National Human Development Report 2011: From Vulnerability to Sustainability - Environment and Human Devlelopment
This report began with a discussion on human development and sustainability
indicators of Mongolia. Reducing vulnerability, promoting sustainability and pursuing human development are all closely related. The concept of vulnerability is related to fragility of a society and its ability to absorb risks and external and internal shocks. Historically, Mongolians have adapted to a harsh environment and developed nomadic pastoralism and associated cultural values.
However, rapid changes in social, economic and environmental dimensions are raising new forms of vulnerabilities. A brief discussion focused on alternative views on sustainability. Three indicators of sustainability are considered in the context of Mongolia. These indicated that Mongolia’s adjusted savings are low mainly because of energy and mineral depletion; Mongolia’s ecological footprint is considerably greater than its HDI-neighbours; though mineral revenues are beginning to be spent on welfare, there is a need to examine international best practice to take forward the idea of Human Development Fund to become more effective. The detailed analysis in each chapter raised numerous issues. Here, some of the main conclusions are summarised.
Progress on human development indicators Since its transition to democracy in 1990, real GDP per capita has more than doubled. According to the global HDR 2010, Mongolia has a human development index value of 0.622. It takes 100th rank in a list of 169 countries. Mongolia is in a group of countries where HDI increased by over 1 percent per annum in 2000-2010.
A mixed picture on sustainability indicators On the basis of macro level indicators such as adjusted savings and ecological footprints there is some positive result but there are also serious concerns. Though Mongolia’s gross savings rate was well over 26 percent, once this is adjusted for consumption of fixed capital, energy and mineral depletion, the adjusted savings rate is much lower at just around 3 percent (World Bank, 2010). With regard to ecological footprint, though Mongolia’s bio-capacity is still above its ecological footprint, making it a net creditor of ecological services, the concern is that biocapacity decreased steadily and significantly over the last fifty years. These macroindicators suggest that on some of the key issues concerning sustainability, there is an urgent need to improve performance.
High level of vulnerability Based on macro-level indicators, a previous study in 2005 assessed Mongolia to be highly vulnerable to external shocks. This vulnerability was evident during the global food and fuel price increases in 2007 and the financial crisis in 2008. Mongolia is vulnerable to food insecurity. Notwithstanding impressive growth in GNP per capita and HDI, the number of persons under-nourished remained unchanged at 0.6 million during 1990-2007 (FAO, 2010). Compared to many of its HDI neighbours, Mongolia has a high number of persons affected by disasters.
Vulnerability to climate change Climate change is well under way in Mongolia. The annual average temperatures have already increased by around 2.10 Celsius between 1940 and 2005. Further climate change is likely to increase the variability of annual rainfall and assessments suggest that winter precipitations are likely to increase while summer precipitations decrease. Water resources are unevenly distributed with absolutely water scarcity in at least 6 aimags. The number of climate related disasters has been steadily increasing. The most recent dzud of 2010 resulted in the loss of over 11.3 million livestock whereby many herders lost a significant share of their animals. The potential human development impacts of further climate change include increased threat to nomadic pastoralism, reduction in material standards of living, pasture deterioration which may require more frequent movements which can interfere with educational outcomes of herders’ children, and increased probability of ‘sedentarisation’ or permanent migration to urban areas by herders.