2001: Participatory learning about poverty

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ImageContinuing with our series looking at each of the 25 years since Mongolia joined the World Bank, today we look at 2001.  Following a devastating winter the year before, Mongolia would experience another dzud in the winter of 2001-2002, with further loss of animals and livelihoods for many.  It was increasingly clear that restocking after the disasters, while needed, was not sufficient.  The World Bank began preparation of a project focusing squarely on sustainable livelihoods for those in rural areas.  The Sustainable Livelihoods Project would be approved the next year and remain a core part of the World Bank’s partnership with Mongolia to the present

In June of 2001, the Government of Mongolia produced its Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (I-PRSP), outlining the challenges faced by the dzud, by the fall in commodity prices and trade as a result of the Asian financial crisis, and by the transition from socialism. The I-PRSP outlined the “main priority policy issues of the government: reduction of unemployment, public sector management, improvement of access and delivery of basic services, and increase of living standards of the population.”  An assessment by the staff of IDA and the IMF lauded the I-PRSP’s strong analysis of government policies, designed to ensure macroeconomic stability; solid assessment of poverty; early involvement of civil society and other major stakeholders in the preparation process; and a satisfactory agenda for stakeholder analysis. 

Following the I-PRSP, an even more thorough understanding of poverty was needed for the full Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper.  A Participatory Living Standards Assessment (PLSA) was published in 2001, a joint work between the World Bank and the National Statistics Office (NSO).  This was the first exercise in Mongolia to “use participatory learning and action methods to broaden and deepen understanding of poverty at the national level.”  Presented at the Donor Consultative Group Meeting in Paris in May 2001, the PLSA’s spirit of collaboration is clear in the acknowledgements which cite DFID, UNICEF, ADB, UNDP, the Press Institute of Mongolia, and the IMF for their contributions.  The World Bank’s President James D. Wolfensohn, who had visited Mongolia in October that year, wrote in the foreword: “The National Statistical Office (NSO) of Mongolia deserves the strongest praise for the way in which it carried out the PLSA. … The combination of their existing experience in quantitative approaches to poverty measurement and analysis with these newly acquired skills in more open-ended and qualitative approaches offers unprecedented opportunities for NSO to contribute to Mongolia's Poverty Reduction Strategy over the coming years.” 

The energy sector had been the focus in earlier years, both to keep the power plants operating and to look more deeply at policies in the sector.  The Joint UNDP/World Bank Energy Sector Management Assistance Programme (ESMAP) assisted the Government in developing an Energy Sector Work Strategy (ESW) in the mid-1990s. The strategy prioritized policy actions and investments over a 6-year period in the coal-power-heat supply chain and laid out the foundation for future policy and donor assistance. And from 1995-2000, ESMAP facilitated technical assistance to improve the efficiency of heating stoves in ger areas and focused on energy efficiency improvements in Ulaanbaatar.

A 2001 report by ESMAP recommended investment priorities on the basis of energy efficiency assessments of the capital's electricity and district heating distribution systems. The report concluded that in the power distribution system in Ulaanbaatar, “overall energy losses on the transmission and distribution (TD) system are following an upward trend, increasing from about 27 percent of the net energy supplied in 1995 to 30 percent in 2000.”  The report also noted that “water loss constitutes the major problem in the district heating system, with leakage rates well beyond internationally accepted standards”, and that integrating the analyses of the heat and electricity sectors would achieve higher returns. The report provided recommendations, but financing was needed.  Aiming at reducing electricity losses and improving electric power revenue collection in Mongolia, the Energy Project, approved in 2001, called for an increased reliability on, and financial sustainability of, the electricity distribution companies.

Based upon a 1999 study, the Transport Development Project, approved in 2001, aimed to “improve accessibility to the isolated, and remote central, and western regions of Mongolia, and, increase transport capacity for rail-borne export trade.”  In addition to supporting physical construction of roads, the project provided training in contract management and sought to establish the railway financial accounting system.  It also supported “road safety and implementation of a system of registration, and inspection of road vehicles, complementing inspection facilities, funded by previous operations, with additional testing lines for trucks, and light vehicles.”

At the World Bank, greater attention to openness and transparency was taking deeper root.  In 2001, the Board of Executive Directors approved “major revisions to the information disclosure policy, agreed to disclose a greater number of Board and program-related documents and use a more systematic approach to access historical information in the World Bank Archives.”  The “documents and reports” database, as of today, has 1,066 documents tagged for Mongolia and is making this series of blogs possible.

And in 2001, in the Gobi desert, after several years of exploration, primary ore was found in “hole OTD-159”, confirming major mineral deposits at Oyu Tolgoi.

Next we look at 2002, when pasture management and citizen participation became key elements of a strategy to support sustainable livelihoods.
Prepared in collaboration with Gantuya Paniga and Boloroo Bayasgalan.

 (Please follow our 25 years in 25 days journey here and on twitter with the hashtag #WBG_Mongolia25th)


Jim Anderson

Lead Governance Specialist, World Bank

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