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Traffic Signs Bring Safety To The Streets

By David South, UNDP Mongolia Communications Coordinator

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia (Blue Sky Bulletin, Issue Number 6, May/June 1998)

Cars, mostly olive green Russian jeeps, weave in and out of the five-storey apartment blocks of downtown Dalanzadgad. Running through the centre of the capital of Omnogobi is a gardened boulevard, where families hide from the hot sun under trees.

That one road, and the few feeding into it, are the only enforced guides for drivers. It can be seen across Mongolia – settlements crisis-crossed by drivers looking for the shortest route to their destination. It doesn’t help that there are no natural or manmade barriers to prevent drivers going their own way.

In Dalanzadgad, a UNDP project to protect the environment from off-road driving has had an unexpected outcome: it has galvanized the community to make the streets safer by adding over 100 traffic signs. The project “Soil and Road” under UNDP’s Environmental Public Awareness Programme (EPAP), started modestly. According to project director and local Khural head Mr. Byambasuren, the number of vehicles in the area shot up from 800 three years ago, to 1,500 today. Most of these vehicles drive off-road, kicking up dust and destroying flora, contributing to desertification.

“The disease rate here is very high because of the dust and we have many traffic accidents involving children,” says Byambasuren.

With a small grant of Tg 2.5 million from EPAP the project was able to organize workshops for local drivers where they signed a contract to not drive off-road, facing stiff penalties from the traffic police if caught.

A media campaign was also organized and posters and brochures distributed. The local traffic police were so impressed by the project they decided to chip in a further Tg 2 million to construct traffic signs and install concrete calming barriers.

At first they explored the possibility of buying ready-made signs but found the costs too prohibitive.

“We wanted to get signs that glowed at night but they were too expensive. We decided to make our own out of old oil drums.”

In a room thick with the smell of fresh paint sits the traffic signs. They all use internationally recognized symbols and only upon closer inspection, reveal their past life sitting on top of an oil drum. Each sign costs Tg 2,000 to make. In addition to the signs traffic calming concrete barriers have been installed in 20 places throughout Dalanzadgad.

Next year Byambasuren will target the large ger districts that surround the centre of Dalanzadgad. He has a message for any driver who doesn’t obey: “We will be banging on their heads with lectures if they break the rules!,” he says with a laugh.

The Environmental Public Awareness Handbook: Case Studies and Lessons Learned in Mongolia by Robert Ferguson can be found here: http://openlibrary.org/b/OL169160M/Environmental-Public-Awareness-Handbook

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

© David South Consulting 2022

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Human Development Report Mongolia | 1997

This groundbreaking Mongolian Human Development Report – the country’s first – went beyond just chronicling Mongolia’s state of development in statistics and graphs. It 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.

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. The report’s costs helped to kick-start a publishing boom in the country and significantly raised standards in design and layout. 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’.

You can read the report’s pdf here: books.google.co.uk/books?id=dx7Q-yJot_cC&printsec=fro…

The MHDR 1997 was so popular it had two print runs. It has been cited in many books, journals and publications. It was the first exhaustive account of the country’s turbulent transition years and mapped the extent of poverty in the country.
The award-winning UN/UNDP Mongolia Development Portal was launched in 1997. It quickly became the go-to source on Mongolia’s development challenges.
CTV News: “Canada named best place to live on this day in 1997”. I considered it an enormous privilege to be given the opportunity to work with fellow Canadians on sharing our experiences with Mongolia during the 1990s crisis.

“On this day in 1997, Canada was on top of the world. Or at least, on top of the United Nations’ annual ranking of the best places to live in the world.

“CTV News archival footage captured a proud moment for Canada on June 12, 1997, as then-National News anchor Lloyd Robertson hailed the UN ranking as a “report card to be proud of.”

“It’s not quite straight As but Canada is still at the head of the class,” Robertson said. “In fact, it’s No. 1 in the world.”

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“Canada beat out France, Norway, the United States and Iceland for top spot on the UN human development list, which ranks countries based on a variety of factors linked to quality of life.

“It was the fourth straight year Canada topped the list.

“Canada earned top marks in the life expectancy, health, education and income categories, which helped propel the country’s overall Human Development Index score to No. 1 in the world.”

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 2017

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David South Consulting Books | 1997 – 2014

Southern Innovator Magazine Issue 5: Waste and Recycling, Editor and Writer: David South (ISBN 978-0-9920217-1-9) (ISSN 2222-9280) (Online: ISSN 2227-0523): Southern Innovator’s fifth issue tackles the theme of waste and recycling in the global South. It has unearthed radical new ways to use the Earth’s resources while efficiently raising living standards for the world’s majority. Waste no longer needs to pile up and pollute the environment and communities; it can be a source of wealth and provide sustainable livelihoods.
 
Radical ways to alter how things are made, such as the production model called cradle-to-cradle, have the potential to meet human needs without harming the environment and human health. Effective use of renewable energy technologies and sources also could eliminate energy poverty in the global South, dramatically raising living standards and boosting human development.

“We are proud to present our first book entry in David South’s 5th Issue of the Southern Innovator Magazine. The general focus of this paper is to show the rise of the south as a strong economic power, this year’s issue is focussing on the dilemma of strong population growth and limited resources with the focus on waste and recycling issues for example the elephant dung paper production in Thailand, the banning of plastic bags in Uganda or the creation of green fashion in China.”NEEMIC

“@SouthSouth1 is one of the best sources out there for news and info on #solutions to #SouthSouth challenges.” Adam Rogers, Assistant Director, Regional Representative, Europe, United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC)

“Btw, I really enjoyed reading them, impressive work & a great resource. Looking forward to Issue 6. My best wishes to you & your team at SI.”

“… great magazine, nice design.”

On Google Books: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=6ILdAgAAQBAJ&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

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Southern Innovator Magazine Issue 4: Cities and Urbanization, Editor and Writer: David South (ISBN 978-0-9920217-0-2) (ISSN 2222-9280) (Online: ISSN 2227-0523): Southern Innovator’s fourth issue tackled the theme of cities and urbanization in the global South and how innovators are grappling with one of the biggest challenges of our time: the largest migration in history as the world becomes a majority urban place. Southern Innovator profiles new building technologies and innovative designs and also offers social solutions to make living urban better, while improving human development.

“I liked your latest Southern innovator! Always inspiring.” Joana Breidenbach, betterplace.org, Berlin, Germany

“The magazine looks fantastic, great content and a beautiful design!”

On Google Books: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9T_n2tA7l4EC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

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Southern Innovator Magazine Issue 3: Agribusiness and Food Security, Editor and Writer: David South (ISSN 2222-9280) (Online: ISSN 2227-0523): Southern Innovator’s third issue tackled the theme of agribusiness and food security in the global South. It found innovators were proving it is possible to boost farm yields with new techniques that are not costly nor harmful to the environment. It also found the rise of new information technologies, such as mobile phones, offers unlimited options to make farming and food distribution more efficient, profitable and food secure. These information technologies can turn small-scale farmers into agribusinesses if applied correctly.

On Google Books: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=AQNt4YmhZagC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

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Southern Innovator Magazine Issue 2: Youth and Entrepreneurship, Editor and Writer: David South (ISSN 2222-9280) (Online: ISSN 2227-0523): Southern Innovator’s second issue tackled the theme of youth and entrepreneurship in the global South. It discovered a growing youth population across the global South and found a disconnect between the enthusiasm and talent of youth and their ability to connect with local economies. This was causing systemic unemployment among youth and wasting a great opportunity to spur growth and innovation in poor countries.
 
Southern Innovator chronicled various business models that were applicable to young entrepreneurs. Importantly, the business models have been proven to work in developing countries.

“Thank you David – Your insight into the issues facing us a “global Village” is made real in the detail of your article – 10 out of 10 from the moladi team.” Moladi: Building Communities

On Google Books: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Ty0N969dcssC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

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Southern Innovator Magazine Issue 1: Mobile Phones and Information Technology, Editor and Writer: David South (ISSN 2222-9280) (Online: ISSN 2227-0523): Launched in May 2011, the new global magazine Southern Innovator profiles the people across the global South shaping our new world, eradicating poverty and working towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). They are the innovators. It chronicles what has been called the Development 2.0 Revolution: the use of innovative new technologies to radically alter the dynamics of development.
               
Southern Innovator’s first issue tackled the theme of mobile phones and information technology in the global South. It identified mobile phone pioneers and transformative information technologies reducing poverty and boosting human development in the global South. It was one of the first publications to document and capture this trend.

“What a tremendous magazine your team has produced! It’s a terrific tour de force of what is interesting, cutting edge and relevant in the global mobile/ICT space… Really looking forward to what you produce in issues #2 and #3. This is great, engaging, relevant and topical stuff.” Rose Shuman, Founder & CEO, Open Mind and Question Box

“Looks great. Congratulations. It’s Brill’s Content for the 21st century!” Conan Tobias, Managing Editor, Canadian Business

What they are saying about SI on Twitter: From “@CapacityPlus Nice job RT @ActevisCGroup: RT @UNDP: Great looking informative @SouthSouth1 mag on South-South Innovation; @UNDP Great looking informative @SouthSouth1 mag on South-South Innovation; @JeannineLemaireGraphically beautiful & informative @UNDP Southern Innovator mag on South-South Innov.”

“Beautiful, inspiring magazine from UNDP on South-South innovation. Heart is pumping adrenaline and admiration just reading it” Peggy Lee on Pinterest 

On Google Books: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Q1O54YSE2BgC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

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Wild East: Travels in the New Mongolia by Jill Lawless (ISBN 1-55022-434-4): Covering the period of the late 1990s, with Mongolia embroiled in a major economic, social and political crisis, Wild East gives an insightful snapshot of life lived in a country undergoing significant turbulence.

“Jill Lawless’ book is not a scholarly tome per se, yet it is of definite value to the contemporary Mongolian scholar, because it captures a mood flushed out by anecdotal detail of a specific period – detail that only a resident, not a visitor, can really discover. Thus the book provides the researcher with all-important firsthand observations of key social and political events, which give life and context to historical analysis.

“Lawless’ period is 1997-1999, the heart of the tumultuous and ill-spent years of Democratic Coalition Government. These years, not fully representative of Mongolia in the 1990s, were a period of great hopes for democratic flowering and free market enterprise leading the nation to prosperity and progress. The pipe dream was dashed by the immaturity and selfishness of the Coalition party members. Still, those were heady years, and Lawless, as editor of the English language independent newspaper the UB [Ulaanbaatar] Post, was … “ Alicia J. Campi, Mongolian Studies, Vol. 25 (2002), pp. 112-114

“As Canadian journalist Jill Lawless points out in the introduction to this engaging portrait of modern Mongolia, the short version of the country’s history is simple: They came thundering out of nowhere, terrorized and conquered most of the known world, and then they went home.

It’s probably not too much of an exaggeration to imagine Mongol warlords at the peak of their power in the 13th century sitting around with Genghis Khan debating the merits of attacking Russia or sacking Burma. Within a space of a few decades they had subdued an area stretching from Korea to Hungary and Vietnam to Afghanistan.

But the empire of the Khan imploded and the world’s consciousness of these fascinating people, and the great grasslands and deserts of their homeland, faded as they disappeared for centuries under the iron-fisted domination of first China and then the Soviet Union.

In Wild East, Lawless brings us up to date. Yes, more than half the population of this Europe-sized country still lives on the steppes in felt tents with their horses, sheep and yaks.

But now you can surf the Internet in Ulan Bator, find Mercedes in the streets, party in Western-style nightclubs and see trendy teens rollerblading around Soviet-era apartment blocks.

Lawless gives us a revealing, and often amusing, account of her journeys through a beautiful country awakening from a tumultuous era that saw it wrenched from feudalism to communism and then into the uncharted future of rampant capitalism, searching for its future in the new millennium.” The Globe and Mail, Laszlo Buhasz, 25 November 2000 

Designed in Mongolia

Environmental Public Awareness Handbook: Case Studies and Lessons Learned in Mongolia by Robert Ferguson (ISBN 9992950137): 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) … taught local populations easily and efficiently different ways of living and working that are low-impact on the environment.” Many of these ideas live on in the work of both the World Bank and UNEP in Mongolia. 

Designed in Mongolia

Mongolian Rock Pop by Peter Marsh (ISBN 99929-5-018-8): In the Mongolian language, the book explores how Mongolia’s vibrant rock and pop music scene led on business innovation and entrepreneurship in the country during the transition years (post-1989). Written by an ethnomusicologist, it details the key moments and events in this story, while splicing the narrative with first-person interviews with the major players. 

David South, Editor-in-Chief, Julie Schneiderman, Research Editor.

Designed in Mongolia

In Their Own Words: Selected Writings by Journalists on Mongolia, 1997-1999, Editor-in-Chief: David South, Research Editor: Julie Schneiderman (ISBN 99929-5-043-9): In their own words compiles by theme the vast number of stories and features by journalists on Mongolia’s transition experience from 1997 to 1999. A rich and unusual resource for a developing country, this book offers the reader a one-stop snapshot of how a country handles the wrenching social, political, cultural, economic and environmental challenges of changing from one political and economic system to another.

An excellent resource for scholars of austerity crises and for those seeking understanding on how to plot a path out of an austerity crisis. In particular, the collection of articles and stories show the impact austerity has on people and their lives. Unadorned by backward-looking historical narratives, these are accounts fizzing with the energy of the moment: a first draft of a tough time for most Mongolians. 

Read online at Google Books or visit the University of Toronto’s Library Catalogue: http://search.library.utoronto.ca/details?3403065

Designed in Mongolia

Mongolian Green Book by Robert Ferguson: In the Mongolian language, the 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. 

Mongolia Update 1998 Book, Editor and Writer: David South, Researcher: G. Enkhtungalug: Whilst in Mongolia as head of the United Nations’ communications (1997-1999), I wrote an update on how Mongolia was coping with hyperinflation, shock therapy, austerity and the Asian economic crisis. The mission simultaneously had to deal with the 1997 Asian Crisis and the worst peacetime economic collapse in post-WWII history.

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 2017

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UN Ukraine Web Development Experience | 2000

In November/December 2000 I worked in Kyiv/Kiev, Ukraine for the United Nations mission on the strategic re-launch of the mission website as a portal, whilst also advising the UN Resident Coordinator/UNDP Resident Representative Douglas Gardner on communications strategy. It was an extraordinary experience on many levels. It was a time when the Internet was fast evolving and required quick thinking and an ability to innovate; it was also a key moment in Ukraine’s history. 

The dangers at the time for communicating on the Internet were starkly clear: on September 16, the Ukrainian journalist Georgy Gongadze was murdered. In 2013 Aleksei Pukach, former head of the surveillance department in the Ministry of Interior, was convicted of the murder. 

But despite those dangers and clear threats from the government of the time, there was a flourishing and inventive Internet and digital economy. The magazine Internet UA (whose editor I enjoyed meeting) gave a great overview of the scene in Ukraine and its creativity. Just as now, the creation of Internet stars who can exploit the medium (in this case sexy videos: a very large online market today) was driving viewers and subscribers. But there was also a vibrant online news media, blogging, commerce and gaming presence as well.

Internet UA magazine: Sex sells and the sex industry has always had pioneers seeking new ways to get eyeballs for their content. The Internet from its early days has been driven by the search for nude pictures and sex videos. In this cover feature, “Internet + TV: Double Impact”. That content mix has become the foundation of websites such as Pornhub etc.

According to ain.ua, the Ukrainian digital economy today is ” … ‘local’ only just figuratively speaking. Ukrainian startups are initially focused on international markets. Product companies are included into international industry ratings. Outsourcing works with clients from all over the world. Global players enter Ukrainian market, opening R&D offices, acquiring and investing into local companies. There are no boundaries.” 

A magazine feature on ‘Natasha’s’ Internet content offering.

It is easy to take digital freedoms for granted now but there was great resistance at the time and, unlike today, many governments were openly hostile to digital technology, online communications and e-commerce.

50 websites to bookmark in 2000.

The UN itself was evolving and embracing the communications and design revolution being driven by digital change. This was the first “dot.com” boom, which had begun in 1997. I had played a key role in pioneering online content for Mongolia (1997-1999) and could bring this experience to Ukraine. In particular, I launched an award-winning web portal for the UN Mongolia mission in 1997 (www.un-mongolia.mn) and also the country’s first web magazine, Ger

The UN Ukraine brief involved creating content that was accessible to users with low bandwidth, dial-up connections (few had mobile phones in 2000). I had been building new media experience throughout the 1990s, tracking the cable and satellite TV and mobile/Internet revolutions for the Financial Times as a journalist, as well as launching websites for various media clients. 

The Terms of Reference for the UN/UNDP Ukraine assignment.
The assignment business card.
The UN/UNDP Ukraine website before launch as a portal.
The first iteration of the new UN Ukraine portal.

Key content created and launched on the UN Ukraine portal included critical information on the HIV/AIDS crisis in Ukraine, UN Ukraine’s first online magazine to explore perceptions of volunteering and NGOs in the post-communist period, and content preparing for the visit of the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, by showing how Ukraine was engaging with global development priorities, for example the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and bringing together UN agencies and entities into a cohesive web and “One UN” experience.

The first UN Ukraine online magazine.
Bringing together UN agencies and entities into a cohesive web and “One UN” experience.

One highlight of this assignment was working with the “UN Chornobyl Programme” to develop its web content. This included visiting Pripyat (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pripyat),an abandoned city because of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster in 1986. I have visited many abandoned and “secret” cities and towns in the course of working with the United Nations but this particular visit had the added dimension of an environmental and human health disaster hanging over it (and as a former healthcare worker at Canada’s top cancer hospital and research institute, I couldn’t forget the impact of high radiation levels on the body).  

UN Chornobyl Programme website in development, 2000.
UN agencies in Ukraine.
UNDP in Ukraine.

The power of the Internet and the digital economy to engage people, especially the young, despite living in a country with significant political repression of free speech and even physical intimidation and murder, stuck with me. This work also contributed to laying the foundations for Ukraine’s growing freedoms and greater engagement with Europe. 

As this chart shows, increasing connectivity had a profound impact on living standards in Ukraine and Mongolia post-2000. The extreme turbulence Mongolia experienced in the 1990s – after the collapse of support mechanisms from the Soviet Union – calmed down as Mongolia integrated with the global economy, especially a booming China.

Read about my work in Mongolia in the late 1990s:

High Impact Communications In A Major Crisis: UNDP Mongolia 1997-1999 | 18 February 2016

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

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

© David South Consulting 2022