sexual favours for a place to stay. In the language of the street, they say, Elder was a sugar daddy. Some acquaintances of Elder felt he was being unfairly persecuted by police for sexual acts that took place between consenting adults (though, legally, the homosexual age of consent is 18, while for heterosexuals it’s 16). They also questioned the validity of charges that are in some cases 25 years old and only ferreted out by police during the Maple Leaf Gardens scandal.

Elder may be an eccentric, but he is not a loner; nor did he keep a low profile. Elder was born into wealth and attended Upper Canada College with the likes of Conrad Black, whom he once called a friend. He is listed in the Who’s Who in the World and Who’s Who in Canada. He financed his globe-trotting expeditions by selling artifacts collected in the Amazon, Africa and Borneo to museums, including Ripley’s Believe It or Not. He filled his house with exotic animals, including a 20-foot, 400-pound python called Peter.

As a one-man National Geographic magazine, Elder has self-published several books on his travels and made documentaries. His house served as location for David Cronenberg’s The Naked Lunch. He once told a journalist. “What bothers me most about going to zoos is that I’ve tasted most of the animals in there.”

In 1979, an article in The Toronto Star weekend magazine described Elder as a “slightly balding, surprisingly genial guy, who looks a bit like Jack Nicholson … and speaks a bit mezzo forte for a 20th-century Victorian.”

The former Olympic equestrian rider has had a long association with running rooming houses for youth that dates back to the 60s. When he was a social worker in Yorkville’s hippie days, Elder boasted of having 6,000 kids crash at his place in 1969.

In the 70s, he had political aspirations, running for city council and for the provincial NDP. He was friends with late New Brunswick premier Richard Hatfield, who was also dogged by rumours about his relationships with young men.

Update: “In 1998, Elder pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting 10 young men between 1970 and 1980. On March 12, 1998, Judge Faith Finnestad sentenced Elder to two years less a day in jail.” 

“Elder died on Wednesday, October 15, 2003 in Toronto of an apparent suicide by hanging.” (Source: Wikipedia).

Other stories from the Annex Gleaner

Artists Fear Indifference from Megacity 

Will the Megacity Mean Mega-Privatization? 

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Man Out Of Time: The World Once Turned On The Ideas Of This Guelph Grad, But Does The Economist John Kenneth Galbraith Know The Way Forward?

By David South

Id Magazine (Canada), January 23 to February 5, 1997

It was with hungry enthusiasm that I rushed to hear the great liberal economist John Kenneth Galbraith speak. It was with enormous disappointment that I found a genius emptied of solutions to the current political battles in today’s Ontario.

For those unfamiliar with Galbraith, think of him as a hybrid of the liberalism of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau and the manner of Jimmy Stewart. Now 88, the former Guelph agricultural economist became a servant of the US government just as president Franklin Roosevelt was beginning to introduce the New Deal – today’s rusting welfare state – as a solution to the cruel hardships imposed on Americans as a result of the Great Depression. Galbraith rode out the Second World War in a senior government position as Roosevelt’s price-control czar. He later advised Democratic presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, before seeing his influence in American economic thought wane under Ronald Reagan’s Republicans.

Galbraith has long followed the ideas of British economist John Maynard Keynes, who believed goverments should keep money tight in good times, but should spend their way out of bad times to avoid undue hardship. Galbraith also made the plight of the poor one of the pillars of his economic theory, and criticized the unnecessary appetites and demands created by the goliath American advertizing industry. He has supported wage and price controls and once, in the 1930s, even wanted to join the American Communist Party.

Last week, Galbraith breezed into Toronto with his ivy league roadshow. Speaking to a stodgy crowd of liberals (and Liberals, including former prime minister Pierre Trudeau and failed Ontario leadership candidate Gerrard Kennedy) at the University of Toronto, Galbraith was at an institution that comes as close as Canada gets to his current stomping ground, Harvard.

Symbolically, Galbraith couldn’t have visited Ontario at a better time. The Conservative government of Mike Harris is in the middle of an ambitious campaign to reverse everything that Galbraith has stood for: budget deficits to avoid depressions; social programmes to prevent poverty; taxes on the rich to fund those programmes; government policy subservient to public good. Harris oozes contempt out of every pore for the pillars of Galbraith’s thinking. In fact Ontario, once the bedrock of Canadian liberalism, is now joining Alberta in dismantling the welfare state.

A graduate of the University of Guelph when it was still the Ontario Agricultural School, Galbraith took his bitter memories of farming in southern Ontario to the University of California, Berkeley and subsequently to the Roosevelt government.

In his day, Galbraith was amongst a rare species of mainstream economists that earned respect from the once-abundant Marxists who cluttered universities. Not that the Marxists liked his compromises and complicity with the American government, or his assertions that he could save capitalism. But they thought he softened up the system for some body blows to be delivered by the workers’ revolution.

I am a member of a generation that grew up on government largesse, well-funded public schools, family allowance, university grants, and make-work progammes. But we have seen a lot of that eroded over the past eight years, during a period of high unemployment not seen since the Depression. It was time to see if this titan of liberal thought had something new to say.

Galbraith’s talk had two main points: the market economy is the best system going; he supports a guaranted minimum salary to prevent poverty. Other than that, Galbraith’s speech was a rehash of the same ideas he has been mulling over for the past 50-plus years. It could be called Liberalism 101.

His speech was peppered with euphamisms like the “socially concerned.” Perhaps he was pulling his punches so as not to offend the “distinguished” audience. The most exciting moments displayed his dry wit: “In the United States , the war against the poor having now been won,” or “We, the socially concerned, do not seek the euthanasia of the rentier class.”

He struck out against annual balanced budgets because they have been used as an excuse in the US to cut off benefits to the poor. He also slammed the globalization-uber-alles philosophy that sees welfare policies as uncompetitive – a sentiment that doesn’t seem to be in vogue these days with liberals. Last week, Prime Minister Jean Chretien told the South Koreans they need to remove jobs-for-life provisions to join the global marketplace.

His ideas and his approach to communicating those ideas come from a special historical time. A time when governments under pressure from trade unions and the far-left and right political parties decided to make capitalism a little friendlier. But they needed advisers who could speak the language of the elite. Eloquent, confident, pragmatic – advisers who felt comfortable in the courts of the democratic government. They didn’t want hot-headed union guys or hectoring left-wing demagogues.

Galbraith takes credit for civilizing capitalism and ensuring its survival: “It would not have survived had it not been for our successful civilizing efforts. We, the socially concerned, are the custodians of the political tradition and action that saved classical capitalism from itself. We are frequently told to give credit where credit is due. Let us accept it when it is ours.”

Galbriath’s economic theories have always been grounded by morality, preferring to avoid being a servant to flow charts. It is his most insightful side. When many fear to speak in broad terms about current economic problems, where many fear to make connections, Galbraith has pieced the complex puzzle together, much to the frustration of those who believe capitalism should be left unfettered. It is his worthiest legacy.

The Galbraith Interview

You point out it is reforms that have given capitalism a new lease on life. What policies would alleviate the worst aspects of today’s capitalism?

We still have the oldest problem. (That is) to eliminate the cruelties that are inherent in the system. In the United States, and I imagine also in Canada, we still have the terrible problems of the urban poor, of the people who do not make it. I see one of the central tasks of our time is to do two things: to provide a safety net so that in a modern rich society we don’t let people starve, and that we provide the means for escape from urban poverty.

How would you elliminate poverty?

No novelty about that. Two things are absolutely essential. One, that there be a basic safety net. That we accept in a modern society that there has to be a level of income below which people are not allowed to go. I do not join this attack on welfare, this notion the poor should be allowed to starve. Another thing is a strong educational system, which allows people to escape from poverty in the next generation. Those are the two absolute essentials.

Should government just concentrate on ending poverty and abandon universal programmes like public health care?

You can always have a conversation that separates itself from the reality. I think in Canada if some politician or some political group wanted to repeal the health system, they would soon find themselves in considerable disfavour. If they were committed to allowing the poor to starve, they would get a reputation for cruelty that no civilized society would tolerate. And if they started saving money on the schools, as some already have, we would find out how absolutely essential good education is for economic and social well-being. So we have a difference between what is possible in oratory and what is possible in reality … When the axing comes, it is a good deal less popular than it is in the previous rhetoric.

Who do you think, within or outside political movements, represents the socially concerned today?

I don’t speak generally on this. There is in all countries a substantial voting and politically expressive group. In the United States it is the political left, in Britain it is the Labour Party, in France it is the socialists, in Germany the social democrats. They are broadly committed to the welfare state and I think will remain so.

Would you include the Liberal Party in Canada amongst those?

I would include a substantial part of the Liberal Party in the United States. The Liberal Party in Canada, like the Democrats in the United States, have a double orientation, on one hand to the welfare state and on the other hand a more centrist attitude. Both parties have an internal problem to resolve.

Do you think they have lost interest in the welfare state?

To some extent I regret that. We must take some responsibility for human suffering and human well-being.

You don’t see that with the Democrat Party?

I prefer it to the Republicans.

Are some of these policies like welfare reform in the US making it harder for the poor?

I was not in favour of welfare reform.

I grew up in a very poor household but was able to go to the University of Toronto because of various government policies. In fact, they have kept me from destitution. You have written about a culture of contentment that prevents further social reforms. Will it whither?

Those of us who have been associated with the welfare state have made a lot of people comfortable, happy and conservative. We have undermined our own political influence by our success.

Do you think current levels of high unemployment and economic stagnation might erode that contentment?

No, if we suffer another recession there will be a desperate effort to have the government do something about it. The present conservatism is an aspect of good times. We had it in the 1980s under Reagan.

Are we still in good times?

We still have a lot of people who have a problem. We should have sympathy.

Do you see any political parties in Canada who defend the welfare state?

I’ve lived all my life in the the United States and I’ve always avoided coming back to give Canada advice. As I said in my lecture, anybody who does that should have stayed in Canada for his own lifetime. Let Canadians look after their affairs in Canada.

You said the socially concerned don’t seek income equality. I guess that is where you split with socialists?

I accept the inevitable, that people are going to be different in aspirations, ability and luck and probably different in parentage. All of this is going to mean differences in income.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021

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CASE STUDY 4: UN + UNDP Mongolia | 1997 – 1999

Expertise: Crisis leadership, mission leadership, strategy, communications, web strategy, digital media, crisis recovery, public health, Northeast Asia, UN system.  

Location: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia 1997 to 1999

UN/UNDP Mongolia Communications Coordinator: David South

Click here to view images for this case study: CASE STUDY 4: UN + UNDP Mongolia | 1997 – 1999 Images

Abstract

“The transformation of Mongolia from a largely rural nomadic society of herdsmen to a community dominated by the increasingly ultra-globalized city of Ulan Bator, where almost a third of the population lives, is nothing short of astounding. The New Mongolia: From Gold Rush to Climate Change, Association for Asian Studies, Volume 18:3 (Winter 2013): Central Asia

From 1997 to 1999, I served as the Communications Coordinator (head of communications) for the United Nations (UN)/United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) mission in Mongolia, founding and directing its UNDP Mongolia Communications Office. 

About

The question posed itself from the start of the assignment: In the middle of a major crisis, is it possible to recover quickly while simultaneously growing and modernizing the United Nations mission (this was the dawn of the digital revolution)? It was only possible by teaching and mentoring colleagues, offering leadership, vision, strategy, and practical actions to get there – all with a budget and mandate for two years.

The mission had to tackle in particular, three, severe crises: the country’s turbulent transition from Communism to free markets and democracy, the social and economic crash this caused, and, later in 1997, the Asian Financial Crisis (Pomfret 2000)– all combined with the political instability this exacerbated. Richard Pomfret said in 1994, “In 1991 Mongolia suffered one of the biggest peacetime economic collapses ever (Mongolia’s Economic Reforms: Background, Content and Prospects, Richard Pomfret, University of Adelaide, 1994).” From Curbing Corruption in Asia: A Comparative Study of Six Countries by Jon S. T. Quah: “The combined effect of these three shocks was devastating as ‘Mongolia suffered the most serious peacetime economic collapse any nation has faced during this century’. Indeed, Mongolia’s economic collapse ‘was possibly the greatest of all the (peaceful) formerly'” Communist countries.

A dramatic decline in inflation paired with political and economic stabilisation allowed Mongolia to enjoy the fruits of the fast-growing economies of the 2000s. Source: Statista.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/727562/inflation-rate-in-mongolia/

A resources “boomtown” throughout the 2000s. Source: Bloomberg. When I left in 1999, Mongolia’s PPP was US $8.8 bn; today (2021) it is US $42.4 bn.

In this role, I pioneered innovative uses of the Internet and digital resources to communicate the UN’s work and Mongolia’s unfolding crises. The UN called this work a “role model” for the wider UN and country offices. A survey of United Nations country office websites in 2000 ranked the UN Mongolia website I launched in 1997 and oversaw for two years (1997-1999), third best in the world, saying: “A UN System site. A very nice, complete, professional site. Lots of information, easily accessible and well laid out. The information is comprehensive and up-to-date. This is a model of what a UNDP CO web site should be.” (http://www.scribd.com/doc/274319690/UNDP-Mongolia-United-Nations-2000-Survey-of-Country-Office-Websites)

“The years 1998 and 1999 have been volatile ones for Mongolia, with revolving door governments, the assassination of a minister, emerging corruption, a banking scandal, in-fighting within the ruling Democratic Coalition, frequent paralysis within the Parliament, and disputes over the Constitution. Economically, the period was unstable and rife with controversies.” Mongolia in 1998 and 1999: Past, Present, and Future at the New Millennium by Sheldon R. Severinghaus, Asian Survey, Vol. 40, No. 1, A Survey of Asia in 1999 (Jan. – Feb., 2000). pp. 130-139 (Publisher: University of California)

As part of a strategic plan to raise awareness of Mongolia’s development challenges and to spur action on meeting them, a Communications Office was established for the UN mission in 1997 – a structure that is commonplace in UN missions today. The Office also led on digital communications, marking many firsts, from the first digital photo and video library, the first online magazine, the first web portal, the first online newsletter, and many other firsts. It gathered numerous stories on resilience in a crisis, and documented in data and storytelling the country’s development challenges, while introducing a transparent way of working and communicating unprecedented for the time (the country was still recovering from the state secrecy of its years under Communism), and led on modernizing communications in the country. Acting as a strategic hub, the Communications Office and its dynamic and talented team, were able to leverage the existing budget to spur action on many fronts, including:

UN/UNDP Mongolia Development Web Portal (www.un-mongolia.mn)

I launched it in 1997 in the middle of a major crisis, and oversaw its expansion and development for two years. A pioneering digital resource, this award-winning United Nations Mongolia development web portal was singled out by UN headquarters in New York as an example of what a country office website should be like. It featured extensive resources in both Mongolian and English and also was home to the bilingual online magazine, Ger – Mongolia’s first web magazine. It can be viewed at www.archive.org and there is more at Wikipedia here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ger_(magazine).

Media

Working with journalists and media both within Mongolia and outside, the Communications Office was able to significantly raise awareness of Mongolia and its development challenges. This was reflected in a substantial increase in media coverage of the country and in the numerous books and other publications that emerged post-1997. The book In Their Own Words: Selected Writings by Journalists on Mongolia, 1997-1999 (ISBN 99929-5-043-9) published by UNDP Mongolia archived the stories by theme.  

Ger Magazine

Ger Magazine (the Mongolian word for home and traditional tent dwelling) was published as the country’s first e-magazine in 1998. There were four issues in total from 1998 to 2000. The launch issue was on the theme of youth in the transition. Mongolia was transitioning from Communism to free markets and democracy and this had been both an exhilarating time and a wrenching time for young people. The magazine drew on talented journalists from Mongolia and the handful of international journalists based there to create a mix of content, from stories about life adapting to free markets to stories on various aspects of Mongolian culture and life.

The second issue of the magazine proved particularly effective and inspiring, with its modern life theme and cover story on a thriving Mongolian fashion scene.

Archived issues of the magazine can be found at the Wayback Machine here: https://archive.org/. Just type in the UN Mongolia website address for the years 1997 to 1999: http://www.un-mongolia.mn.

An online survey of the state of Mongolia’s media and its history (www.pressreference.com/Ma-No/Mongolia.html), had this to say: “An interesting variation from some of the other publications available is Ger Magazine (published online with guidance from the United Nations Development Program, UNDP), which is concerned with Mongolian youth in cultural transition. The name of the magazine is meant to be ironic because a ger is the Mongolian word for yurt—a yurt being traditional nomadic housing—but the magazine is about urbanization and globalization of Mongolian youth.”

Blue Sky Bulletin

The Blue Sky Bulletin newsletter was launched in 1997 initially as a simple, photocopied handout. It quickly founds its purpose and its audience, becoming a key way to communicate what was happening in the country and a crucial resource for the global development community, scholars, the media and anyone trying to figure out what was happening in a crazy and chaotic time. It eschewed the typical ‘grip and grin’ content found in many development newsletters and instead offered stories, data and insights useful to anyone seeking to understand Mongolia’s development challenges. The Blue Sky Bulletin was distributed via email and by post and proved to be a popular and oft-cited resource on the country. The quality of its production also paralleled Mongolia’s growing capacity to publish to international standards, as desktop publishing software became available and printers switched to modern print technologies. The Blue Sky Bulletin evolved from a rough, newsprint black and white publication to becoming a glossy, full-colour, bilingual newsletter distributed around Mongolia and the world. 

Archived issues can be found online here:

Blue Sky Bulletin Issue 1

Blue Sky Bulletin Issue 2

Blue Sky Bulletin Issue 3

Blue Sky Bulletin Issue 4 

Blue Sky Bulletin Issue 5

Blue Sky Bulletin Issue 6

Blue Sky Bulletin Issue 7

Blue Sky Bulletin Issue 8

Blue Sky Bulletin Issue 9

Blue Sky Bulletin Issue 10

Publishing

MHDR 1997

The Mongolian Human Development Report 1997 (MHDR), the country’s first, placed the story of the Mongolian people during the transition years (post-1989) at its heart, using photographs, stories and case studies to detail the bigger narrative at play.

This groundbreaking Mongolian Human Development Report – the country’s first – went beyond just chronicling Mongolia’s state of development in statistics and graphs. Designed, laid out and published in Mongolia, the report broke with the practices of many other international organisations, who would publish outside of Mongolia – denying local companies much-needed work and the opportunity to develop their skills. The report’s costs helped to kick-start a publishing boom in the country and significantly raised standards in design and layout in the Mongolia. The foundations laid down by the project producing the report ushered in a new age in publishing for Mongolia.

The report’s launch was innovative, not only being distributed for free across the country, but also part of a multimedia campaign including television programming, public posters, town hall meetings and a ‘roadshow’ featuring the report’s researchers and writers.

The initial print run of 10,000 copies was doubled as demand for the report increased. To the surprise of many, once hearing about the free report, herders would travel to the capital, Ulaanbaatar, to pick up their copy. The report proved people cared passionately about the development of their country and that development concepts are not to be the secret domain of ‘development practitioners’. The report also became an English language learning tool as readers compared the Mongolian and English-language versions.

You can read the report’s pdf here: http://www.mn.undp.org/content/mongolia/en/home/library/National-Human-Development-Reports/Mongolia-Human-Development-Report-1997.html 

1997 saw the launch of the first human development report for Mongolia.

Mongolian AIDS Bulletin

UNDP acted swiftly to address a breaking HIV/AIDS crisis in 1997, offering a key lesson for others working in public health (the Ebola Crisis and global air pollution crisis both show those lessons have still yet to be fully absorbed).

Assembled by a team of health experts after the Fourth International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, the Mongolian AIDS Bulletin was published in 1997 in the middle of an HIV/AIDS crisis. It provided timely information and health resources in the Mongolian language and was distributed across the country.

“Mongolia’s first AIDS Bulletin marked the beginning of the UNDP Response to HIV/AIDS/STDs Project back in the autumn of 1997. Over 5,000 copies of the magazine were distributed across the country, offering accurate information on the HIV/AIDS situation. The project has been pivotal in the formulation of a national information, education and communication (IEC) strategy, bringing together NGOs, donors, UN agencies and the government.”

Source: YouandAids: The HIV/AIDS Portal for Asia Pacific

Green Book

In the Mongolian language, the Mongolian Green Book details effective ways to live in harmony with the environment while achieving development goals. Based on three years’ work in Mongolia – a Northeast Asian nation coping with desertification, mining, and climate change – the book presents tested strategies.  

EPAP Handbook

The Environmental Public Awareness Handbook was published in 1999 and features the case studies and lessons learned by UNDP’s Mongolian Environmental Public Awareness Programme (EPAP). The handbook draws on the close to 100 small environmental projects the Programme oversaw during a two-year period. These projects stretched across Mongolia, and operated in a time of great upheaval and social, economic and environmental distress. The handbook is intended for training purposes and the practice of public participation in environmental protection.

In its 2007 Needs Assessment, the Government of Mongolia found the EPAP projects “had a wide impact on limiting many environmental problems. Successful projects such as the Dutch/UNDP funded Environmental Awareness Project (EPAP), which was actually a multitude of small pilot projects (most costing less than $5,000 each) which taught local populations easily and efficiently different ways of living and working that are low-impact on the environment.”

Mongolia Updates 1997, 1998, 1999

Mongolia Update 1998 detailed how the country was coping with its hyperinflation and the Asian economic crisis.

The mission simultaneously had to deal with the 1997 Asian Crisis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1997_Asian_Financial_Crisis) and the worst peacetime economic collapse in post-WWII history (http://www.jstor.org/pss/153756).  

Mongolia Update 1998 – Political Changes

1998 proved a tumultuous year for Mongolia. The country’s existing economic crisis caused by the transition from Communism to free markets was made worse by the wider Asian Crisis. The government was destabilised, leading to an often-confusing revolving door of political figures. In order to help readers better understand the political changes in the country, a special edition of Mongolia Update was published that year.  

UNDP Mongolia: The Guide

The Guide, first published in 1997, provided a rolling update on UNDP’s programmes and projects in Mongolia during a turbulent time (1997-1999). The mission simultaneously had to deal with the 1997 Asian Crisis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1997_Asian_financial_crisis) and the worst peacetime economic collapse in post-WWII history.

Each edition came with short project and context summaries, key staff contacts, and facts and figures on how the country was changing. For the first time, any member of the public could grasp what the UN was up to in the country and be able to contact the project staff. An unusual level of transparency at the time for a UN mission.

Memoranda of Understanding

Three Memoranda of Understanding were negotiated with the Mongolian Government to help focus efforts and aid the attainment of internationally-agreed resolutions. This was affirmed by a series of youth conferences, One World, held in 1998 and 1999.

Strategy and Leadership in a Crisis

The scale and gravity of the crisis that struck Mongolia in the early 1990s was only slowly shaken off by the late 1990s. The economic and social crisis brought on by the collapse of Communism and the ending of subsidies and supports from the Soviet Union, led to a sharp rise in job losses, poverty, hunger, and family and community breakdowns.

The challenge was to find inspiring ways out of the crisis, while building confidence and hope. The sort of challenges confronted by the UNDP Mongolia Communications Office included:

1) A food crisis: agricultural production was down sharply, and the traditional nomadic herding economy, while at peak herd, was failing to get the meat to markets and to a high enough standard to restore export levels to where they once were. As a result, a cross-border trading frenzy became the solution to falling domestic food production and availability.

2) HIV/AIDS/STDs crisis.

3) A major banking crisis.

4) Both the Asian Financial Crisis and the Russia Crisis.

5) An ongoing political crisis and an inability to form stable governments.

UN Annual Reports

Editor and designer. 1998 Report called by Under-Secretary-General Nafis Sadik “a clear, well-written, attractive and colourful report.”

Timeline 

1997: Arrive in the capital of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar, to undertake a two-year assignment with the United Nations mission. Quickly get to work founding the UNDP Mongolia Communications Office and pursuing a strategic communications approach with a busy online and offline bilingual publishing programme. Launch award-winning UN Mongolia Development Web Portal (www.un-mongolia.mn). Launch first Human Development Report Mongolia 1997, and a Mongolian AIDS Bulletin during crisis. Assist the Government of Canada to establish the first Honorary Consul in Ulaanbaatar on December 1, 1997.

1998: International media tours of the country, launching of Mongolia’s first online magazine, Ger, distribute globally a regular newsletter on Mongolia’s development challenges, Blue Sky Bulletin. Open United Nations Info Shop for the public. Assist the Government of Canada to connect with Canadians working with the United Nations in Mongolia during the first official visit by a Canadian Government Minister.

1999: Launch a string of books documenting insights gleaned from the Mongolia development experience.  

Testimonials

 “Mongolia is not an easy country to live in and David [South] showed a keen ability to adapt in difficult circumstances. He was sensitive to the local habits and cultures and was highly respected by his Mongolian colleagues. … David’s journalism background served him well in his position as Director of the Communications Unit. … A major accomplishment … was the establishment of the UNDP web site. He had the artistic flare, solid writing talent and organizational skills that made this a success. … we greatly appreciated the talents and contributions of David South to the work of UNDP in Mongolia.” Douglas Gardner, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative Mongolia

Impact 

Micro

  • strategic communications approach including establishing the UN/UNDP Mongolia Communications Office and team and strategic communications plan
  • led on digital transformation, including use of digitial media (photo/video archive) and digital publishing (web site, online magazine and newsletter, etc.)
  • established and ran the United Nations Info Shop – a one-stop resource open to the public with archive of development publications and current periodicals and Internet access
  • began largest bilingual online and offline publishing programme in country – led on publishing and design modernisation
  • laid down the foundations for many UN initiatives in Mongolia that are still underway. Contributed to stabilizing the country in a turbulent time. Mongolia was briefly the fastest-growing economy in the world by 2011
  • championed transparency and access to information and media freedoms
  • oversaw a period in which Transparency International found lower levels of perceived corruption
  • managing editor for country’s first Human Development Report

Macro

  • raised profile of country and its development challenges. Donor pledges rose 
  • 2 international media tours
  • strong relationship with Mongolian and international journalists
  • championed innovators in commnications
  • crisis response: AIDS, economy, political
  • country’s largest website and one of its first. Called “Godfather of the Mongolian web”
  • called a “role model” for the wider UN
  • led on new approach to UN communications in the digital age
  • design-led approach
  • transparent and timely updates
  • negotiated three Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs): youth, food security and nutrition, STDs/HIV/AIDS
  • One World youth conferences

Publications

David South Consulting Summary of Impact

Environmental Public Awareness Handbook: Case Studies and Lessons Learned in Mongolia

Ger Magazine: Modern Life Issue

Ger Magazine: Youth Issue

Human Development Report Mongolia 1997

Mongolian Green Book

Mongolia Update – Coverage of 1998 Political Changes

Mongolia Update 1998

Mongolian AIDS Bulletin

Mongolian Rock and Pop Book

Partnership for Progress: The United Nations Development Programme in Mongolia

UNDP Mongolia Online Development Portal

UNDP in Mongolia: The Guide 

Stories

Freedom of Expression: Introducing Investigative Journalism to Local Media in Mongolia

Lamas Against AIDS

Philippine Conference Tackles Asia’s AIDS Crisis

Starting from Scratch: The Challenge of Transition

UNDP Mongolia Partnership for Progress 1997 to 1999 Key Documents 

A UNDP Success Story: Grassroots Environmental Campaign Mobilizes Thousands in Mongolia

Citations

The response by the UNDP Mongolia Communications Office has been cited in numerous articles, books, publications and stories. It has also contributed to the development of the human development concept and understanding of human resilience in a crisis and innovation in a crisis. 

Book citations include:

Dateline Mongolia: An American Journalist in Nomad’s Land by Michael Kohn, RDR Books, 2006

Modern Mongolia: From Khans to Commissars to Capitalists by Morris Rossabi, University of California Press, 2005

Wild East: Travels in the New Mongolia by Jill Lawless, ECW Press, 2000

Paper citations include: 

Paula L. W. Sabloff (2020) Buying into capitalism: Mongolians’ changing perceptions of capitalism in the transition years, Central Asian Survey, 39:4, 556-577, DOI: 10.1080/02634937.2020.1823819

A more detailed list of citations can be found here: http://www.davidsouthconsulting.com/about/

For research purposes, key documents were compiled together and published online here: https://books.google.ca/books?id=K76jBgAAQBAJ&dq=undp+mongolia+key+documents&source=gbs_navlinks_s

This resource was praised for having: “Very useful references and original materials that documented UNDP Mongolia work. I needed to trace community-based development, and this book provided a valuable source.” Review on Google Books

In 2001, the UN won the Nobel Peace Prize for “their work for a better organized and more peaceful world” and its communications innovations, with work such as that in Mongolia being cited as a contributing factor to the awarding of the Prize.

The Nobel Peace Prize 2001 joint winners.

In 2000, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were launched in a 15-year bid to use a focused approach to development centred around eight goals to accelerate improvements to human development. From 2000 to 2005, consulting work was undertaken in various UN missions (Mongolia, South Africa, Turkmenistan, Ukraine) to communicate the goals and to reshape communications activities around the goals.

Transition and Democracy in Mongolia by Richard Pomfret, Europe-Asia Studies, Vol. 52, No. 1 (Jan., 2000), pp. 149-160, published by Taylor & Francis, Ltd. (http://www.jstor.org/stable/153756?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents)

The Milk of Kindness flows in a Peculiar Land A Steppe From Nowhere by Leslie Chang, The Asian Wall Street Journal, 15 August 1998

Mongolia prepares for a magazine explosion by Jill Lawless, UB Post, 08-09-98

Other Resources

Letter from Mongolia: Herding instinct by Jill Lawless, The Guardian, 9 June 1999

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2017

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Philippine Conference Tackles Asia’s AIDS Crisis

Mongolians attend for first time

By David South

UB Post (Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia), October 28, 1997

Manila, Philippines – More than 2,500 delegates have gathered in the steamy hot Philippine capital to renew the fight against HIV and AIDS.

Working up a sweat alongside other participants at the Fourth International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific are nine Mongolians – a first that isn’t going unnoticed.

The Congress opened Saturday (October 25) to the pounding beat of a theme song performed by teenagers, championing defiance of death and celebration of life.

That tone was echoed by Dr Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS. He said the epidemic can be slowed down with the right public health measures – a positive message for Mongolia as it grapples with an STD crisis that many believe leaves the country at risk of an HIV/AIDS epidemic.

The magnitude of that epidemic outside Mongolia is startling. Around the world, 23 million people are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Between 5 and 7 million of them live in the Asia/Pacific region.

“The point is that prevention is feasible,” Piot told the Congress. “The results can be seen in those countries in the Asia-Pacific region where the epidemic has stalled or is in retreat.

“A good indicator for unsafe sexual behaviour is the STD rate. I am impressed at the sustained decline in STD rates in Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand over the past decade.

“But I am concerned actual declines in HIV in this region have occurred only in Australia, New Zealand and Thailand.”

The countries to Mongolia’s immediate south and north are experiencing exploding health crises. In China, HIV/AIDS is increasing at a rapid rate due to factors including growing prostitution, drug use and travel – all by-products of a booming economy. The infected population is estimated at 400,000 and is expected to reach 1.2 million by the year 2000, according to China’s national AIDS committee.

To the north in Russia, a complete collapse in the public health system has dramatically slashed life expectancy and led to an upsurge in many diseases, including tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

With many Mongolians doing business in both these countries, there are numerous opportunities for AIDS to enter the country.

A wide range of topics is under discussion at the gathering, with women, youth and STD-control measures of particular interest to the Mongolian delegates.

For the Mongolians, the Congress is an opportunity to learn from other countries’ successes and failures in the fight against AIDS.

Mongolia’s nine-member delegation includes four doctors – Dr K. Davaajav, head of the AIDS/STD Department of the Research Centre for Infectious Diseases, Health Ministry representative Dr S. Enkhbat. Medical University director Dr Lkhagvasuren and Dr Darisuren from the United Nations Population Fund.

Also in the team are Democrat MPs B. Delgermaa and Saikhanbileg, UNICEF’s B. Bayarmaa and two representatives from women’s NGOs: S. Tsengelmaa from the Women’s Information and Research Centre and N. Chinchuluun, executive director of the Mongolian Women Lawyers Association.

On Sunday, several presentations focused on the difficulties of getting people to use condoms.

In Fiji, studies found the majority of the population was aware of AIDS and had access to condoms, but still chose not to use them.

Lisa Enriquez, a Filipino woman who is HIV-positive, gave a sobering speech on the epidemic.

“One of the most important things I’ve learned from the epidemic is human nature. AIDS is such a humanizing disease. It reminds us of being human, complete with all the weaknesses and imperfections of being human.

“Let us not kid ourselves: changing behaviour is not easy. One doesn’t change because somebody tells him or her to do so.

“We will need to get our act together, institutionalize our efforts and continue working harder with passion and perserverance.”

The Congress continues until October 30.

More on the Congress here: Fourth International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific

“The Fourth International Congress on AIDS and Asia in the Pacific convened 3,000 scientists, people working in the communities, and people living with HIV/AIDS to discuss the state of AIDS in Asia and the Pacific and how the problem is being addressed now and into the future. The following topics addressed at the Congress are explored: the extent of the HIV epidemic, HIV risk behaviors, women and HIV, clinical manifestations of HIV infection, antiretroviral therapy, and perinatal HIV transmission. HIV is spread differently among these countries and a nation’s wealth largely determines its ability to execute prevention programs and patient access to therapy. Most patients in Asia pay for their own medications. It is hoped that more prosperous and technologically advanced nations will demonstrate stronger leadership and commitment in the fight against AIDS in the region.” Phanuphak P. Fourth International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific. J Int Assoc Physicians AIDS Care. 1998 Feb;4(2):22-5. PMID: 11365085.

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