Syndicate content


Staying the Course in Mongolia: 14 years institutionalizing community participation

Helene Carlsson Rex's picture
In development we want things to go accordingly to plan.  We look for tools, guidelines and best practices in our quest for results and impact. But we also know that development is not an exact science and things do not always go according to plan.  Changes in government or an economic downturn can quickly make a project design irrelevant.

But in some cases, it does go (more or less) accordingly to plan despite bumps in the road along the way.  One such example is the Sustainable Livelihoods Program series in Mongolia, which on September 17, 2015 launched its third and final phase.

Back in 2002, after a series of particularly harsh winters that killed one-third of the livestock in Mongolia and added even more strain to an already impoverished rural population, the World Bank decided to support a new approach to sustainable livelihoods. At that time, the country had little history of community participation in local development planning, and few rural finance options.  

The vision was to place investment funds at the local level and to give the communities a strong voice in the allocation of these funds. Because of the risks associated with the severe winters in Mongolia, pastoral risk management and winter preparedness were to be strengthened. And with a history of inefficient central planning, supporting a policy shift towards greater fiscal decentralization was very important.

This vision and core principles were translated into the design of the three-part Sustainable Livelihoods Series, which included piloting, scaling-up and institutionalization phases.

Pushing water downhill: Considering ICT PPPs

Jeff Delmon's picture
Students using new high-speed Internet in Tonga. Photo: World Bank Group

For private financiers, official government support to information and communications technology (ICT) projects might seem like trying to push water downhill. After all, isn’t ICT incredibly profitable? What’s the point of a public-private partnership (PPP) in this sector, anyway?

Here’s the rest of that familiar argument: Government should stay out of the way and let the private sector carry the communications sector; it is a waste of effort and inefficient to try to push forward something that has its own momentum. Like a rushing river, the naysayers conclude, ICT needs no help advancing down its inevitable course.

It sounds reasonable in theory, but in practice, that approach just doesn’t work. The government needs to guide the river down the best course for the citizens it serves, building a weir or mill to help the river provide maximum benefits to the people who need it. And, just as water is the foundation of life, communication technologies are necessary to prosper in today’s world. Knowledge is power. And specifically, access to markets is improved by mobile phones, as is access to banking services, finance, investment opportunities, and education.

Successful ICT strategies usher in jobs, empowerment and economic growth.

Social welfare programs in Mongolia - are they helping the poor?

Junko Onishi's picture

Mongolia’s current economic situation is characterized by a combination of falling commodity prices and slowing growth. This heightens the need for the country’s social welfare system to protect the poor and the vulnerable from the threatened fall in incomes.

To assess how well the system is performing, it is necessary to consider Mongolia’s spending on social welfare - whether it is directed towards poor and vulnerable households, and if the benefits provide effective and adequate protection.

Flood risk in dry Ulaanbaatar of Mongolia? Really? Really

Artessa Saldivar-Sali's picture
Making Ulaanbaatar More Resilient to Floods

After growing up in Manila, one of the densest and most cyclone-prone cities in the world, I expected my first visit to Mongolia to be filled with vast plains and blue skies. The plains and skies did not disappoint – but I quickly learned that Ulaanbaatar, the country’s capital, is a city that is rapidly becoming like many other cities where I have lived and worked.
There is the unmistakable buzz of a place that is growing, and growing fast.  People move to Ulaanbaatar from the countryside for the opportunities that open up to them, with the city now home to nearly half the country’s population. It is becoming more cosmopolitan every time I go – there is even a Cuban restaurant with a Cuban chef. And, like many other cities in Asia, Ulaanbaatar has floods.
Out of the 34 floods recorded from 1915-2013, about 60% occurred from 2000-2009. The 1966 flood stood out in collective memory as being the last “big one.” Yet in 1966, Ulaanbaatar only had a population of over 200,000, now it has over 1.3 million people.  

In Mongolia, better provider payment systems help maintain universal coverage and improve care

Aparnaa Somanathan's picture
Co-authored with Cheryl Cashin, Senior Program Director, Results for Development
In the early 1990s, after 70 years of a socialist system, Mongolia transitioned to a market economy and embarked on reform across all sectors, including health. Since that time, the health system has gradually moved from a centralized “Semashko-style” model to a somewhat more decentralized financing and service delivery, with a growing role for private sector providers and private out-of-pocket financing.

Part of the #Youthbiz movement? Share your story!

Valerie Lorena's picture

Also available in: Français | العربية

A boat trip from Port Elizabeth to Kingstown, in the Caribbean country of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, is a one-hour trip that locals take several times a day. It was during one of these journeys that the boat of Kamara Jerome, a young Vincentian fisherman, ran out of gas six miles from Bequia City in what is termed locally as the "Bequia Channel." While waiting for help with strong wind gusts and the sun on his head, the idea of developing a boat that would run with wind and solar energy was born. Soon after, the idea became a prototype; a boat using green technology was on the water making 20-year-old Jerome a winner of international innovation competitions and a role model to other Caribbean youth. 
In Mexico, young engineer Daniel Gomez runs a multimillion bio-diesel company originally conceived as a research project for his high school chemistry class. Gomez and his partners - Guillermo Colunga, Antonio Lopez, and Mauricio Pareja - founded SOLBEN (Solutions in bio-energy in Spanish) in their early twenties. 
Although Daniel and Kamara have different educational backgrounds, they do share one important skill, the ability to identify a problem, develop an innovative solution, and take it to the market. In other words, being an entrepreneur, an alternative to be economically active, that seems to work and not only for a few.

Clean energy, not coal, is the solution to poverty

Rachel Kyte's picture

 Dana Smillie / World Bank

It is the development conundrum of our era. Extremely poor people cannot lift themselves out of poverty without access to reliable energy. More than a billion people live without power today, denying them opportunities as wide-ranging as running a business, providing light for their children to study, or even cooking meals with ease.

Ending poverty requires confronting climate change, which affects every nation and every person. The populations least able to adapt – those that are the most poor and vulnerable – will be hardest hit, rolling back decades of development work.

How do we achieve the dual goals of expanding energy production for those without power and drastically reducing emissions from sources such as coal that produce carbon dioxide, the primary contributor to climate change?

There is no single answer and we cannot ask poor communities to forego access to energy because the developed world has already put so much carbon pollution in the air.

An array of policies and programs backed with new technology and new thinking can — if combined with political will and financial support — help poor populations get the energy they need while accelerating a worldwide transition to zero net carbon emissions.

What you need to know about energy and poverty

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture
Portable solar systems in rural Mongolia © Dave Lawrence/World Bank

First, we need to address “energy poverty” if we want to end poverty.

We find that energy poverty means two things: Poor people are the least likely to have access to power. And they are more likely to remain poor if they stay unconnected.

Around one in seven, or 1.1 billion people, don’t have access to electricity, and almost 3 billion still cook with polluting fuels like kerosene, wood, charcoal, and dung.

Back to the future in Mongolia

Gonzalo Castro de la Mata's picture

‘Ger’ dwellings of the millennial Mongolian cultureAlthough by definition there are many anniversaries each and every year, 2015 stands out as it includes the 70th anniversary of the fall of Nazi Berlin and the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. It is also the year in which Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) had to return in “Back to the Future– II.”

Visiting the plains of northern Mongolia today is the closest thing to travelling in time. The most salient features in this otherwise flat and infinite landscape are the Gers (from the Turkish Yurt), traditional round structures made of wood frames covered with felt and animal skins. Over centuries, these structures have evolved to protect their inhabitants from the harsh winter weather.

Except by their size, today’s Gers are no different from those used by the Great Kublai Khan in the late 1200s. If you happen to have access to Netflix, you can watch the Marco Polo series and witness the portrayal of the 13th century events when the Khan ruled over a vast and powerful empire. According to this series, as well as to serious historical sources, the Gers used by the Great Kublai Khan before settling in present-day Beijing, were extremely luxurious and included gold service for their interminable dinner courses.

Mongolia’s Transitions: from Baikhgui to Baigaa

Jim Anderson's picture
Sometimes insights come from unexpected sources. Ever since returning to Mongolia some months ago I have, naturally, been observing how things have changed since I last lived here in 1990s. Many of the changes are immediately recognizable and even foreigners arriving for the first time could guess that the high-rise buildings and cafes are new. But it was a chance conversation with a fellow foreigner that drove home just how dramatic those changes have been.
Mongolia's black market in 1994
Mongolia's black market in 1994
photo: James H. Anderson
When I moved to Mongolia in 1993, the first Mongolian word every foreigner learned was baikhgui. Not there; don’t have any; absent. With this simple utilitarian word, one could concisely express the verbal equivalent of a shake of the head.

“Do you have any bread?”
“What happened to the water/electricity/heat?”