06.12.2023 Author: Boris Kushhov

Mongolian Feminist Diplomacy: “Emancipating Emancipation” in Foreign Policy

Mongolian Feminist Diplomacy: “Emancipating Emancipation” in Foreign Policy

The emancipation of women and the promotion of gender equality have emerged as major concerns in bilateral and multilateral discussions that Mongolia participates in, as well as in the joint statements made by Mongolian representatives with their counterparts from other countries. Therefore, these subjects were discussed five times on the nation’s primary news portal, Montsame.mn, in the span of just two days (November 20 and 21, 2023), four of which had to do with foreign policy. These issues have taken shape:

-The joint statement between the Canadian and Mongolian foreign ministers following the Mongolian minister’s visit to Ottawa

-In the course of the meeting between the Speaker of Parliament Gombojav Zandanshatar and M.P. Singh, who had to depart for New Delhi because his tenure as Ambassador of India to Mongolia was coming to an end.

-During the meeting between Battsetseg Batmunkh, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia and Ahmed Hussen, Canadian Minister of International Development.

-During the meeting between the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia and Greg Fergus, Speaker of the House of Commons of Canada.

Concurrently, the state of women’s emancipation and gender equality will be a case study for a special commission of the Mongolian Parliament for the first time. The head of the parliament’s human rights committee and the then head of the parliament’s administration both made this announcement on November 21. Mongolian lawmakers will be aided in implementing the “expertise” by members of a Swiss development agency, several ex-parliamentarians from various Western nations, and specialists from the Inter-Parliamentary Union. This procedure will be one of the first of its kind on a global scale.

Plus, the Trans-Altai Sustainability Dialogue, which focused on the infamous issue of gender equality, was held in Ulaanbaatar this summer. It was recently stated, by the way, that there would be another “dialog” forum next year. Mongolia’s initiative to host a “World Women’s Forum” in 2024 marked a new chapter in the country’s international promotion of gender equality.

Battsetseg Batmunkh, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia, is a major contributor to the development of this issue, who refers to these initiatives as “feminist diplomacy” and points out that her nation was the first in Asia to actively employ it in foreign policy.  She made a presentation on women’s emancipation and gender inequality at the Global Citizen online summit on September 2. Furthermore, the Minister took an active part in the Mongolian summit of female foreign ministers this year. Additionally, she brought attention to negative trends regarding men’s status in Mongolian society at a meeting of the working group on human rights in early November of this year by launching the “She is for Him” initiative.

Although far from ideal, women’s status in Mongolia is not so dire as more attention has been paid recently, as was pointed out earlier in our publication. This raises the question of why this topic and the conversation around it are being discussed, especially in relation to the nation’s foreign policy. How can Mongolia use its international initiatives and actions to further this issue?

First and foremost, it is important to recognize that Mongolia’s “feminist” diplomacy reflects the nation’s goal to build relationships with its Western allies by addressing as many concerns as possible. Gender inequality issues, both in Mongolian foreign policy and on the global international agenda, involve the active participation of representatives from Western countries. Considering Mongolia’s aim to cultivate ties with its “Third Neighbors,” this subject can function as a meaningful content of exchanges and interactions with Western nations, as is evident, at the very least, from the mentioned above details of Battsetseg Batmunkh’s official visit to Canada. Furthermore, the Mongolian Foreign Minister’s discussions with high-ranking women representatives can be effectively justified, both in terms of the reasons for the increased interactions with Western partners in front of the country’s immediate neighbors and for the very increase in these interactions with Western countries, under the pretext of “women’s solidarity” and a discussion of women’s issues. The active creation of international multilateral platforms with the involvement of female politicians, especially, makes this pretext more relevant.

Additionally, this development in Mongolia’s foreign policy can be viewed as a secure and successful strategy for enhancing Mongolia’s soft power. A minor Asian state’s assimilation into the cultural and intellectual currents of the West helps to elevate the nation’s standing both internationally and within the general public of a substantial portion of the global populace. To be clear, when it comes to the traditional values of the Mongolian people, which continue to be deeply ingrained in the political and ideological platforms of the nation’s major political parties and movements, “feminism” and “gender issues” in their current forms are the least harmful of these trends.

One significant foreign policy goal that feminist diplomacy offers is expanding Mongolia’s involvement in international institutions, especially the UN. It would not garner the same attention as, say, the fact that Mongolia supplies a sizable number of peacekeepers for UN contingents, given that it has the highest percentage of women among all national contingents.  Furthermore, Mongolia’s prominence as a little state in international organizations may grow as a result of the Asian nation’s proactive role in UN women’s rights initiatives.

But there is a far less positive aspect to Mongolia’s foreign policy’s “emancipating emancipation” strategy. For a considerable amount of time, the United States of America and other Western countries have prioritized the formation of a broad layer of “young female leaders” in developing countries as part of their foreign policy efforts. The goal is to establish a stratum of loyal political and public figures in these nations. This strategy, with regard to Mongolia, dates back to the mid-2000s, when statements made by former US Ambassadors to Mongolia, Pamela Slush and Michael Milton, were leaked. In these statements, women leaders are referred to as “our target audience, who are likely to be in power soon, and with whom we have good relations.” Other events, such as the elimination of the women’s quota in the parliament, have been a major concern from a political rather than a social standpoint.


Boris Kushkhov, the Department for Korea and Mongolia at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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