"Mongolia will determine the choices it makes about its own future," said United States Ambassador to Mongolia Jonathan Addleton, "but international experience, both good and bad, can also be helpful and offer useful and important insights as Mongolia learns from both the successes and failures of others."
At a public forum organized May 5th by the Educational Advising and Resource Center in Dalanzagad, capital of Mongolia's South Gobi province, Ambassador Addleton noted much change since his last visit to the province in 2001.
"At that time," he said, "I was country director for USAID [United States Agency for International Development] and we were involved in a number of programs including the Gobi Initiative, the establishment of the XacBank and the revitalization of the Khan Bank." Today, said Ambassador Addleton, "the mining sector in particular looms large and presents tremendous opportunities as well as enormous challenges."
One of those challenges is environmental protection. "That includes the preservation of not only the rangeland but also the water beneath it and the blue sky above it," he said. "It is also important to maintain not only the natural environment but also the cultural integrity of the Gobi, maintaining and even strengthening the traditions that help define communities and bring them together."
Another challenge is to ensure that the South Gobi economy is not one dimensional, relying only on mining to the exclusion of everything else. Rather, other elements of the economy – including trade, tourism, cashmere and the production of goods and services – also remain essential.
Good governance is also important to the region's development. This refers, among other things, to the quality of the various institutions that help manage and shape change. "As international experience suggests," said Ambassador Addleton, "these key institutions need to be fair, open, transparent, and display integrity."
Investing in people, meaning that all elements of society place a high premium on obtaining knowledge and promoting education, is also important to South Gobi development. For its part, said Ambassador Addleton, "the United States will do its best to be helpful in these and other areas."
Historically, USAID programs have aimed to promote a diversified economy for the South Gobi, through such efforts as the Gobi Initiative. More recently, Millennium Challenge Corporation programs have focused on health and technical training. The U.S. also continues to support the development of civil society in the region, through non-governmental organizations such as Mercy Corps and local Mongolia NGOs.
The United States is committed to the development of the South Gobi, and its partner and friend Mongolia.