Making Mongolia’s Cities Resilient and Sustainable: Speech by Beate Trankmann, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Representative

Oct 10, 2016

Speech at the MOU signing ceremony – 10 Oct 2016

Making Mongolia’s Cities Resilient and Sustainable

By Beate Trankmann, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Representative

Your Excellency Mr. Khurelsukh, Deputy Prime Minister of Mongolia

  • Esteemed Mr. Sundui Batbold, Mayor of Ulaanbaatar City and Governor of UB City Municipality,
  • Mr. S.Nasanbat, Mayor of Darkhan
  • Mr. D. Batlut, Mayor of Erdenet
  • Mr. Sanjava Bhatia, Director of the North-East Asia Global Education and Training Institute of UNISDR

Thank you for inviting me to speak at this important forum.

Mongolia is a nation of nomads. Yet, it is now more urbanized than many parts of Asia. More than two-thirds of Mongolians live in cities. The biggest being Ulaanbaatar, Darkhan and Erdenet. Close to half of the country’s entire population lives in a single city: Ulaanbaatar.

Cities are centres for ideas, education, political power, technology, social services, culture, finance and jobs. They play a critical role in human development. Indeed, very few countries have reached high levels of human development without high levels of urbanization.

But, cities can also hold us back. Unplanned growth in the capital has contributed to higher unemployment, traffic bottlenecks and unsafe housing. More than 60 percent of Ulaanbaatar’s population lives in the peri-urban ger districts. They lack running water, drains, sanitation, electricity, roads, transport, health clinics and schools. They also lack central heating during winter – in the world’s coldest capital.

The result is etched across our skies. It is estimated that 80 percent of Ulaanbaatar’s air pollution comes from household stoves in gers.[1] Great strides have been made to reduce this by 40 percent since 2009 through clean stoves. But safe air is a long way off. In the ger districts, air pollution averages 40 times the World Health Organization’s safe limit  – surpassing Beijing and Dehli.[2]  That significantly raises the risk of heart and lung diseases for urban dwellers.

Ger districts are also often built on, or along, sites that are vulnerable to natural disasters. We all know that Ulaanbaatar is prone to earthquakes. With climate change causing more unpredictable weather, these areas are also more prone to flooding and landslides when it rains.

We need to plan for cities that are liveable, safe, healthy, sustainable, and promote human development for all who live in them.

We need more affordable housing, so the poorest families have options outside the ger districts. We need to reduce air pollution by improving energy efficiency, finding alternative renewable sources of energy generation and by reducing emission from vehicles and public transport. And we must invest in disaster preparedness and risk reduction.

Every disaster reverses development gains and absorbs resources that could have otherwise gone into reducing poverty. Every dollar spent on reducing people's vulnerability to disasters saves around four dollars in post-disaster recovery. Investing in prevention boosts the resilience of countries and cities to future disasters. It also protects economic growth and other achievements from being lost.

I am happy that today three major cities of Mongolia are joining UNISDR’s campaign “Making Cities Resilient”. We have learned that development cannot be sustainable if it is not risk informed. UNISDR’s initiative will help Mongolia’s cities design holistic approaches to urban planning and development that take into account threats and disaster risk reduction to make development in cities more sustainable. The themes of the UNISDR campaign Know more, Invest wiser, and Build Safer point the way for this.

In line with the Sendai Framework, the UN family in Mongolia will continue to strengthen emergency preparedness and response capacities at national and local levels. Mainstreaming disaster risk reduction and promoting sustainable environmental management, to reduce the threat and costs of future disasters, will be a key element of our efforts.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Without cities addressing the development challenges they face today, achieving the SDGs – the global agenda to end poverty, reduce inequality and protect our planet – will not be possible. That is why the 17 SDGs include a specific goal on cities – Goal number 11 – to make cities more inclusive, safe and resilient.

Our new five year UN Development Assistance Framework focuses on supporting Mongolia in the implementation of the SDGs as well as Mongolia’s Sustainable Development Vision 2030, which translates the global goals into national context. In the urban context, a first step has been made with UB City partnering with UNDP to align the city’s development plan with the SDV 2030.

The UN stands ready to work with UB city and other municipal partners to design concrete solutions for people-centered, environmentally friendly, urban development to enable a fair and sustainable Mongolia, for all its’ people.

Thank you.

[1] Dr. Lodoysamba Sereeter, a senior researcher at the German-Mongolian Institute for Resources and Technology (GMIT)

[2] Ibid

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