Archive for the 'Mongolia' Category


bank loans and court rulings – update

Earlier this month I commented about the dispute about mortgage loans in Mongolia. The government has now amended the rules and apparently things are back on track to offer the lower 8 per cent mortgage loans to the public.

However, not everyone sees these loans as a good idea. Jargal, a prominent economist in Mongolia who has a regular news column which is translated in English and published by the UB Post, has dedicated his latest column to highlighting key problems with the private apartment market in Ulaanbaatar, including corruption, lack of transparency and poor planning.

2 Songino 6 construction site I

(Photo: construction of apartment buildings in Songino Khairkhan district)

Diverging a little from the private side, the UB development plans also includes the re-housing of those who exchange their land on which the new apartment buildings are built. The government wants it to seem that everyone who exchanges their land for an apartment is super-happy about getting a new apartment. But this is not always the case. A lot of the development projects have run into serious delays. Like the private market, a weak legal framework, an inexperienced and corrupt government, and lack of transparency are all contributing (among other factors) to delays and disputes. The result is continually expanding ger areas and all the problems that go along with that, including serious air and soil pollution.


Bank loans and court rulings

A story came out in Mongolia just before the end of 2015 that the Constitutional Court had ruled a program of 8% mortgage loans as unconstitutional. The Court found that the loans violate Articles 171 and 171.2 of the Mongolian Civil Code as well as the Constitution.

Civil Code

Article 171. Non-restriction of owner transaction right

 171.1. Transaction, obligating the owner not to use the immovable property serving as a hypothec, not to transfer it to ownership of others, and not to otherwise entitle rights to it to third party, shall be invalid.

 171.2. Validity of the transaction concluded by hypothec owner with a third party shall depend on the creditor’s permission.

After checking the dictionary, I learnt that hypothec means:

A mortgage or security held by a creditor on the property of a debtor without possession of it, created either by agreement or by operation of the law

However, neither the laws, nor the definition of hypothec were enough for me to understand why the 8% mortgage loans were deemed illegal/unconstitutional. It would seem that there are provisions in the loan scheme which I don’t know about and which run afoul of the law.

But the story doesn’t just end with people being denied cheap mortgage loans. It seems that the State Housing Corporation has built some apartment blocs on the basis that they would be able to offer people the 8% loan to buy new apartments. The sale of the apartments would then cover the construction costs. However, with the denial of the 8% loans, this whole scheme has collapsed and the State Housing Corporation can’t afford to pay for the construction.

(picture source)

In response to this set back the Speaker of the Parliament, while attending the official opening of the apartment blocs, announced that the government would annul the Court’s ruling and continue as planned without changing the law. Its unclear how he will do that in practice since all banks offering the loan scheme suspended them on the basis of the court ruling. Annulling the law would also, presumably, involve convincing the banks to offer the loan in violation of the court ruling.

The tussle between judicial and legislative powers could heat up, especially as we have just entered a parliamentary election year. Combined with the approved amendments to the election law, protests over the use of voting machines and the slump in economic growth, tensions are already running high.

Mongolia generally has peaceful elections. Although there is thought to be some amount of election mismanagement and fraud in each elections, most election pass without too much controversy. The exception was the 2008 parliamentary election which led to a violent protest, the first state of emergency declared since the transition to democracy and 5 people were killed. Nobody is expecting anything like that but we could be heading for a very feisty election period.



2015 in review

January: Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris

February: Temp job finished; several job interviews

March: Unemployed; more job interviews

April: start new job; got ridiculously and inappropriately drunk at a party

May: Birthday month; UK elections leading to Tory government (ugh); attended music festival in Helsinki, got job offer based in Mongolia

June: attend friend’s hen do

July: attend friend’s wedding

August: vaccinations for Mongolia

September: Week in Hong Kong and then onto Mongolia to start new job

October: Visa problems, went to Jeju for a week

November: Attacks in Paris, Nigeria, Lebanon, Mali

December: Christmas and work



Mongolia’s election to the Human Rights Council

Since I am currently in Mongolia I thought it might be a good idea to blog something about the country. I promise not to include any patronizing asides to acknowledge Mongolia’s ‘rich culture and history’, a phrase that seems to be compulsory for any international article on Mongolia. And no trite references to Chinggis Khaan or eagle hunting. No, I want to look at Mongolia’s election to the UN Human Rights Council (UN HRC) and specifically at the interview given by State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs D.Gankhuyag about what that election means.

Countries are elected by other member states for 3 year terms to serve on the UN HRC. Countries can serve for two consecutive terms. This means a country could serve for two terms, take a term off and then run again to serve for another two terms, if they so wished.

 This is Mongolia’s first ever election to the UN HRC which is definitely a positive thing for the country. However, it should be noted that a country’s human rights record is not an important factor when deciding who becomes a member of the UN HRC. For example, right now we have states like China, Kazakhstan, and Saudi Arabia currently serving on the UN HRC (and that is just from Asia Pacific), hardly leaders in the field of human rights.

Part of the dilemma is that no States’ human rights record is good enough and to exclude States from being eligible to become members of the UN HRC based on their human rights record would only serve to make the UN HRC more political than it already is. Which leaves us with this non-credible body infiltrated with known human rights violators who are responsible for upholding and championing human rights around the world – its far from ideal.

Even though Mongolia’s human rights record leaves much to be desired, it certainly is better than some of the other countries on the list. However, it should be kept in mind that Mongolia’s human rights record does not receive the same kind of scrutiny as some other countries. This lack of focus may be leading some to think that things aren’t so bad. However, lack of attention speaks more to lack of resources, lack of strategic importance of the country, and lack of initiative on the part of the human rights community. Perhaps Mongolia’s accession to the UN HRC will have the (unintended but welcome) consequence of putting a greater spotlight on its own human rights record. That would be a good thing.

In the interview the Secretary of State of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs suggests that Mongolia’s election was in part to a) careful planning and effective campaigning on the part of Mongolia; and b) because other countries highly evaluated:

Mongolia’s human rights practice, its achievements for promoting and protecting human rights, execution of its obligations to international treaties and conventions, as well as future goals related to human rights issues.”

I’m not convinced that there is any evidence to support this second point. As noted above, countries with terrible human rights records are consistently voted to the UN HRC. Second, many countries would not be fully aware of the full extent and nature of human rights violations taking place in the country (and probably don’t care).

I would also refute the assertion that Mongolia’s pledges played a role in their election victory. States seeking to be elected to the UN HRC often make ‘voluntary pledges’ ahead of the elections as a way of showing how serious they are about human rights. I’m too lazy to do a full analysis of these pledges but many pledges tend to be quite vague and non-committal. Also, mostly they are not implemented. (If a State implemented a pledge they would have to come up with new ones for the next election).

But here’s hoping that the experience is a valuable one for Mongolia and that they take the role seriously enough to a) make positive changes at home, and b) speak up about human rights violations around the world, particularly in relation to its neighbours China, Russia and North Korea.

ukok-plateau-mongolia-5029(Mongolia: a country with a rich culture and history and eagle hunters)


Pictures of Mongolia’s State House


observations on Mongolia (or rather just UB)

I was last in UB in July 2009 for a short two weeks. I am now back in UB, again just for two weeks. Like last time, this is a work trip so my chances to look around are a bit limited. Plus it’s cold and I’m a wimp so I’m spending my evenings indoors. Today however was just lovely – bright blue sky.

A couple of observations between this time and last time:

1. Traffic has gone CRAZY; I don’t remember it being anywhere near this manic last time I was here.

2. last time I wasn’t pick pocketed but I had the joy of that experience this time – my computer charger was stolen. So someone has a charger but no computer and I have a computer I can’t charge – nobody was a winner in this scenario. Now I have to walk around like a paranoid foreigner with my back pack on my front 😦

3. State Department Store seems to have been refurbished – its nicer looking than I remember

4. Footpaths, or the area beside the roads where people walk, are still hazardous for your ankles, especially in heels

5. Crossing the road at night is the single most dangerous activity I have done in several years

Today I visited the ‘black market’ for the first time. It was massive and it was only thanks to our wonderful Mongolian volunteers that we ever managed to find our way out again and to find the things we were looking to buy. Not a big tourist spot though, I only spotted one other foreigner.


Mongolia under the spotlight – human rights review

It is Mongolia’s turn to be reviewed under the Universal Periodic Review. As some may recall, in 2009, North Korea took its turn to be reviewed in this process. North Korea remains the only country to refuse to accept any recommendations to improve its human rights record. We can expect Mongolia to be a little more receptive to this process.

The UPR is a four year cycle during which all countries are peer-reviewed for their human rights record. This is year three of the cycle and so far its been a real mixed bag of countries engaging positively and countries, like China and North Korea making half-arsed attempts to look remotely cooperative.

Mongolia has submitted their national report, the NGOs have submitted their reports, UN summaries have been prepared and a summary of the NGO information. Mongolia’s review takes place tomorrow Tuesday 2 November and it can be watched live via webcast – which is exactly what I plan to be doing.

Some countries have already submitted questions and Mongolia has issued replies. This gives us a taster of what to expect- death penalty, prison conditions and LGBT.

July 2018
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