I would like to welcome all of you to the Multi-Stakeholder Collaboration for Systemic Change: The Case of Sustainable Cashmere in Mongolia. Today, we have distinguished representatives from key organizations in the sector, including MOFALI, Mongolian Wool and Cashmere Association, non-profit, non-governmental organizations implementing sustainable cashmere projects, national and international cashmere processors and buyers, and bilateral and multilateral development partners. I extend my sincere appreciation to all of you to come here to be part of the dialogue.
This conference is a unique opportunity for all stakeholders in the sector. It’s unique because the dialogue you will have today, and its outcomes, will help positioning Mongolia as a leading producer of cashmere that will allow value chain stakeholders to consider the environmental and social impacts when engaging in business transaction. As the global community continues to explore the ways to achieve Sustainable Development Goals, our current collective attempt to facilitate a global value chain for such cashmere will present a concrete example in demonstrating the possibility of an alternative growth model.
In recent years, sustainable cashmere, as a loosely defined concept, has increasingly captured national and international stakeholders’ attention. As many of you know, Mongolia faces the twin challenge of environment and social, as its economy continues to recover and grow. Approximately 70 % of its pastureland has degraded to a certain extent; one quarter of the country has now turned to desert. This resulted in a social challenge. With the land degradation combined with climate change-induced extreme weather patterns, herders are leaving in droves for cities like UB, abandoning their traditional livelihoods based on herding without much prospect for gainful employment in the city. The poverty headcount has increased after the economic contraction that began in 2014. Between 2014 and 2016, the number of Mongolians living in poverty leapt from one in five, to one in three.
The concept of sustainable cashmere, and the mainstreaming of it, is a direct result of this increasing awareness of environmental and social challenges. As the cashmere sector stands as a strategic sector for economic diversification, there is an increasing discussion that the promotion of cashmere harvested and produced in an environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive and responsible manner, will help Mongolia to wrestle with the country’s twin challenge.
One of the unique aspects of the current momentum of sustainable cashmere is that the private sector is showing a keen interest. As a testimony, we have representatives of a number of domestic and international cashmere processers and buyers today. Many of them are interested in understanding how their firms can increase the sourcing volume of sustainable, quality cashmere. Some are interested in engaging with suppliers in a more consistent manner. Their concerns are real: The negative consequences of land degradation and inconsistent, precarious supplier relationship will jeopardize their long-term business prospect.
The momentum is building. We have representatives of organizations that implement capacity building support for herder suppliers, processors and the governments and related agencies. Each organization is supported by multiple development partners and private sector firms. Buyers are also increasing investment in sourcing sustainable cashmere. Most importantly, the Government of Mongolia is increasingly discussing the sustainability agenda in implementing its National Cashmere Programme 2018-21. All of us are working toward one goal – advance Mongolia as a leading producer of quality, sustainable cashmere.
However, we often get caught in myopic views. Project goals, funding targets, and existing government programmers and agency boundaries prevent us from discussing openly how we can collectively and creatively identify concerted sets of actions needed to move the sector forward. At the moment, there is no national-level umbrella mechanism for collective action; coordination has been taking place in an opportunistic manner. The market for sustainable cashmere is nascent at the moment but if we want the market to scale, we have to work together.
The space that UNDP is creating today is for all of us to acknowledge our efforts, exchange ideas to build on them, and brainstorm for feasible collective actions that will facilitate a development of a roadmap for further consultation among all of us. The identification and development of collective action should be guided by the principles of inclusiveness, transparency, and a pursuit of collective goals. This will allow all of us to start engaging with each other based on a clear rule of engagement in advancing the sustainable cashmere value chain.
When participating in the panel and workshop sessions, I ask all of you to be open minded and embrace each other’s efforts on sustainable cashmere. I also encourage you to identify the ways to support each other and seek for spaces for collaboration and collective actions. For that to happen, I urge you to listen deeply. Before I conclude my remarks, I’d like to quote an African proverb. This will capture the spirit that should be carried as we engage with each other in our dialogue today.
If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.