Opening Remarks by Ms. Beate Trankmann
United Nations Resident Coordinator a.i. & United Nations Development Programme Resident Representative in Mongolia
26 February 2019
Your Excellency Mr. Tsogtbaatar, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia
Distinguished Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to join the Minister and the other co-organizers in welcoming you to Mongolia and the Ulaanbaatar Democracy Forum.
Today, democracy is more critical than ever. We need democratic values – like strong governance structures, transparency & accountability to citizens, freedom of speech and of the press – to achieve the most ambitious agenda in human history: the Sustainable Development Goals - that is: to end poverty, narrow inequality and secure the future of our planet, by 2030.
Good governance is a goal in itself – Goal 16. With its focus on peaceful, just and inclusive societies, it occupies a special place. It is both a critical objective, but also an indispensable enabler, a precondition for achieving every other goal.
For example, ensuring health services are equipped to meet Goal 3 on Good Health for all. Or that cities are built sustainably, Goal 11. Because while the SDGs demand efforts across all of society, governments must take the lead, in setting policies and budgets to support them – and democracy holds them to account.
It is human nature to want to be involved in the decisions that affect our lives. In this sense, democracy is an aspiration as universal and perhaps as old as humankind. Yet, it is also a work in progress. It requires continuous attention, as well as adaption. And, crucially, it can never be taken for granted.
Today, democracy at a crossroads.
UNDP and the Pew Research Centre analysed public opinion data from over 40 countries and found almost four in every five people interviewed consider democracy a good way to run public affairs. But we also found, less than half are happy with how democracy actually works in their countries.
According to research by the Varieties of Democracy Institute, access to political power remains hugely unequal in most societies. Political exclusion on the basis of lower socio-economic status has in fact significantly worsened over the last decade.
At the same time, technological innovation and transformation of media markets have revolutionized information flows, enabling many to access a greater variety of news and opinion sources, but also making it easier for misinformation to be spread, with profoundly destabilizing effects.
There also is strong evidence that civic spaces have been shrinking globally due to increasing restrictions on the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly, as well as the work of civil society actors more generally.
But there are also reasons for optimism.
Since its transition to democracy over a quarter of a century ago, Mongolia, for example, has established itself as a strong advocate of good governance and human rights in this region. It is one of only six free democracies in Asia Pacific according to the 2018 Freedom House Report. It passed a Freedom to Information Law in 2011 and has a vast and varied media landscape, with over 500 media outlets for just 3.2m people. Social media is widespread. Even nomads are on Twitter and Facebook! However, despite these achievements, recent polls show falling confidence in democracy, and decreasing satisfaction with public services. Mongolia’s work on SDG16, as well as its ongoing reform towards a citizen-centered civil service with UNDP’s support, are a great opportunity to make challenges measurable and to continue making the voices of citizens heard.
UNDP has championed democratic governance as a fundamental part of human development, since the release of its landmark report “Deepening democracy in a fragmented world” almost twenty years ago. And we are extremely pleased to be supporting this important event today.
As you know, global progress towards Goal 16 will be reviewed in depth at the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in July and the event over the next few days will serve as the main regional consultation for Asia on SDG 16 ahead the Forum.
With Mongolia stepping forward to present its First National Review at the HLPF, I am particularly thrilled to see this consultation being held in UB as an excellent opportunity to exchange views and foster joint learning.
At last count, over 100 participants from more than 40 countries were confirmed to participate in this consultation - an impressive attendance, which I am sure will make for a productive and inspiring dialogue.
There is no question that the ideals of peace, justice and inclusion embodied in SDG 16 should be front and centre of our joint efforts towards sustainable development.
We want to hear from you on how the UN system can most effectively support countries in integrating these ideals into strategies, plans and policies on the way to 2030. We look forward to continued collaboration with each and every one of you in the pursuit of prosperity and dignity for all. Thank you.