Community Festival: Opening remarks by Ms. Beate Trankmann, UN RC & UNDP RR

Oct 5, 2015

Community Festival

Bayan-Uul Soum, Dornod Aimag

Mr. Dorj, Governor of Bayan-Uul soum,

Honored guests, officials from aimags and soums,

Distinguished community members,

Good morning! I am very happy to be here with you on this special day to join your traditional annual gathering.

Today’s festival includes the participation of aimag representatives, soum authorities and local community groups from 9 soums of the Eastern Region. We also have representatives from the West who I would like to welcome and who came here to learn from your experiences. And we have quite a few UNDP colleagues from UB and from projects joining. This is indeed a great opportunity for experience sharing and to foster closer collaboration.

Your home, Eastern Mongolia, is one of the largest expanse of unspoiled, temperate grassland in the world, and I am sure you are proud of it. And rightly so. The future of one of the Earth’s last great migrations, the migration of the Mongolian Gazelle, depends on the protection of this region. Sustainable land, forest and water management is essential and this is why we have several of our UNDP programmes implemented here.

As you know better than everyone, all elements of an ecosystem are connected, ecosystems are connected to each other and human livelihoods in turn are connected and dependent on their health and productivity. All of you here are living this on a daily basis and you are all contributing to managing and maintaining the integrity of the ecosystem upon which you rely.

I would like to link your work here on the ground to global developments. A week ago, world leaders adopted the Sustainable Development Goals. The new 17 international development goals provide the blueprint for a different kind of development for the world over the next 15 years. They illustrate a pathway towards sustainable development where poverty is eliminated, inequality is reduced and where the planet and our natural resources are protected for future generations to come. This will be a world where all people can enjoy peaceful, and prosperous lives living in harmony with nature without leaving anyone behind.

This is not easy of course. There will be trade-offs between short term economic growth and equality and sustainability. To get people out of poverty in a real sense, jobs have to be created. Solutions will require that all partners work together towards the results. In the specific case of the steppes of Eastern Mongolia, I understand that:

1.    You are witnessing pasture land and forest degradation, water scarcity, and threats to wildlife. There is a room for improvement in protecting key ecosystems to ensure adequate ecosystem services for all. Overall, Mongolia does well having put 17 percent of its territory under protection (compared to a global average of 11%). This falls however short of Mongolia’s own target of protecting 30% of its landmass by the end of 2015 and there are also still ecologically important areas in the country that are underrepresented in protected areas.

2.    The local economy must develop but the right balance must be found. Economic development, be it mining, oil, agriculture, should not be done at the expense of nature and should not inflict long term, irreversible harm on the environment. Developing first and cleaning up later in the end is more expensive as experience shows. It is also no longer an option for our planet whose self-healing capacities are exceeded. Offset principles need to be applied in all development projects.  The good news is that the world today has the knowledge, the technologies and the innovation to make development greener and green development approaches also tend to create more sustained growth for countries and communities and can generate new jobs.

3.    Climate change makes environmentally friendly development all the more important. We see in countries like Mongolia how climate change increases people’s vulnerability through land degradation, change in precipitation levels, reduced water supply, food insecurity and forced changes of livelihoods and migration to urban areas. Climate change in Mongolia is already a reality today and the impact is more severe than in other countries. Temperatures in Mongolia have increased almost 3 times faster over the past 70 years than global average. Nomadic herders and arable farmers are paying the price as they are dependent on natural resources for their livelihood. The Eastern steppe is essential in relation to the climate change. Healthy grasslands can store important amounts of carbondioxide, the greenhouse gas that leads to temperature increases. Degraded grasslands on the other hand, release soil carbon into the atmosphere thus contributing to global warming.

These multidimensional challenges require us to be strategic and to apply holistic approaches.

For UNDP in Mongolia, environmental sustainability and climate change adaptation mitigation are key areas of work. We work to integrate environmental and climate change concerns into national development strategies and to support evidence-based policy decisions. We focus a lot on on-the-ground demonstration activities to implement climate change adaptation, natural resource management and disaster risk reduction measures. In all our work, we aim to make a positive impact on the lives of people and improve their resilience. Ensuring that local communities take part in making decisions over natural resources on which their livelihood depends is essential. Learning from the rich tradition of the nomadic livelihoods represents a great opportunity. I personally look forward to witness the successes of UNDP supported activities presented at the Festival today by the communities.

I would also call on you to find additional means to continue addressing environmental development challenges. The Local Development Fund can be used for further replicating best practices in all of the above areas.

I wish you very fruitful discussions today. I am sure that by sharing your knowledge and experience, you will get many new ideas and find ways to effectively collaborate.

Thank you.

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