10th Development Dialogue: Political Empowerment of Women in Mongolia: Opening Remarks by Ms. Sezin Sinanoglu,UNDP Resident Representative

Dec 23, 2014

Opening Remarks by Ms. Sezin Sinanoglu, UNDP Resident Representative

10th Development Dialogue: Political Empowerment of Women in Mongolia

Chinggis Khaan Hotel, Ulaanbaatar, 23 December 2014

  • Your Excellency, Mr. Erdene, Minister of Population Development and Social Welfare and Deputy Chair of the National Committee on Gender Equality,
  • Your Excellencies, Ministers,
  • Honorable Members of Parliament,
  • Representatives of the Government, of Political Parties, of Civil Society Academia and the Media

Distinguished Guests,

A very warm welcome to all of you!

In 2011, UNDP in collaboration with the National Committee on Gender Equality held and international conference in exactly this room to discuss exactly this same topic. It brought a mixed crowd of politicians, NGOs, government representatives and experts, including a renowned academician from Harvard University to discuss how to increase women’s representation in politics. It was a success. It came up not only with good ideas and a conference report but a methodology that women everywhere can apply to increase women’s voice in politics and in decision making – a 6 point simple method that the Women’s Caucus in Mongolia picked up and made their own shortly after the elections. Today we are here to touch base on that. But more importantly today we are here to look forward – especially to the Parliamentary elections in 2016.

Two years ago UNDP set out to organize a series of meetings that would bring together different stakeholders to discuss and debate key developments issues for the purpose of providing food-for-thought to policy makers in taking Mongolia’s development agenda forward.  We called those meetings the Development Dialogues. We are very happy to have you with us today at the 10th of those Dialogues, this time to discuss the Political Empowerment of Women in Mongolia.

At the outset, I would like to express my appreciation to the Secretariat of the National Committee on Gender Equality for co-organizing this important forum. A very warm thank you also to the Parliamentary Women’s Caucus and Members of Parliament for their very strong support and presence in this Dialogue despite the ongoing Parliamentary Sessions. Similarly, I am extremely happy to see so many Ministers at this event. Your presence today attests to the importance of the topic we will discuss and helps make a much stronger case for improvements in policies and legislation to ensure stronger political representation of women in Mongolia.  

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Mongolia has had six parliamentary elections since its transition to democracy in 1992. Throughout that time, women’s representation in Parliament has been uneven, with an all time low of 3 women among 76 MPs 2008. The 2012 elections increased the number to 11 – thanks largely to the 20% quota for women candidates in political party lists as dictated by the Election law. Although this was a significant and positive change for Mongolia, the country needs at least 6 more women in parliament to reach the global average of 21.9%. More importantly, Mongolia needs at least 23 women in the Great State Khural to meet its own national MDG target of achieving 30% seats held by women by the year 2015. Against many indicators Mongolia ranks highly in gender equality. In political representation, it unfortunately lags behind.

The situation is not much different in locally elected offices, the civil service, the private sector or academia – it is clear that women are underrepresented in leadership positions in Mongolia. And this occurs despite women’s proven abilities as leaders and agents of change.

Why is this so important? First and foremost, women account for approximately half the population and therefore have the right to be represented as such. The interests of men and women are different, and even conflicting, and therefore women are needed in representative institutions to articulate and promote the interests of women.

But the issue is not only an issue of human rights. There is also a business case. There is ample evidence from all over the world that empowering women empowers humanity. Economies grow faster, families are healthier, people are better educated. Giving power to women at the decision-making level leads to increase in the provision of public goods and services which matter for the wellbeing of the society at large. An example from India: villages that had female-led local councils implemented 62 percent more drinking water projects compared to those villages where the local councils were led by men. Needless to say, health indicators in those areas led by women improved. In Norway, studies have found a direct causal relationship between the presence of women in municipal councils and the coverage of childcare – a precondition for a healthy and successful society and opportunity for women to join the workforce. 

It is obvious that giving voice to women and a place in decision making has a positive impact on everyone.

Distinguished guests,

Today’s Dialogue is very timely and significant for Mongolia for three reasons.

First, the Parliament is debating revisions to the Law on the General Election and the Law on Political Parties.  All expert reviews, all global discussions and advocacy efforts point to the importance of including political quotas and positive measures in such legislation to increase women’s chances of achieving political office. They also point to the importance of removing barriers to access – financial and otherwise. Without access to established networks of influence, limited resources, few role models and mentors, and in many cases limited family and community support, it is understandable that women’s participation in the political arena has remained woefully behind that of men. Today’s discussion will hopefully make the case to implement positive measures and remove barriers in the upcoming amendments to these key legislation. 

Second, and as noted before, we are entering the critical 1,5 years before the next elections. This time is critical not only to make legislative adjustments, but also to invest in women so they aspire for political office and gain the skills to run effective political campaigns. It is also the time to counter gender stereotypes in the public and promote women’s political representation. Media campaigns, public outreach – all to challenge ingrained views and to promote women as capable leaders who can achieve positive development for Mongolia. The UN supported such a programme in the lead to the last elections. We see the results - 11 very capable and strong women in Parliament today.

Third, we have a new Government, and it is key that they start their work with a strong focus on gender issues – women in politics is just one of the issues that they need to look into. Gender based violence, gender and poverty, gender issues related to men (for example: the fact that men in Mongolia live 10 years less than women) are all issues of significance to the society. All issues that deserve strong attention and action by the Government. I hope that today’s meeting will help elevate some of those topics.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today’s meeting is for discussion and debate but it is also a call to all of you, especially the Parliament and the Government:

  • To take strong leadership to make women’s political empowerment a priority
  • To implement legal measures including a quota system with the winnable placement of female candidates, reforms of internal procedures of political parties with concrete enforcement mechanisms and reforms in campaign fundraising and election expenditures
  • To revitalize the 6 point action plan that the Women’s Caucus had prepared in 2012, review, improve as necessary and formalize it as national action plan for women’s empowerment in Mongolia.
  • To support reforms that will ensure a merit based civil service as a key element to improving women’s representation in decision making 
  • To research and develop the knowledge base to better understand gender issues, their root causes and impacts on the people of Mongolia, whether it is poverty or violence-all with the goal of eliminating gender inequality of women or of men in the country

I hope that you will find the discussion fruitful and take home a lot of thoughts to put into action in the near future.

In moving forward, let me reiterate UNDP’s commitment to working with all of you to empower women and increase their political participation.

Thank you.

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