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Health + Human Development Communicator | 1991 – 2017

27 Years Contributing as a Health and Human Development Communicator | 1991 – 2017

Preface

Whilst studying at the University of Toronto in the 1980s, the seeds were sown for much of the work that followed in the 1990s and 2000s. And what came together was the ability to undertake innovative communications initiatives using media and the latest digital tools. I had a strong interest in what constituted a modern, healthy society, and this eventually led my studies from psychology to sociology to history and eventually medical history. Along the way, I further developed my keen interest in communicating, writing for student media and broadcasting on student radio. I also organised various student organisations, from Erindale College’s first Peace Club, to its Amnesty International chapter, and eventually ran on a reforming ticket for the Students Adminstrative Council (SAC) at U of T. I undertook primary research for a history professor (Sidney Aster) working on a book, looking into the British Government’s efforts to organise food supply shipments during World War II (the biography of Lord Salter, Power, Policy and Personality: the Life and Times of Lord Salter, 1881-1975), and catalogued the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) collection for the University of Toronto (Robarts Library). Being U of T, I also had the privilege of making amazing contacts and meeting some of the brightest Canadian minds of the time (for example, Professor Edward Shorter, co-author of Shock Therapy: A History of Electroconvulsive Treatment in Mental Illness).

Power, Policy and Personality: The Life and Times of Lord Salter, 1881-1975 by Sidney Aster. The Papers of Lord Salter are held in the University of Cambridge Churchill Archives Centre. “Personal and political papers; with notes and correspondence collected by Professor Sidney Aster in the course of writing the official biography of Salter.”

The 1990s were an exciting time because it was possible to blaze new trails with emerging digital technologies. And this led to highly influential work with the United Nations and the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). This included an opportunity to head up the communications office for the UN in Mongolia just at the moment in the late 1990s when the Internet was coming online, and undertaking an influential role heading the launch of a child health portal for the prestigious Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital (GOSH)/Institute of Child Health (ICH), just as the NHS was undertaking its Modernisation Plan in the early 2000s.

By the mid-2000s, whilst consulting for the United Nations in Africa, Asia and Central Asia, I was offered a new opportunity in 2006/2007 to work with the then-Special Unit for South-South Cooperation (SSC) based in New York. It became clear there was a disconnect between what was happening within the United Nations and what was happening on the ground in the global South. The rapid take-up of mobile phones was transforming how people communicated and led their lives. Elsewhere, the wider mobile and information technologies space was generating new business models and creative ways to use communications tools to do things and make a living. All this was very stimulating and chronicled in the e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions and Southern Innovator Magazine for the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC).

Timeline

1985/1989: Graduate from the University of Toronto with a BA Honours in History (including medical history) and Political Science. One of my final year papers addressed medical quackery involving the drug laetrile as a cancer cure and how the medical establishment and regulatory authorities, in their attempts to prevent its use, in fact played into the prevailing anti-establishment political climate and distrust of institutions and the government.

1989/1991: Begin work as a Unit Coordinator for a chemotherapy ward of the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre (previously Princess Margaret Hospital/Ontario Cancer Institute) in Toronto. First training in health informatics and witness first-hand new computer initiatives to quantify workload on the ward to better allocate resources.

1991: Investigative journalist, health and medical reporter for Today’s SeniorsHospital News, and writing for many other magazines and newspapers, including The Toronto Star and Canadian Living Magazine, drawing on my first-hand experience working in a hospital/research institute and my contacts. Covered impact of early 1990s Canadian austerity crisis on health system/healthcare as well as innovative responses to better use resources. This included covering the roll-out of the World Health Organization’s Healthy Cities initiative (Taking Medicine to the People: Four Innovators in Community Health for Canadian Living Magazine), and medical education reforms (for The Toronto Star in Take Two Big Doses of Humanity and Call Me in the Morning). Interviewed the project head for a new innovative initiative to provide online resources for patients from the Metro Toronto Reference Library, which was later incorporated in Toronto’s University Health Network.Other stories covered included: Changing Health Care Careers A Sign of the TimesCritics blast government long-term care reformsCut services to elderly, says doctors’ survey… but leave our salaries alone!Feds call for AIDS, blood system inquiry: Some seniors infectedGovernment urged to limit free drugs for seniorsHealth care on the cutting block: Ministry hopes for efficiency with search and destroy tacticsHealth Care in DangerNew legislation will allow control of medical treatmentPrivate firms thrive as NDP ‘reinvents’ medicarePsychiatric care lacking for institutionalised seniorsSeniors falling through the health care cost cracksSpecialists want cancer treatments universally availableStudy Says Jetliner Air Quality Poses Health Risks.

1992/1994: Editor and Writer for the Hannah Institute for the History of Medicine, including its newsletter, better connecting Canadian medical history scholars. The archive of newsletters is held at the Wellcome Collection Library in London, UK: http://0-www.bmj.com.libsys.wellcome.ac.uk/search~S7?/tNewsletter+%28Hannah+Institute+for+the+History+of+Medicine%29/tnewsletter+hannah+institute+for+the+history+of+medicine/-3%2C-1%2C0%2CB/frameset&FF=tnewsletter+hannah+institute+for+the+history+of+medicine&

1994/1996: Editor-in-Chief for Watch Magazine, an innovative youth culture and media start-up partly funded by the Government of Canada. Watch Magazine played an important role in Toronto’s recovery from the economic collapse brought about by the combination of the late 1980s crash and government austerity policies. By engaging youth (high school-aged writers, editors and creatives), Watch Magazine showed their energy and perspective could jolt the city back to life, despite the negative media portrayal of youth at the time.

“As one of those high school kids and the guy who wrote (most of) this article, I’d like to say thanks to David [South] for all his hard work on Watch magazine! I learned a lot from him and it was a great experience.” William White

In 1995 I worked as a Senior Media Reporter for the Financial Times‘ newsletters New Media Markets and Screen Finance. I covered the rise of new media, including the Internet and cable and satellite television channels. Also covered new film-financing schemes funded by the European Union and the rise of new media in the Nordic countries. Stories included:

Channel Regulation: Swedes Will Fight Children’s Advertising All The WayFrom Special Report: NMM (New Media Markets) Spotlight On The Emergence Of Satellite Porn Channels In The UK.

1996/1997: Features Editor for Id MagazineId‘s investigative journalism unearthed many firsts, from covering the prototype experiments with e-cash and the cashless society in its hometown of Guelph, Ontario (Cashless Society Put to Test in Ontario Town, The New York Times, Sept. 30, 1997), attempts by far-right groups to organise at high schools, reporting from Port-au-Prince on the United Nations’ mission in Haiti, and the social impact of Canada’s expanding sex economy during the austerity and recession years of the 1990s (Special Report: Sexual Dealing – Today’s Sex Toys Are Credit Cards & Cash). 

1997/1999: Communcations Coordinator and head of communications for the UN Mongolia mission in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia (1997-1999) under the Partnership for Progress.

1997: Begin a two-year assignment as head of communications for the UN/UNDP Mongolia mission (1997-1999). Called “one of the biggest peacetime economic collapses ever”, I was thrown into the deep end as part of the UN’s efforts to rescue Mongolia from this severe crisis. I established the award-winning UN/UNDP Mongolia Communications Office (a high-profile and lively hub staffed by media professionals) and quickly developed and launched the award-winning UN Mongolia Development Portal (www.un-mongolia.mn) (called a “role model” for the United Nations). I developed and launched the mission’s first newsletter, Blue Sky Bulletin (distributed by post, online and by email to subscribers), as well as the first Mongolian Human Development Report, the Mongolian AIDS Bulletin (after attending the Fourth International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacificin 1997, and meeting and being inspired by UNAIDS head Dr. Peter Piot, the Bulletin was used to kick-start Mongolia’s response to an unfolding STDs/HIV/AIDS crisis), the UN’s and Mongolia’s first online magazine, Ger, while also overseeing the country’s largest bilingual online and offline publishing operation. InStarting from Scratch: The Challenge of Transition, I document the challenge to re-start Mongolia’s data and statistics collection after it was wiped off the mainframe computers that once stored it during the Communist period (a cautionary tale for our times if there ever was one!). InFreedom of Expression: Introducing Investigative Journalism to Local Media in Mongolia, I give an account of a workshop for Mongolian journalists keen to learn more about the discipline of investigative journalism and how important it is in a democracy. In Partnership for Progress: UNDP in Mongolia, I painted a picture of Mongolia’s country conditions in 1997, what was at stake, and how the UN was responding. Stabilized, by 2012 Mongolia was being called the fastest growing economy in the world, and was contributing troops to UN peacekeeping missions.

1998: Develop and launch Mongolia’s first web magazine, Ger. Lead two international media tours of the country, one in 1997 (Scandinavian media), and the other in 1998 (women journalists). Many stories were generated from the two international media tours and were compiled in books published by UNDP, including  In Their Own Words: Selected Writings by Journalists on Mongolia, 1997-1999 (ISBN 99929-5-043-9). Read an example story here: The Milk of Kindness Flows in a Peculiar Land A Steppe From Nowhere by Leslie Chang (The Asian Wall Street Journal, 15 August 1998).

1999: Publish many books on Mongolia’s development, including In Their Own Words: Selected Writings by Journalists on Mongolia, 1997-1999 (ISBN 99929-5-043-9) and the Mongolian rock and pop book (ISBN  99929-5-018-8). Whilst working for a UK-based international development consultancy, I prepared papers for the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AMFAR), the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Harvard Institute for International Development (HIID), for various UN agencies including UNCTAD and UNAIDS, and coordinated the preparation of the report and launch strategy for the World Bank’s Task Force on Higher Education and Society (2000).  

The One World Youth Conference Series initiated by UN/UNDP Mongolia shows it is possible to engage policy makers and connect them with youth, playing a key part in the development of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the UN’s winning of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001: https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:wv2Sujc7lBoJ:https://search.archives.un.org/uploads/r/united-nations-archives/1/3/3/1333b60aed62bd81200b36cf45674a5b7815b8f1974c1313cf797017db506170/S-1096-0264-21-00011.pdf+&cd=6&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk

Mongolia’s Follow-up to the UN Global Conferenceshttp://lawsdocbox.com/Politics/78172933-I-should-like-to-thank-you-for-your-kind-letter-dated-25-september-1999.html

“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.” From A Survey of Country Office Web Sites April 2000 by UN HQ New York. 

1999/2000: Consulting for a UK-based international development consultancy and for the United Nations in Kiev, Ukraine

2000: My work in Mongolia is covered and cited in various books published after 1999, including Wild East: Travels in the New Mongolia by Jill Lawless (ISBN 97814-5-964-5783)Modern Mongolia: From Khans to Commissars to Capitalists by Morris Rossabi (ISBN 9780-5-209-38625), and Dateline Mongolia: An American Journalist in Nomad’s Land by Michael Kohn (ISBN 9781-5-7143-1554)Ukraine. Work on the strategic re-launch of the UN Ukraine web portal and advise on the communications strategy for the UN Resident Representative/UNDP Resident Coordinator. This is also the year in which the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were launched and the new development portal reflected this in its structure and content.

2001: UN wins Nobel Peace Prize jointly with its Secretary-General Kofi Annan, citing the Prize was “for their work for a better organized and more peaceful world.”

2001/2003: Project Manager in charge of Web Strategy for the GOSH Child Health Portal at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust/Institute of Child Health. 

2001: Begin work on the development of the award-winning GOSH Child Health Portal for the National Health Service (NHS). As part of the NHS’ Modernisation Plan, it was called a “role model” for the NHS and one of the “three most admired websites in the UK public and voluntary sectors,” and was developed and launched under heavy public and media scrutiny. Each stage of the Portal’s development would coincide with a high-profile media launch. For example, the Hospital’s 150th birthday celebrations included Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and pop star Madonna.

2002/2003: Win the Childnet Award in 2003 for the Children First website (supporters were Prince Harry and Cherie Booth QC). Children First’s content was developed in partnership with the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation). Awarded additional funding from the PPP Foundation (now AXA Research) (see Research Review 2001: A year of excellence and innovation and Research Review 2002: Building on success). The GOSH Child Health Portal grew its “hits” from 1,472,302 in February 2002, to 7,715,107 in June 2003

“The GOSH/ICH web site to date has been a notable success. Not only has it met a majority of its objectives … and achieved recognition as ‘exemplary’ among NHS resources, but it has also generated a number of spin-off projects, including Children First (as a successor to GOSHKids) and The Virtual Children’s Hospital. …

“In a context in which less than 25% of all projects realise even 50% of their benefits, the satisfaction of 75% of the original objectives .. must rank as a significant achievement.” Consultant’s evaluation of the GOSH Child Health Portal in 2003. 

2003/2004: Live and work in Jerusalem, Israel. Travel extensively around the country during the hudna

2004/2006: Consulting for the United Nations in Mongolia, South Africa and Turkmenistan.

2007/2017: Consultant and Editor and Writer for the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) (formerly the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation). Both an e-newsletter (Development Challenges, South-South Solutions) and a magazine (Southern Innovator) are produced chronicling the impact of mobile and information technologies on the global South, and the rise of a 21st-century innovator culture as a result. Both media substantially raise the profile of the global South, Southern Solutions, and the 21st-century global innovation culture, while also being cited as an influential resource in the UN’s adoption of an innovation and South-South Cooperation agenda for its programming and priorities.

The thinking behind this work can be found in two sources:

1) Innovation: Applying Knowledge in Development by The UN Millennium Project, “commissioned by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan to develop a practical plan of action to meet the Millennium Development Goals. As an independent advisory body directed by Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs, the UN Millennium Project submitted its recommendations to the UN Secretary General in January 2005. The core of the UN Millennium Project’s work has been carried out by 10 thematic Task Forces comprising more than 250 experts from around the world, including scientists, development practitioners, parliamentarians, policymakers, and representatives from civil society, UN agencies, the World Bank, the IMF, and the private sector” (Innovation: Applying Knowledge in Development, UN Millennium Development Library, Taylor & Francis, 17 June 2013).

2) Two editors for the e-newsletter and magazine, Cosmas Gitta and Audette Bruce, authored a paper jointly with Professor Calestous Juma (a well-known scholar and leading figure in the study of innovation at the Belfer Center) in 2005 for the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs titled, Forging New Technology Alliances: The Role of South-South Cooperation.

2007: David South Consulting begins work on the e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions for the then-Special Unit for South-South Cooperation (SSC) at the United Nations. The e-newsletter is distributed by email to an influential global subscriber audience working in international development and the United Nations, as well as distributed online via various platforms.

2008: Reader response experiment begins with crowd-powered news website NowPublic. Initial proposal for the development of book or magazine on innovation. Awarded grant for Cuba study tour by BSHF. 

2009: Adjust e-newsletter content based on reader responses. Begin posting content on Twitter platform.

2010: Begin development of the new global magazine Southern Innovator with the then-Special Unit for South-South Cooperation (SSC) at the United Nations and a design team in Iceland led by Solveig Rolfsdottir, one of Iceland’s top graphic designers and illustrators. 

The magazine was produced to the UN’s design standards, as well as abiding by the UN’s Global Compact. With production in Iceland, the magazine could be designed and laid out using 100 per cent renewable energy sources.

Launch David South Consulting as Senior Partner working with talented global professionals.

Develop and launch the new branding for David South Consulting and its website, davidsouthconsulting.com, all designed by Solveig Rolfsdottir

2011: Launch the first issue of Southern Innovator Magazine at the Global South-South Development Expo (GSSD Expo) in Rome, Italy.

It is called “a terrific tour de force of what is interesting, cutting edge and relevant in the global mobile/ICT space…”. Launch www.southerninnovator.org website (now www.southerninnovator.com) and social media including Twitter account @SouthSouth1.

To avoid censorship and interference, Southern Innovator‘s editorial operations were based in London, UK and its design studio was based in Reykjavik, Iceland (a high-ranking country in the World Press Freedom rankings and a former top place holder in the UNDP Human Development Index). Using a women-led design studio, it developed a design vision that could communicate across borders using clear graphic design and high-quality images. For example, when it launched in 2011, infographics were rare in development publications and at the UN; now they are commonplace. It also tried to be as  ‘green’ as possible. The studio was powered on 100 per cent renewable energy (in particular, geothermal energy); the hard copy of the magazine is printed on paper from sustainable forests.

2012: Launch second and third issues of Southern Innovator Magazine at the GSSD Expo in Vienna, Austria.

Called a “Beautiful, inspiring magazine from UNDP on South-South innovation.”

With 201 Development Challenges, South-South Solutions stories posted on the NowPublic platform, a total of 336,289 views by 2012 had occurred, according to the NowPublic counter (Closed in December 2013, the stories published on NowPublic were able to reach a large, global audience, receiving 201,109 views as of 27 June 2010, and reaching 420,151 views by 31 July 2013. The stories were cited in many other media resources and also in books. This includes Export Now: Five Keys to Entering New Markets by Frank Lavin and Peter Cohan (2011) and The Canadian).

2013: Launch fourth issue of Southern Innovator Magazine at the GSSD Expo in Nairobi, Kenya.

Called “fantastic, great content and a beautiful design!” and “Always inspiring.”.

2014: Launch fifth issue of Southern Innovator Magazine at the GSSD Expo in Washington, D.C. U.S.A. The Twitter account @SouthSouth1 called “ one of the best sources out there for news and info on #solutions to #SouthSouth challenges.” Final issues of e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions published.  

The two publications proved influential on a number of fronts, being early to draw attention to the following: the rising use of mobile phones and information technology in development, the world becoming an urban place, innovative food solutions including the nascent insect food sector (now a big thing), altering perspectives on what is possible in Africa, the use of data science to innovate development, and tracking the growing number of technology hubs and the fast-growing start-up culture in the global South. The publications were cited for shaping the new strategic direction adopted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (the UN’s leading development organisation) and its first youth strategy, and the development of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As the world’s first global innovator magazine, Southern Innovator’s design had to be appropriate for a diverse audience. It has drawn praise for being both “beautiful” and “inspiring”, while its use of sharp, modern graphic design and infographics inspired others in the UN to up their game when it comes to design.

2015: Develop scale-up plan for Southern Innovator Magazine. The UNOSSC was promoted from being a Special Unit to an Office. It also had its budget increased. 

South-South cooperation and innovation have now become the key methodology for the UN’s delivery of its programmes and projects. In 2015, China pledged US $2 billion to “support South-South cooperation” and called for the international community to “deepen South-South and tripartite cooperation”. In development parlance, they have been “Mainstreaming South-South and Triangular Cooperation” in their plans.

The current policy vogue for innovation in developing and developed countries can trace its roots back to some of the early work done by these two publications (and which was further amplified by the annual Global South-South Development Expo (GSSD Expo), which often would feature innovators from the two publications, spreading the innovation message around the world). Both publications had set out to inspire and “champion a global 21st century innovator culture”. And they have done this, as can be seen from concrete evidence and anecdotal responses from individuals and organizations alike.

By 2015, davidsouthconsulting.com is ranked in the Top Million Sites in the world by Alexa (at 920,811). 

2016: Many books have been published citing stories from the e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions and Southern Innovator Magazine. They include: Beyond Gated Communities edited by Samar Bagaeen and Ola Uduku (Routledge: 2015), Chile in Transition: Prospects and Challenges for Latin America’s Forerunner of Development by Roland Benedikter and Katja Siepmann (Springer: 2015), Export Now: Five Keys to Entering New Markets by Frank Lavin and Peter Cohan (John Wiley & Sons: 2011), Innovation Africa: Emerging Hubs of Excellenceedited by Olugbenga Adesida, Geci Karuri-Sebina and João Resende-Santos (Emerald Group Publishing: 2016), New Directions in Children’s and Adolescents’ Information Behavior Research edited by Dania Bilal and Jamshid Beheshti (Emerald Group Publishing: 2014), A Sociological Approach to Health Determinants by Toni Schofield (Cambridge University Press: 2015).

Many papers have been published citing stories from the e-newsletter and the magazine. They include: Afro-futurism and the aesthetics of hope in Bekolo’s Les Saignantes and Kahiu’s Pumzi by Mich Nyawalo, Journal of the African Literature Association, Volume 10, 2016, Issue 2,Autonomous Systems in the Intelligence Community: Many Possibilities and Challenges by Jenny R. Holzer, PhD, and Franklin L. Moses, PhD, Studies in Intelligence Vol 59, No. 1 (Extracts, March 2015), Decoding the Brand DNA: A Design Methodology Applied to Favela Fashion by Magali Olhats, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina Florianopolis, 2012, Edible Insects and the Future of Food: A Foresight Scenario Exercise on Entomophagy and Global Food Security by Dominic Glover and Alexandra Sexton, Institute of Development Studies, King’s College London, Evidence Report No 149, September 2015,Evaluation of Kenyan Film Industry: Historical Perspective by Edwin Ngure Nyutho, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Nairobi, 2015, Evaluation of the Regional Programme for Africa (2008-2013), UNDP Independent Evaluation Office, 2013, High-level Committee on South-South Cooperation Seventeenth Session: Framework of operational guidelines on United Nations support to South-South and triangular cooperation: Note by the Secretary-General, 22-25 May 2012, New York, The New Middle Class and Urban Transformation in Africa: A Case Study of Accra, Ghana by Komiete Tetteh, The University of British Colombia, 2016, Propagating Gender Struggles Through Nollywood: Towards a Transformative Approach by Nita Byack George Iruobe, Geonita Initiative for Women and Child Development, 17 July 2015,Reberberation: Musicians and the Mobilization of Tradition in the Berber Culture Movement by TMG Wiedenkenner et al, The University of Arizona,  2013, Recasting ‘truisms’ of low carbon technology cooperation through innovation systems: insights from the developing world by Alexandra Mallett, Innovation and Development, 5:2, 297-311, DOI: 10.1080/2157930X.2015.1049851, Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, 2015,“Slam the Slums”: Understanding architecture through the poor by Malini Foobalan, November 26th, 2009, Song Lines: Mapping the South African Live Performance Landscape: Report of the CSA 2013 Live Mapping Project Compiled by Concerts South Africa, Samro Foundation, 2013, Strategic Framework of the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation, 2014-2017, Executive Board of the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Population Fund and the United Nations Office for Project Services, 27 to 31 January 2014, New York, Using Mobile-Enabled Devices for Engagement and Monitoring of Patient with Chronic Disease: Hypertensive Case by Akinwole A.K., Yekini N.A., Oloyede A.O., Ojo O., International Journal of Scientific & Engineering Research Volume 10, Issue 4, April 2019 (ISSN 2229-5518), Wearing Your Map on Your Sleeve: Practices of Identification in the Creation and Consumption of Philippine Map T-shirts by Pamela Gloria Cajilig, paper presented at the 6th Global Conference (2014): Fashion: Exploring Critical Issues, Mansfield College, Oxford, United Kingdom, 15th to 18th September 2014, Young Girls’ Affective Responses to Access and Use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Information-Poor Societies by Dania Bilal et al, New Directions in Children’s and Adolescents’ Information Behavior Research, Library and Information Science, Volume 10, Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2014, Youth Empowered as Catalysts for Sustainable Human Development: UNDP Youth Strategy 2014-2017, United Nations Development Programme, Bureau for Development Policy.

2017: Invited to speak at the Workshop on Innovations in Service Delivery: The Scope for South-South and Triangular Cooperation in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Able to see first-hand how many of the ideas developed in the e-newsletter and the magazine Southern Innovator were being implemented in a country. Work featured in new book Busted: An Illustrated History of Drug Prohibition in Canada by Susan Boyd (Fernwood Publishing, 2017, ISBN 978-1-55266-976-1).

2018:

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

© David South Consulting 2018

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Ger: Mongolia’s First Web Magazine (And A Pioneering Web Project For The United Nations) | 12 January 2016

Ger Magazine was hosted on the http://www.un-mongolia.mn website from 1998.
  • Editor-in-chief: David South (1998-1999)
  • Logo design: P. Davaa-Ochir

“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)

Ger Magazine was launched on September 9, 1998 (Ger is the Mongolian word for both the traditional tent dwelling and home). The theme of youth in the transition was explored by a combined team of Mongolian and foreign journalists. The Ger Magazine project had basically three goals: first, raise the quality of journalism in the country, secondly, introduce the country to a wider global audience and, thirdly, by being the country’s first online magazine, prove the internet was an effective way to communicate.

Issue 1

Issue 1 of the magazine investigated what life was like for youth during the transition years (post-1989). Stories tackled the struggle to find work in the free market, the booming pop music scene and how it is leading the way in business entrepreneurship, reproductive health, the basics on Mongolian culture, and vox pop views from Mongolian youth.

Issue 2

Issue 2 of the magazine investigated modern life in Mongolia during transition. The team of journalists were hitting their stride by this issue. Stories probed the proliferation of bars and the problem of alcoholism, corrupt banking practices and the loss of savings, how the young were the country’s leading entrepreneurs, Mongolia’s meat and milk diet, “girl power” and the strong role played by women, the burgeoning new media, the rise and rise of Buddhism, and Mongolia’s dynamic fashion designers (this article inspired foreign fashion designers to embrace the Mongolian ‘look’ in the next season’s designs).

Editor-in-Chief: David South, UNDP Communications Coordinator
EditorA. Delgermaa, UB Post newspaper
TranslationA. Delgermaa
Photography: N. Baigalmaa, David South
Design and layout: B. Bayasgalan, UN Homepage Webmaster

“This is the second issue of Ger. We have chosen the theme “Modern Life” to introduce people outside of Mongolia to the complexities of life in today’s Mongolia – the good, the bad and the ugly as a cowboy film once said. Ger is a project that draws upon the best journalists of this country. Under democracy Mongolia enjoys a flourishing free press, with over 800 officially registered newspapers for a population of 2.4 million! Ger has chosen A. Delgermaa of the UB Post newspaper to edit this issue. The UB Post is one of two English language newspapers in Mongolia and is owned by the Mongol News Company, a publisher of five newspapers, including the daily Today newspaper. Ger is a project to improve the quality of journalism in Mongolia, while introducing the people of the world to Mongolian journalists and this wonderful country. We hope you enjoy this issue of Ger. Please send us your comments. 

Ger is not an official UNDP publication but a project to improve the quality of journalism. Opinions expressed in the magazine do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the United Nations Development Programme. Articles may be freely reproduced so long as credit is given and the editors are notified. Ger is published in English and Mongolian. 

Contributors

Ms. A Delgermaa: A reporter with the UB Post English weekly newspaper, which enjoys a good reputation among readers. Delgermaa is a young journalist and started her career in 1997, after graduating from the English Department of the Foreign Service School, Mongolian National University. She is a regular contributor to UN publications and has been published by Inter Press Service. She thinks Mongolia needs more psychologists to give courage to those many who are yearning for a better life. Like many young Mongolians she also wants to study abroad, to learn how journalism is practised in other countries.

Ms. N. Oyunbayar: Also a reporter with the UB Post newspaper, Oyunbayar, is a graduate of Ekaterinburg University in Russia, where she qualified as a Russian language teacher. She left her pupils in Sukhbaatar aimag, where she was born, some years ago and decided to undertake a personal crusade against wrongdoing by becoming a journalist for the UB Post. She is an award-winning journalist and a member of the Mongolian Free Democratic Journalists Association. She loves to cook and enjoys learning about new cuisines. 

Ms. T. Mandala: A historian and journalist, she is a reporter with the “Weekend” weekly newspaper. She has been a journalist for two years, has written several interesting interviews with politicians, including the Mongolian parliamentary speaker R. Gonchigdorj and MPs Da. Ganbold and E. Bat-Uul. She explores issues like life after death and she wants to be a public defender in a court one day. 

She is a successor of her grandfather Khodoogiin Perlee, who is a famous historian in Mongolia. And studies religion, especially Buddhism and Shamanism. 

Mr. D. Dorjjav: A psychologist and a lecturer at the Administrative Management Department of Mongolian National University, he is married and has two girls and a boy. He is currently working on his doctoral thesis. His wish is to help people to open themselves up and discover their abilities. His plan for the future is to contribute to the psychological understanding of life in Mongolia. Dorjjav’s hobby is to talk to people and exchange opinions.

G. Enkhtuya: Born in the year of the pig (there are twelve years in the lunar calendar), a professional in marketing, trading, journalism, she is currently studying law in the Institute of Legal Studies, Mongolian National University. She is also a reporter for Odriin Sonin independent daily newspaper, once the largest state-owned newspaper until the start of 1999. She likes to cook when she is liberated from her official duties.

Jill Lawless: An Honourary Foreign Member of the Mongolian Free Democratic Journalists Association, Jill has been the editor of the UB Post newspaper since 1997. Jill regularly contributes to Agence France-Presse, Far Eastern Economic Review, Deutsche Welle and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. She is happiest riding camels in the Gobi desert. 

Michael Kohn: Michael is the editor of the Mongol Messenger and contributed to the first edition of Ger. He is a regular contributor to Associated Press and the Far Eastern Economic Review. Michael is an avid traveler and is an expert on hitchhiking across Mongolia.  

Ms. N. Baigalmaa: Photo journalist for Onoodor (Today) newspaper, the number one independent newspaper for three years. “Photo journalism is always interesting. I really enjoy taking action photos.” She is fed up of taking photos of static photos of people standing or sitting and has devoted her life to photo journalism. One never boring thing for her is her two sons and a girl. Sometimes she loses her sports jacket to her oldest son, now taller than her.”

Impact

The stories have been featured in many books on the country, and the magazine was recommended as a good resource by the Lonely Planet guidebook. 

This was not only the first publication of its kind in the UN, it was also a pioneering online venture and remarkable for a country lacking the advantages of wealthier countries.

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.”

Citations

A Complete Guide on Celebrations, Festivals and Holidays around the World by Sarah Whelan, Asteroid Content, 2015

Gale Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media by Jeff Summer, Gale Group, 2001

Mongol Survey, Issue 8, The Society, 2001

Mongolian Culture and Society in the Age of Globalization by Henry G. Schwarz (editor), Center for East Asian Studies, Western Washington University, 2006

Nations in Transition: Mongolia by Jennifer L. Hanson, Infobase Publishing, 2003

Teen Life in Asia by Judith J. Slater, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004

World Press Encyclopedia: A Survey of Press Systems Worldwide, Volume 1 by Amanda C. Quick, Gale Group, 2003

Some of the team behind Ger:

Editor-in-Chief: David South

Logo Design: P. Davaa-Ochir

Layout and Online: B. Bayasgalan

Contributors: A. DelgermaaMichael KohnJill LawlessPeter Marsh, and N. Oyuntungalag.

Read the Wikipedia entry here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ger_magazine

Read the full content by searching the www.archive.org wayback machine via the http://www.un-mongolia.mn website: https://web.archive.org/web/19990420090143/http://www.un-mongolia.mn/

Ger Magazine contributor Jill Lawless’ book Wild East: Travels in the New Mongolia here: https://wildeasttravelsinthenewmongolia.wordpress.com

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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Mongolia Looks to Become Asian IT Leader

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

A Mongolian information technology company founded by a woman has shown a way to thrive in the country’s often-chaotic economic environment. With the global economic crisis moving into its third year, Intec’s strategies to survive and thrive offer lessons for other IT start-ups in the South.

While the global economy’s prospects are still uncertain, on the positive side, many believe the best place to be is in emerging economies like Mongolia, with some foreseeing healthy growth for the next 20 to 30 years. Mongolia’s information technology entrepreneurs are looking to prove this is the case. The country has made great strides in improving e-government – jumping from 82nd place to 53rd in the UN e-government survey 2010 (http://www2.unpan.org/egovkb/global_reports/10report.htm) – and is now aiming to become an Asian software and IT services outsourcing powerhouse.

A Northeast Asian nation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mongolia) sandwiched between Russia and fast-growing China, Mongolia grapples with the combination of a large territory, a small population (2,641,216) and limited transport infrastructure connecting it to its neighbours. Historically, it is a nomadic nation with a strong animal herding tradition. But during the Communist period, it industrialized and became more urban. After the collapse of Communism at the beginning of the 1990s, the country experienced a terrible economic and social crisis, with rapidly rising poverty rates and high unemployment.

Despite its infrastructure obstacles, Mongolia has been able to develop a lively information technology sector, often with the assistance of the United Nations. During the late 1990s, as the internet revolution exploded, the UN led on supporting infrastructure, skills development, innovation and legislation.

Information technology consulting and services company Intec (www.itconsulting.mn) , founded in 2004, has been able to thrive through the global economy’s ups and downs by identifying an under-serviced niche as a consulting, research and training company. Intec now has five full-time staff and works with a broad network of Mongolian and international consultants.

As is often the case with new businesses, Intec initially found that many doors were closed to start-up enterprises.

“The major challenges which I faced were to make people understand about the consulting services,” said Intec’s founder, Lkhagvasuren Ariunaa. “The consulting services concept was new to Mongolia and Mongolians at that time and not many organizations were willing to work with consulting services. The international and donor organizations were keen to work with consulting services companies; however, they were requiring companies to have a list of successfully implemented projects, which was difficult for a new starter like Intec.

“For example, registering with the Asian Development Bank consulting services database required companies to be operational for at least three years. So, we got registered with ADB consulting services database only in 2008. Meanwhile, personal connections and communication skills helped to find jobs and opportunities for Intec.”

Ariunaa had worked for the Soros Foundation (http://www.soros.org/) but it closed its offices in Mongolia in 2004. Faced with unemployment, Ariunaa went about seeing what she could do next: a dilemma many people face in today’s economy.

“It took me about eight months to develop a business plan and directions of operation of the company. I started in a big room at the national information technology park building with one table, chair and computer.

“It has been quite challenging years for bringing a company to the market and finding niches for us. We have franchised the Indian Aptech WorldWide Training center (http://www.aptech-worldwide.com) in Mongolia – may be one of the few franchising businesses in Mongolia. Currently that center is now a separate entity/company and it has over 20 plus faculty staff and over 300 students.”

Ariunaa had been active in the sector for over 10 years, but while knowing many of the players and organizations, she spent time researching what niche Intec could fill in the marketplace.

“Looking at the ICT market, there were quite a number of internet service providers, mobile phone operators, a few companies started developing software applications, and services etc. However, there were only two to three consulting companies in the ICT sector which to my knowledge at that time were providing consulting services, and still there was a room for Intec.”

Intec then focused on three areas: consulting services, training and skills, and research. Intec found they were pioneering a new concept in Mongolia.

Intec’s first contract was a job with the University of Milwaukee-Wisconsin in the United States to organize a three week course for American students to learn about the digital divide in Mongolia. But the global economic crisis hit Mongolia hard in 2009.

“It was challenging to survive and continue working the same way,” Ariunaa said. “There were few ICT-related jobs in Mongolia at that time, and one of our major clients left Mongolia and we had to find other clients in the market.

“One of the ways of approaching this was that we were not asking for fees, instead we would have a barter agreement – we will deliver them services and they will provide some services for us. For the company itself, we needed to find ways of financing and covering costs for renting of premises, paying salaries for staff on time, paying taxes and other expenses.”

The environment in Mongolia is being helped by the Information and Communications Technology and Post Authority (ICTPA) of Mongolia (http://www.ictpa.gov.mn) , which has been driving forward an e-Mongolia master plan. With 16 objectives, it ambitiously seeks to place Mongolia in the top five of Asian IT nations, competing with South Korea, Singapore, Japan and China.

Ariunaa believes Mongolia has many competitive advantages. “Mongolia is known for a high-literacy rate and math-oriented training and education, and ICT specialists are targeting to become a software outsourcing country for other countries. Another advantage of Mongolians is that they can easily learn other languages: we are fluent in Russian, English, Japanese, Korean, German and we believe that with these two major advantages, we will be able to do a good job with outsourcing of software development.”

While men still dominate the ICT sector in Mongolia, Ariunaa has not found being a woman a disadvantage. “In Mongolia, as gender specialists say, there is a reverse gender situation. Women are educated, well-recognized and well-respected. There were situations, when I was the only women participant in the meeting with about 20 men. But I never felt somewhat discriminated or mis-treated and I think that’s the overall situation towards gender in Mongolia.”

Intec’s success working with Aptech WorldWide Training’s franchising contract brought many advantages for a start-up. “It’s a faster way to do things, and you don’t have to re-invent the wheel.”

As a Mongolian company, Intec has found it best to play to its local strengths. “National companies have knowledge, expertise and experience of local situations, know players and understand about legal, regulatory matters. … partnership or cooperation are one of the means of cooperating with big global players.”

Intec’s success is also down to Ariunaa’s enthusiasm: “It’s fun and I love doing it – just usually do not have enough time!”

Resources

1)  Advice on starting a business and succeeding in tough economic times. Website:http://www.businesslink.gov.uk/bdotg/action/layer?topicId=1073858805

2) Changing Dynamics of Global Computer Software and Services Industry: Implications for Developing Countries: A report from UNCTAD on how computer software can become the most internationally dispersed high-tech industry. Website:http://www.unctad.org/templates/webflyer.asp?docid=1913&intitemid=2529&lang=1

3) Afrinnovator: Is about telling the stories of African start-ups, African innovation, African made technology, African tech entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs. Their mission is to ‘Put Africa on the Map’ by covering these kinds of stories from all over Africa. As their website says, “if we don’t tell our own story, who will tell it for us?” Website:http://afrinnovator.com

4) TechMasai: Pan-African start-up news and reviews. Website: www.techmasai.com

5) Ger Magazine Project: Mongolia’s first online magazine pioneered communicating on the web. Website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ger_magazine

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This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Launched in 1997 in a major crisis, the UN Mongolia Development Portal (www.un-mongolia.mn) became the country’s largest online bilingual publisher and an award-winning pioneer of web content. It proved Mongolia had the potential to innovate in digital.
Story featured in the UN E-Government Knowledgebase and E-Government Survey in Media.
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A Partnership For Progress: UNDP In Mongolia 1997 | 19 January 2016

A Partnership for Progress: The United Nations Development Programme in Mongolia

Editor: David South

Publisher: UNDP Mongolia Communications Office

Published: 1997

Background: The Partnership for Progress brochure raised the curtain on UNDP’s programme in Mongolia and my work heading UNDP Mongolia’s Communications Office. I led the Office from 1997 to 1999, garnering awards and praise for the quality of the offline and online resources.

A Partnership for Progress

“For years we were under the domination of foreign countries. So really, Mongolia is a new nation.” With these words, Prime Minister M. Enkhsaikhan described the enormity of the task ahead for Mongolians. While Mongolia has been an independent nation for most of this century, this has not been the case with its economy. Just as a new democratic nation was born in the 1990s, so Mongolia’s economy lost the large subsidies and trading arrangements it had in the past with the Soviet Union. The time to learn about free markets and the global economy had arrived.

Under socialism, Mongolia was dependent on the Soviet Union. Prior to the socialist revolution in 1921, the country experienced hundreds of years under the influence of the Chinese. It is only since 1990 that Mongolia has had an opportunity to build the foundations of an independent economy and political culture. But it takes money and know-how to make the transition work. This is the kind of nation-building support the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) specializes in. UNDP’s fifth country plan for Mongolia has come to an end, and in cooperation with the Mongolian Government the sixth – the Partnership for Progress – has begun.

Meeting the challenges of transition

The international community rapidly responded to Mongolia’s needs in the early 1990s. Along with the large international donors, the UN system is playing a pivotal role with UNICEF, UNFPA, WHO and UNDP to assist in the country’s social reconstruction. Other agencies now operating in Mongolia include UNESCO, UNV, UNHCHR, World Bank and the IMF. The UN’s capacity to coordinate, not only within the UN family of organizations, but also with donors and the international NGO community has proved extremely useful in mobilizing the technical assistance needed at this critical time. The goal is capacity building, or the transformation of both the human and economic resource base to fit the economic and social demands of transition.

UNDP’s Partnership for Progress with the Government of Mongolia serves as the framework for assisting the Government to combat the worst effects of poverty and social disintegration brought on by economic transition. The programmes and projects mounted with UNDP assistance not only tackle the lack of material resources, but also the dearth of practical experience in the strategies and methodologies required to nurture open government and encourage democratic procedures, protect human rights, preserve the environment and promote the private sector.

Mongolia is a large country with poor infrastructure. This means it is not only difficult to transport food or make a phone call, but also to develop and deliver programmes that reach the entire country. It is through the expertise of the UNDP, drawing experience from around the world, that these obstacles to a market economy and an open democracy can be overcome.

UNDP has had a country office in Mongolia since the 1970s. UNDP’s resource mobilization target for the five year programme from 1997 to 2001 is US $27.5 million, with 45 percent to be directed to poverty alleviation, 30 percent to governance and 15 percent to environmental protection. With this material input and the goodwill it generates, the Mongolian Government can design appropriate social and political structures to support their efforts in seeking lasting solutions to the problems brought on by transition. Mongolia can then become an equal player in the global community of the 21st Century.

UNDP in Mongolia

The UNDP’s programmes in Mongolia follow the global principle of helping people to help themselves. Through a close working relationship with the Mongolian Government (the Partnership for Progress), UNDP personnel work with many thousands of Mongolian counterparts in government, academia and NGOs all over the country. In addition, UNDP has a large contingent of United Nations Volunteers (UNVs) deployed in Mongolia. There are over 27 international UNVs working in all UNDP programme areas and further 26 national UNVs working as community activists to foster participation in the poverty alleviation programme. Another six national UNVs are involved in the UNESCO/UNDP decentralization project.

A peaceful transition

The transition in the 1990s from socialism to democracy and free markets has profoundly transformed the country’s political and economic character. Mongolia is a young democracy that is also a model for bloodless political revolution. Today, this participatory democracy boasts scores of newspapers, dozens of political parties and a vigorous parliamentary system. On the economic front, a command-based economy has been replaced by free markets. But there has been a high price to pay in social disintegration and dysfunction, as the former social supports disappear and their replacements fail to “catch” everyone. As with all social upheaval, vulnerable groups – the elderly, the young, the weak – bear the brunt of the social and economic shocks as the old gives way to the new.

The bubble bursts

Before the 1990s, the Mongolian economy was totally dependent on subsidies from the Soviet Union. The state owned all means of production and private enterprise was foresworn. Farmers and herders were organized into cooperatives. Factories had more workers than they needed. Wages were low but no one starved. The state provided for the basics of life – health care, education, jobs and pensions. Free fuel was provided to get through the severely cold winters, and during blizzards lives were saved in stranded communities with food and medicine drops by Russian helicopters.

The bubble burst in 1991 when the Soviet Union disintegrated and the subsidies came to an end. Prior to this, communist countries accounted for 99 percent of Mongolia’s imports and 94 percent of its exports. Mongolia’s economy suddenly lost its buttress and immediately collapsed.

A sense of freedom

Although the economic picture was bleak, politically Mongolians rejoiced and embraced the principles of Western parliamentary democracy. A new sense of political and personal freedom took hold. Freedom of religion ensured a revival of Buddhism. Monasteries sacked and razed under the Communists were restored and religious observance once again became part of daily life.

Collectivization began to give way to free markets and privatization. A voucher system was used to redistribute the assets of many state-owned entities. Each citizen was issued with vouchers to the value of 10,000 tugrigs (at the time worth US $100). They could be bought and sold like shares of stock.

Livestock was privatized and previous limitations regarding ownership of animals were lifted. As a result, the composition of herds changed and the numbers of animals soared to the highest levels in 50 years. While the collapse of the state sector has led to severe hardship, many nomadic herders who astutely manage their herds are self-sufficient in meat and milk. Many continue the old energy saving ways, including collecting dung for fuel and using their animals for transport. Some find it possible to live almost completely outside the cash economy.

Transition shock

The spectre of the worst aspects of market economies soon loomed for many who had known only a poor but predictable life under a command economy. Suddenly unemployment, inflation and reduced services became the norm. Previously reliable export markets in the newly constituted Commonwealth of Independent States disappeared entirely, leaving a ballooning trade deficit and a plummeting tugrig. The fall in global prices for cashmere and copper have only exacerbated an already critical situation.

Poverty strikes

Poverty and starvation hit with a vengeance. According to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) figures, a third of the population now lives at starvation levels. The demise of collectivized farming has contributed to both a shortage of food and reduction in food self-sufficiency. Thousands of homeless children work, beg or steal in the streets of the capital, Ulaan Baatar. Many descend into the sewers for warmth to escape the subzero temperatures that prevail for most of the year, while others seek refuge in the few children’s shelters in the city.

Unemployment is high. Women are particularly vulnerable, with more than 100,000 summarily removed from the pension rolls at the beginning of 1997. The retired, whose pensions have decreased dramatically in value are also in severe distress, with almost all relying on their families, friends and neighbours. Those without such support are left to live a precarious existence.

Poverty alleviation

To reverse a rapidly deteriorating situation, the Government instituted a six-year National Poverty Alleviation Programme (NPAP) with the primary objective of reducing poverty by 10 percent by the year 2000. Designed with assistance from UNDP, donors and Mongolian NGOs, the NPAP is founded on new principles unseen before in Mongolia. Responsibility is decentralized, with each of the 21 aimags (provinces) having a local Poverty Alleviation Council with responsibility for identification, formulation and appraisal and approval of projects. Thus the people of the area can respond to local needs – identify them, propose solutions to problems and act to determine their own futures.

The Mongolian National Poverty Alleviation Programme addresses a wide range of social issues, including income poverty and the crisis in the health and education sectors. Solutions to such urgent social welfare problems are a high priority for the Mongolian Government – and international assistance is critical. The introduction of fees for health and education services that were previously free has placed an unbearable financial strain on some families. School drop-out rates and truancy are problems in both urban and rural areas. The costs associated with general maintenance and heating of public buildings adds another financial burden in the transition period.

Emphasis on women

A US $10 million soft loan from the World Bank for the period 1996 to 1999 supports Mongolia’s efforts to follow up on the commitments of the World Summit for Social Development, the Fourth World Conference for Women and other recent global initiatives.

The NPAP institutional framework focuses on explicit measures to alleviate poverty by attending to sustainable livelihoods, employment creation, gender equality, grassroots development and human resource capacity building. Mongolia’s historically high levels of literacy, health care and education auger well for the future of this approach, in spite of the many obstacles facing the people.

In addition, the Women’s Development Fund and the Social Assistance Fund have mobilized national NGOs and international donors for both income generation schemes and distress relief for the vulnerable. The success of women in actively implementing projects with the help of the various funds is a testament to the strength and resilience of ordinary Mongolians.

Working with the National Poverty Alleviation Programme initiatives, the UN System Action Plan and Strategy provides technical assistance and capacity training to realize the objectives of the national programme.

In all, eight new projects are on the agenda for 1997, including credit provision, skills and vocational training, water and sanitation provision, urban renewal, pre-school education and one capacity building project at the institutional level.

Freedom of information

Under the Partnership for Progress, UNDP is working with donors and international NGOs to promote and foster a participatory democracy. A key component of good government and democracy is the free flow of information. That is why UNDP has placed a significant portion of its resources into ensuring government, NGOs and citizens have access to the state-of-the-art computer communications technology, especially the Internet and e-mail. The Governance and Economic Transition Programme will have nine new projects by the end of 1997: seven to support national reforms in government and the civil service, two to support journalists as they come to grips with their new responsibilities in a democratic society, and one in the tertiary education sector, following a series of faculty-strengthening education projects that have been ongoing since the early 1990s.

The Consolidation of Democracy through Strengthening of Journalism project offers direct support to working journalists.

Six journalism centres throughout the country offer hands-on training courses and access to news and information from international and Mongolian sources.

At the aimag level, Citizen Information Service Centres will be custom tailored to the information needs of each aimag’s residents. These centres will increase the free flow of information from the capital, which is currently hampered by poor communications infrastructure.

Decentralization, governance and economic transition

The Government has wisely foreseen the need to engage in a fundamental shift in how Mongolia is governed. Not only should it provide institutions that can address the social and economic shocks of the 1990s, but it also must provide a stable and efficient policy to ensure a prosperous and secure future for Mongolia.

Decentralization in government administration is a cornerstone of the Government’s policy to make managers of public services more responsive to local people’s needs. In an ambitious programme to decentralize and consolidate democracy in Mongolia, the Government has promised to devolve decision-making more and more to the local level. The UNDP plays a key role in ensuring this process continues and that local politicians acquire the skills necessary to handle these new responsibilities.

A respect for nature

Mongolia’s flora, fauna and unspoiled landscapes are at a watershed. Mongolians have traditionally had a respect for the natural environment as a source of food and shelter from the harsh climate. These close ties have meant that environmental preservation and respect for nature form an integral part of cultural traditions. As far back as the reign of Chingis Khan in the 13th century, Mongolia has had nature reserves. The new social and economic imperatives have put a strain both on these traditions and the environment, with a corresponding stress on Mongolians.

Semi-nomadic herding still forms the backbone of the country, and the pressures of the 90s have only re-enforced this. Many Mongolians have turned to herding as the only guarantee of a steady supply of food and economic well-being.

The environment is regularly challenged by natural disasters. In 1996, a rash of forest fires destroyed large swathes of land and caused extensive economic and environmental damage. Floods, heavy snowfall, extremely low temperatures, strong winds, dust storms, and earthquakes are all natural hazards for Mongolia.

Keeping Mongolia green

UNDP’s mandate in environmental protection and preservation is reflected in its support to the Government. As Mongolia addresses the challenge of up-holding international conventions to which it is signatory, it must sustain and preserve a decent and dignified lifestyle for all its citizens.

In the area of disaster management, the Government is emphasizing preventative measures as much as relief. UNDP support is focused on an extensive campaign for preparedness, technical support and capacity building to deal with both natural and man-made disasters.

The flagship programme for the environment is the Government’s Mongolia Agenda for the 21st Century (MAP 21). The Government’s continuing biodiversity programme, under the auspices of the Global Environment Fund (GEF), has already shown results, with the on-going mapping of the country’s biodiversity for future generations.

Two new projects were initiated in 1997: the Sustainable Development Electronic Information Network reaches out to people in remote and isolated locations. The Energy Efficient Social Service Provision Project has introduced straw-bale construction, an environmentally-friendly, energy-efficient and pollution-reducing building technology. This technology uses straw for insulation within the walls of buildings. Schools and health clinics will be built with straw insulation by work crews trained by the project.

The environmental challenges Mongolia faces are acknowledged by the world community as both requiring a global and a national commitment. UNDP acts as conduit for a number of globally-supported programmes focused on local action. The axiom “think globally, act locally” is the principle guiding the UNDP/Mongolian Partnership for Progress’ environmental activities.

“A Partnership for Progress: The United Nations Development Programme in Mongolia”: UNDP Mongolia Communications Office, 1997

Note: Mongolia was experiencing ‘shock therapy’ during the 1990s, as well as austerity, in response to the collapse in subsidies and state supports when trade relationships with the Soviet Union ended.

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Publications produced by the Partnership for Progress (1997-1999):

Online media produced by the Partnership for Progress (1997-1999):

Works citing Partnership for Progress (1997-1999):

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

© David South Consulting 2021