Elaine Conkievich: UNDP to Support Mongolia on Gender Equality, Digital Transformation and Development FinancingSociety
Ulaanbaatar, March 15, 2023 /MONTSAME/. MONTSAME Mongolian National News Agency interviewed Ms. Elaine Conkievich who was appointed as a Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme in Mongolia on November 9, 2019.
Good morning! Thank you for your interview with the Mongol Messenger today. Before we start, could you please introduce yourself and your background to our readers?
Thank you. It is my pleasure. My name is Elaine Conkievich and I have been working as UNDP Resident Representative in Mongolia for over three years. Before that, I used to work as the UN Women representative in Central Asia, based in Kazakhstan for the last five years. Overall, I have been working for nearly 30 years in international development in the fields of governance, human rights, rule of law, gender mainstreaming, democratic institution building, conflict resolution, and preventive diplomacy working in the Balkans, Eastern Europe, Caucasus, Central Asia, and now Mongolia.
Can you please tell us about how UNDP works in Mongolia and the organization’s history in Mongolia a little bit?
Gladly. UNDP has been working in Mongolia for over five decades. Formally, our agreement with the Government of Mongolia was signed in 1976, but our work in the country started even before that.
Today, we are very proud to have become a trusted and long-term partner of the Government and people of Mongolia. UNDP has provided vital development support to Mongolia, including the transition to democracy and the market economy in the 1990s. Since then, we have continued to work with Mongolia on governance, climate change, natural resource management, and for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
We have helped establish critical nationwide institutions in Mongolia, including the National Emergency Management Agency, the National Human Rights Commission, and the Independent Authority Against Corruption as well as the major private sector entities, including Gobi Cashmere and Xac Bank.
We have also provided support for major legislative reforms in Mongolia. For example, the Law on administrative and territorial units and their government, the LATUG Law, and the Law on Genetic Resources were also adopted with UNDP support and the ongoing civil service reform.
UNDP's work in Mongolia is guided by our Country Programme Document, which is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals and Mongolia’s national sustainable and long-term development priorities, namely the Vision 2050, and UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework for Mongolia.
What is the Country Programme Document? Could you please tell us more about it, such as how it is developed and who contributes to it?
The Country Programme Document is a modality under which UNDP works. It is developed and adopted every five years through a consultative process with the Government of Mongolia, civil society organizations, and other partners, including development partners, international financial institutions, and bilateral institutions. It guides UNDP's activities in a country and is regularly reviewed and updated to ensure that it remains relevant and responsive to the changing development needs and priorities of the country.
We are starting the implementation of the new Country Programme Document for 2023-2027 this year, which was signed off last September at the UNDP Executive Board following endorsement by the Government of Mongolia.
Thank you. So, what are some of the key results and achievements of UNDP from your previous Country programme document in 2017-2022?
UNDP’s previous Country Programme Document for Mongolia focused on two key areas, including inclusive and sustainable development and strengthened voice, participation, and accountable governance.
One of our major achievements is the development of the Integrated National Financing Framework and Strategy and tools with support from the UN Joint SDG Fund, under the leadership of the UN Resident Coordinator, in partnership with sister UN agencies. It has been endorsed by the National Committee on Sustainable Development and implementation will begin with the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Economy and Development.
In connection with this, we have been and continue to work on the institutionalization of results-based budgeting, with a special focus on the employment sector, supported by the European Union helping line ministries to link their long-term development plans and budgeting with the outputs for those plans as a way to accelerate progress for the sustainable development goals.
On climate change and biodiversity fronts, we have supported the resiliency of local communities and aimags through multiple interventions such as conducting the first feasibility assessments for climate risk and vulnerability, protection and conservation of Mongolia’s biodiversity and ecosystem by supporting the implementation of the Natural Resource Use Fee law, and sustainable livelihoods of local communities thanks to funding from the Green Climate Fund and the Global Environmental Facility.
For governance, our support focused on building competencies and capacities of the local citizen’s representative khurals in the aimags across Mongolia, with the support of Switzerland, emphasizing the decentralization and Mongolia’s civil service with the support of Canada, especially in human resources, to ensure recruitment and retention follow the merit-based principle and to increase the number of senior female civil servants which increased from 8.6 percent to 21 percent by last year.
We have also focused our support on key cross-cutting areas, including gender equality and digitalization. Our main priority for gender equality has been and continues to be supporting women in public decision-making with the support of KOICA.
Innovation and digitalization have been another focus, with UNDP Mongolia's Accelerator Lab finding new solutions to complex development problems, such as digital literacy for vulnerable groups and waste management systems. During Covid-19, we also helped to digitize social workers and improve their capacity easing the provision of effective social services with the support of the Government of Japan.
What are the main priorities of UNDP in the next five years and what are your expected results?
In the next five years, UNDP will be supporting the Government of Mongolia in three main priority areas: first, diversified, inclusive, and green economy, second, risk-informed climate adaptation and sustainable management of natural ecosystems, and third, women’s empowerment, inclusive and accountable governance, and progress towards achievement of the SDGs.
As you know, the Sustainable Development Goals are through 2030, and this year we are right midway now between 2015 and 2030.
So, it’s very important for us that our support in the next five years will help the Government of Mongolia to accelerate its progress towards SDGs.
As we look to take on complex development challenges leveraging innovation and new solutions, we are changing our approach where we have separate projects that are independently working to developing what we call a portfolio approach, which is bringing together synergies across different aspects of the work that we're doing and leveraging them in an integrated fashion to bring more complex results and thus accelerating results for Mongolia.
In connection with your next five years' priority, will UNDP’s work support the Billion Tree nationwide campaign initiated by the President of Mongolia?
Absolutely. We already began supporting by developing a feasibility study for the Ministry of Environment and Tourism with regard to the Billion Tree Initiative in 2021. And beyond that, our programmes that we are implementing in the area of climate change, biodiversity, natural resource management, also the financing for sustainable development are geared towards supporting combating desertification, supporting reforestation, and overall efforts of the Government of Mongolia to fulfill its commitment made at the previous COP in regard to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 22.7 percent.
What do you see as the main challenges that Mongolia is facing, and how will UNDP support us in addressing them?
Mongolia faces many development challenges, including economic diversification and job creation, as the economy remains heavily dependent on extractive industries. Attention to infrastructure development and transitioning urban centers to sustainable cities including focusing on a just energy transition, to support its growing economy through inclusive development that is benefiting both women and men, would be important. Additionally, poverty reduction is a significant concern, as a large portion of the population lives in rural areas with limited economic opportunities and the poverty rate has been hovering around 27-28 percent for several years. Environmental degradation and climate change impacts including increased natural disasters and foreign debt burden are also pressing issues as well as corruption, which hinders economic growth and erodes public trust.
Furthermore, increasing inequalities and the importance of achieving gender equality, especially at the decision-making level, is a major challenge that Mongolia needs to address given over 50 percent of the population are women.
UNDP will continue to support the Government of Mongolia in key development areas, including digitalization and innovation through our Accelerator Lab to address the complex development challenges that Mongolia is facing. Furthermore, we will continue to support the improvement of public financial management through results-based budgeting with a particular focus on the labor and employment sectors so that more women, youth, and people with disabilities can find and be engaged in long-term formal employment. We hope to continue our work to strengthen the civil service, including by increasing the number of senior female civil servants. In addition, advocating for and supporting women’s participation in public decision-making is key to engaging women in the development and implementation of policies and legislation.
We will continue to work with the private sector by supporting businesses to have good human rights practices.
Also, importantly, UNDP will continue to support climate change adaptation and resilience building of herder communities, protection of ecosystems, and the beautiful natural resources of Mongolia. And underpinning all of this is our continued support of sustainable financing to increase the amount of financial resources from the public and private sectors for effective use towards Mongolia's development.
What are the areas that Mongolians should take more advantage of to accelerate its development and achieve SDGs by 2030?
In addition to increasing women's role and participation across different sectors at all decision-making levels, leveraging innovation and digitalization, and mobilizing more financing for sustainable development, one of the key areas that Mongolia should focus on, and advance is the energy transition. This is an area where Mongolia has large untapped potential for renewable energy, that is solar and wind which would not only be beneficial to the environment but important for the people of Mongolia by improving their health and economic situation through the development of this sector. So, very much the way of the future is not only for the provision of energy, but an energy transition is just, which means that it benefits the women and men of Mongolia, leaving no one behind through economic diversification, new jobs, and new skills as well as improving the environment, contributing to better health outcomes.
Focusing on the human angle of the energy transition is quite important. In this regard, we are currently working on developing a flagship report, a National Human Development Report, exactly on the importance and significance of Just Energy Transition for Mongolia as we see, looking into the future, that this is a key to unlocking a more prosperous and sustainable future for the people of Mongolia.