07.09.2023 Author: Bair Danzanov

Gender equality: the faux pas of Americanizing Mongolia

Americanizing Mongolia

When the word “Mongolia” appears in media reports from the past two or three weeks, the reader is typically directed to numerous headlines about the recent visit of Mongolia’s Prime Minister, Luvsannamsrain Oyun-Erdene, to the United States of America. What’s even more intriguing and potentially productive is that the Mongolia-US talks have recently taken place within Mongolia. For instance, the Trans-Altai Sustainability Dialogue was held in Ulaanbaatar in the first half of June this year. The Ban Ki-moon Foundation and Shorenstein APARC collaborated to organize the event. Its stated goal is to coordinate SDG action through establishing new research and policy collaborations between specialists from the United States and Asia and to foster relationships between governments and non-governmental organizations.

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals cover a wide variety of ambitious issues facing humanity, such as eradicating poverty and hunger, minimizing the negative effects of human activity on the environment, and improving access to healthcare and education. Despite the country’s great economic growth, it appears that Mongolia continues to encounter a lot of difficulties that an event staged under this pretext cannot ignore. These include Mongolia’s chronically high poverty rate and its poor healthcare system, both of which make the nation more vulnerable to deadly bubonic plague outbreaks. The state of the environment in a nation where black diggers and transnational enterprises are engaged in “dirty” mining operations leaves much to be desired. It would appear that the nation has a number of issues that call for the attention of United Nations SDG “Ambassadors,” including access to clean water, desert expansion, and traffic jams in Ulaanbaatar. However, gender equality was the main topic of discussion during the Trans-Altai Sustainability Dialogue in Mongolia, which, according to the “dubious banquet’s” organizers, “is critical to development progress and is a central goal of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

This choice of motivation is extremely unreasonable given that the status of women in Mongolia is not far from exemplary in comparison to those of other developing nations. Mongolia is ranked 71st out of 156 nations in the Global Gender Gap Index 2023, a global study and ranking of gender equality conducted by the World Economic Forum. This places Mongolia ahead of nations like the Czech Republic, Turkey, Japan, China, South Korea, Hungary, Romania, and Brazil. With more than 900 women peacekeepers deployed to various UN peacekeeping missions, Mongolia now has one of the highest proportions of women among all national contingents. Women make up the country’s foreign minister and 13 of the 76 members of parliament. Women are more likely than men to have higher levels of education. Although there is room for improvement on this front in Mongolia, it is undoubtedly not the biggest challenge to the nation’s sustained development.

An in-depth analysis of this contradiction using “dialog” as the topic exposes yet another very complex plan of meddling by the United States and its allies in the internal affairs of independent Mongolia. Let’s start by looking at the list of participants in the “dialog” who traveled to Mongolia to provide advice to the leading political figures of the nation. Representatives of the Mongolian Parliament, led by the Speaker, attended the meeting. Representatives from Stanford University (USA) and Ewha Womans University (Republic of Korea), as well as visitors at various levels from Thailand, the Philippines, and Japan, are on the list of participants. Therefore, the majority of those who dared to convey the UN message to Mongolia were representatives of the United States and various affiliated nations. Along with them, former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon participated in the Trans-Altai Dialogue; by the way, the UN did not have any delegates actively promoting the sustainable development goals set forth by this group.

The “distinguished guest list” is just the beginning of the American trail, though. The main focus of the “dialog” was precisely addressing gender disparity in Mongolia, as has already been covered in great depth. In this regard, let us turn to some statements by former US Ambassadors to Mongolia, Pamela Jo Howell Slutz and Mark C. Minton, exposed on the WikiLeaks portal.

Let’s begin with the final State of the Union address delivered by outgoing Ambassador Pamela Slutz to the highest US authorities on September 7, 2006. Several important lines of the message at once make reference to the ‘woman card’ in an effort to increase American influence over Mongolia. “Our target audience should be the two-thirds of the population which is under the age of 30, and women and the Kazakh (Moslem) minority in particular,” the ambassador said. Through our alliance with the multi-partisan National Forum for Women in Politics and Governance we are helping to train women to run for elected office in 2008…. We have very good relations with younger, western-educated politicians likely to come to positions of power and authority in coming years, including many young women.”

The published views on women’s issues by the next US Ambassador to Mongolia, Mark Minton, are also noteworthy. He specifically reported in great detail in his memo to the State Department on the removal of the female quota in the Mongolian parliament, noting that “although many women active in Mongolian politics are outraged by the quota’s demise, we see little chance that this anger will translate into concrete political action” and “their ultimate loyalties lie with their political parties, rather than others of their gender.”
Such attention to the event reveals Minton’s commitment to the cautions and recommendations given for advancing the problem of women by the US ambassador who served before him.

The promotion of pro-Western women politicians to the highest levels of Mongolian power under the guise of emancipation and increased participation of women in the socio-political life of the country is evident even from these reports as one of the mechanisms of influence on Mongolia by the United States. As one of the few emerging nations in the East free from “patriarchal” cultural and religious traditions and working to adhere to the UN’s progressive agenda, which includes the emancipation of women, Mongolia is well suited for this type of scam.

Hence, proposals to boost women’s political participation in Mongolia were made in the summer of 2023 under the pretense of demonstrating a commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, not because of worries about the “plight of Mongolian women.” Contrarily, the relatively uncommon Eastern state that expresses its desire to advance along the emancipation ladder after having already made significant strides toward this goal seems to the US and its allies to be susceptible to increased political pressure from pro-Western and Westernized female politicians and public figures. The US and its “companions” plan to incorporate them into the Mongolian elite (with very clear goals) under the noble guise of the UN guidelines while cynically ignoring much more serious challenges from among the global threats defined in the UN.


Bair Danzanov, independent expert on Mongolia, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.

Related articles: