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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Lippo Group Increases Stake in Haranga to 33.58% Following Rights Issue

January 21 (Cover Mongolia) Lippo Group, through its subsidiary Golden Rain Holdings, has substantially increased its stake to 33.58% in Haranga Resources (ASX:HAR) following a non-renounceable rights issue, underwritten by Golden Rain. Lippo had a 19.99% stake following a private placement which increased its stake from 13.43% to 19.99% on December 8, 2014.

ASX rules state if a shareholder reaches 20% in a listed stock, it is obligated to lodge a formal takeover bid. As the means to cross the 20% mark was an underwriting agreement, it is yet unknown if Lippo intends to, or will be forced to do so by Australian Securities & Investment Commission (ASIC).

HAR was last trading at A$0.013, on Friday.

Friday, December 26, 2014

[TT talks start Jan 5; FRC chair replaced; MNT steady on Xmas; and MoM publishes first English newsletter]

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Friday, December 26, 2014

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Headlines in Italic are ones modified by Cover Mongolia from original

 

Overseas Market

MMC-Shenhua-Sumitomo to Commence TT Negotiations on January 5

December 25 (infomongolia.com) On December 24, 2014, the Government authorities received representatives from China-Japan-Mongolia Consortium comprised of Shenhua Energy, Sumitomo Corporation and Energy Resources, who were selected as the winning-investor as partner to develop Tavan Tolgoi coal deposit in Umnugovi Aimag.

At the meeting, the Working Group Chairman, Minister M.Enkhsaikhan, Mining Minister R.Jigjid, Finance Minister J.Erdenebat, and Minister of Roads and Transportation N.Tumurkhuu on behalf of Mongolian Government and the Consortium was represented by Executive Director and CEO of Energy Resources LLC Mr. Gotov BATTSENGEL, Deputy CEO of Energy Resources LLC Mr. Lkhagvatsend OYUNBAT; Board Chairman of China Shenhua Overseas Development and Investment Co., Ltd. Mr. Shao Junjie, and General Manager of Sumitomo Corporation's Ulaanbaatar Office Mr. Hiroto Fujiwara.

During the meeting, parties agreed to continue the negotiation from January 05, 2015 and pledged to successfully accomplish the mega project to invest and develop the Tavan Tolgoi coal deposit.

Group Chairman M.Enkhsaikhan stressed, "The Tavan Tolgoi project requires 4 billion USD investments and in this sense, this is a world-scale mega project. Winners are comprised of three states - Mongolia, China and Japan - and therefore, it increases the project's value".

CEO of Energy Resources LLC, G.Battsengel noted, "We are ready to contribute in the development of Mongolia sharing our experiences gained to date".

General Manager of Sumitomo Corporation's Ulaanbaatar Office, H.Fujiwara added, "Our Office has been operating in Mongolia since 1992 and under the project, we will focus to deliver the coal to the third market".

Chairman of China Shenhua Overseas Development and Investment Co., Ltd., Sh.Junjie emphasized, "Shenhua Group has experienced many projects on international arena. In the scope of projects being implemented in Southeast Asian countries, major projects have been accomplished successfully when to cooperate with experienced domestic firms. In this regard, the Mongolia-Japan-China Consortium will partner under market principles and Mongolian Law".

Under the Agreement of Cooperation between Government of Mongolia and the Consortium, parties to adhere mutually beneficial strategic partnership, which consist of a negotiation based on trusts and understandings as well as to discuss all matters concerned under the principle of joint creative work and finding a general solutions.

Link to article

Similar:

Mongolia to negotiate with int'l investors on coal projectXinhua, December 25

Tavan Tolgoi Bid Winner and Working Group Meet  - Montsame, December 25

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Local Market

MSE News for December 24: Top 20 +1.4%, Turnover 1.14 Billion, ETR 629.5 Million, APP 432.9 Million

Ulaanbaatar, December 24 (MONTSAME) At the Stock Exchange trades on Wednesday, a total of six million 498 thousand and 829 thousand units of 20 JSCs were traded costing MNT one billion 144 million 267 thousand and 940.

"E-trans logistics" /six million 294 thousand and 580 units/, "Asia Pacific Properties" /175 thousand and 260 units/, "Tavantolgoi" /16 thousand and 237 units/, "Merex" /10 thousand units/ and "Khokh gan" /800 units/ were the most actively traded in terms of trading volume, in terms of trading value were "E-trans logistics" (MNT 629 million and 458 thousand), "Asia Pacific Properties" (MNT 432 million 892 thousand and 200), "Tavantolgoi" (MNT 69 million 842 thousand and 685), "Talkh chikher" (MNT three million and 441 thousand) and "Material impex" (MNT three million).

The total market capitalization was set at MNT one trillion 423 billion 713 million 054 thousand and 654. The Index of Top-20 JSCs was 14,686.21, increasing 202.52 units or 1.40% against the previous day.

Link to article

 

MSE News for December 25: Top 20 -0.18% to 14,659.47, Turnover 11.5 Million

Ulaanbaatar, December 25 (MONTSAME) At the Stock Exchange trades on Thursday, a total of 8,089 thousand units of nine JSCs were traded costing MNT 11 million 484 thousand and 123.

"Khokh gan" /5,824 units/, "APU" /2,000 units/, "Material impex" /202 units/, "Baganuur" /16 units/ and "Talkh chikher" /15 units/ were the most actively traded in terms of trading volume, in terms of trading value were "APU" (MNT seven million 507 thousand and 928), "Material impex" (MNT three million 009 thousand and 800), "Khokh gan" (MNT 553 thousand and 435), "Talkh chikher" (MNT 277 thousand and 500) and "Gobi" (MNT 56 thousand and 160).

The total market capitalization was set at MNT one trillion 420 billion 570 million 478 thousand and 853. The Index of Top-20 JSCs was 14,659.47, decreasing 26.74 units or 0.18% against the previous day.

Link to article

 

MSE Opens Bidding for 68.57 Billion Discounted 12-Week Treasury Bills with 15.653% Interest

BRIEF INFORMATION ON GOVERNMENT SECURITIES

1.    The issuer's name: Mongolian Ministry of Finance

2.    The purpose of the issuance of bond: Fund Management of State treasure

3.    Offering  scope of securities: Offering to the public

4.    Type of securities: Government securities

5.    Face value: 100,000 MNT

6.    Discounted price: 96,523 MNT

7.    Total amounts issued: 685,693 Units 

8.    Securities performance: 

9.    Rate of interest: interest rate of the Government Securities,which will be issued weekly will be based on auction results of Central Bank basis State Govenment Securitie's weighted average interest rate. If the Central Bank's weekly trading cancelled, the interest rate will be set based on the previous trading of Government Securities weighted average interest rate.

10.  Order deadline: The Mongolian Stock Exchange will take orders 6 days and the trading will close on the 6th day at 14.00 PM and information on total orders will be delivered to the securities issuer. 

11.  Trading period: Total registered orders distribution of MSE trading system will be determined  based on the Ministry of Finance votes.

Link to release

 

Speaker's Advisor Z. Narantuya Appointed Chairwoman of Financial Regulatory Commission

Ulaanbaatar, December 25 (MONTSAME) At its plenary meeting on Thursday, the parliamentary session discussed matters on discharging the incumbent head and members of the Finance Regulatory Committee (FRC) and appointing new ones.

Proposals and conclusions on the issue made by the Standing committees on justice and on economy were presented by Kh.Temuujin and B.Garamgaibaatar MPs who said that a majority of these committees had backed requests of the FRC's head D.Bayarsaikhan and of the members B.Lhagvasuren and B.Batbayar to resign from their posts. By this reason, the plenary meeting supported a candidature of Z.Narantuya for the post of the FRC's head, offered by the Speaker in accordance with a law on legal status of the FRC.

B.Garamgaibaatar also said the Standing committee on economy had backed Kh.Bum-Erdene and E.Batbold to become the members of the FRC, and J.Tsedenragchaa and D.Ganbat--the non-staff members. The new members are nominated from the Standing committees on justice and on economy, whereas the non-staff members--from the Ministry of Finance and the Bank of Mongolia. Eventually, a majority at the plenary meeting backed the requests of the FRC's head, its members and non-staffers to resign, expressed their views and opinions on the matter, and decided to continue the discussion after a break.

A candidate Z.Narantuya graduated from the State University of Irkutsk in 1991 majoring in law and the Institute of Finance and Economics of Mongolia in 1999, becoming an economist. In 1995, she achieved a master degree in law at the State University of Irkutsk (1995) and a master degree in international economics in the Columbia University in the City of New York (2005). Since 2012, Narantuya has worked as an advisor to the Speaker on economic policy. 

Link to article

Related:

Z.Narantuya becomes FRC head Montsame, December 25

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Economy

Early morning non-cash USD rates: Khan (Buy 1,872 Sell 1,887), TDB (Buy 1,874 Sell 1,886), Golomt (Buy 1,864 Sell 1,870), XacBank (Buy 1,876 Sell 1,890), State Bank (Buy 1,872 Sell 1,886)

BoM MNT Rates: Thursday, December 25 Close

 

 

12/25

12/24

12/23

12/22

12/19

12/18

12/17

12/16

12/15

USD

1,881.02

1,881.48

1,878.16

1,869.98

1,871.32

1,890.02

1,897.10

1,895.89

1,891.30

EUR

2,299.83

2,293.90

2,296.14

2,294.09

2,299.85

2,327.75

2,364.83

2,363.23

2,355.71

CNY

303.55

302.57

301.84

300.68

300.85

304.23

306.23

306.29

305.63

GBP

2,924.70

2,923.91

2,926.74

2,928.39

2,930.58

2,942.48

2,981.10

2,965.17

2,976.06

RUB

35.73

34.70

34.04

33.10

30.96

32.00

28.43

29.84

32.29

December MNT vs USD, CNY Chart:

 

Link to rates

 

BoM FX auction: US$16m, CNY25m bids declined, accepts $70m USD, $5m MNT swap offers

December 25 (Bank of Mongolia) On the Foreign Exchange Auction held on December 25th, 2014 the BOM has received bid offer 16.0 million USD as closing rate of MNT 1882.15-1887.05 and 25.0 million CNY as closing rate of MNT 302.61-303.85 from local commercial banks. The BOM has not accepted any offer.

On December 25th, 2014, The BOM has received USD SWAP agreement ask offer of 70.0 million USD and MNT Swap agreement bid offer in equivalent to 5.0 million USD from local commercial banks and accepted all offer.

See also:

·         FX Auction Statistics

Link to release

 

BoM issues 112 billion 1-week bills, total outstanding +22.5% to 261.1 billion

December 24 (Bank of Mongolia) BoM issues 1 week bills worth MNT 112 billion at a weighted interest rate of 12.0 percent per annum /For previous auctions click here/

Link to release

 

GoM Treasury Auction: 65 Billion 12-Week Bills Sold at Discount, Average Yield 15.653%

December 24 (Bank of Mongolia) Auction for 12 weeks maturity Government Treasury bill was announced at face value of 90.0 billion MNT. Face value of 65.0 billion MNT /out of 65.0 billion MNT bid/ Government Treasury bill was sold at discounted price and with weighted average yield of 15.653%.

Please find expanded information from Table.

Announced amount /by MNT/              90,000,000,000

Received bid amount /by MNT             65,000,000,000

Sold amount /by MNT/                         65,000,000,000

Weighted average yield                       15.653%

Maximum yield of fulfilled bids             15.990%

Minimum yield of fulfilled bids              15.300%

Link to release

 

8% Mortgage Program Update: ₮546.9 Billion Refinanced, ₮1.56 Trillion Newly Issued

December 25 (Cover Mongolia) As of December 25, 546.9 billion (₮547.4 billion as of December 17) existing mortgages of 18,649 citizens (18,684 as of December 17) were refinanced at 8% out of 819 billion (₮818.9 as of December 17) worth requests.

Also, 1,563.8 billion (₮1,549.7 billion as of December 17) new mortgages of 27,707 citizens (27,420 citizens as of December 17) were issued at new rates out of 1.6 trillion (₮1.5 trillion as of December 17) worth requests.

Link to release (in Mongolian)

 

Cabinet Backs Ratifying Amendments to Agreement with IMF for Greater Representation

Ulaanbaatar, December 24 (MONTSAME) The cabinet of Ministers decided on Monday to present to parliament a draft resolution on ratifying the amendments to the General Agreement of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The amendments have been made in regard of the recent change to the Board of the IMF.

In order to improve the voicing of the developing countries in the organization, the IMF is implementing a package of innovations on governance quotas. As a result, Mongolia will be able to improve its involvement in the decision-making processes. Mongolia joined the IMF in 1991.

Link to article

 

Mongolia banks under pressure

December 23 (Oxford Business Group) Banks in Mongolia are facing weaker profits this year as one of Asia's fastest growing economies cools, triggering a downpour of higher borrowing costs and an increase in non-performing loans, while credit rating agencies are watching the banks' vulnerability to China's continued economic slowdown.

Recent downgrades in Mongolia's credit rating following falls in commodity prices have piled more pressure on the banks by increasing their cost of borrowing in overseas markets. The devaluation of the tugrik, which has lost about a quarter of its value against the US dollar since the start of 2013, has also pushed up the price of new foreign currency loans as well as the cost of servicing existing loans.

Despite the gloomy outlook, banks in this mineral-rich country are working to regain some momentum by beefing up their retail operations. The newly appointed prime minister Ch. Saikhanbileg has promised to clear the way for the delayed second stage Oyu Tolgoi mining project, a $5bn investment that would help reinvigorate the economy.

Credit downgrades hit banks

The spate of ratings cuts on Mongolia are cooling the appetite for lending to private-sector banks. Standard and Poor's (S&P) cut its long term sovereign credit rating from B+ to BB- in April amidst concerns over the health of the economy and dwindling foreign reserves. Moody's has also flagged its concerns, cutting its assessment of Mongolia's sovereign standing in mid-July to B2, a ranking which denotes high credit risk and maintained its outlook as negative.

Like S&P, Moody's cited Mongolia's strained external liquidity position as well as the government's expansionary monetary and fiscal policies, including providing liquidity injections to the banking system. It also warned that Mongolia is vulnerable to any further slow down in the Chinese economy and a reduction in raw materials exports, which would add pressure to domestic growth and liquidity.

A third agency, Fitch Ratings, set a negative outlook for Mongolia's banks, though it noted domestic lenders have a limited direct exposure to the mining sector because their capital levels are not strong enough to advance big loans. However, any prolonged downturn in the mining industry will impact the overall economy and the banks' loan portfolios.

Weaker outlook

Positive revision to Mongolia's credit outlook is unlikely for now with prices of key commodities coal and copper still weak. Economic growth stood at 7% in the first nine months of the year after the economy expanded by 12.3% in 2013, according to a National Statistical Office (NSO). In October, the World Bank lowered its growth forecast for Mongolia this year to 6.3%, down from the 9.5% it had predicted in July.

As a result of the contracting economy, banks are likely to see the performance of their loan books deteriorate further. Data issued by the NSO in November showed that outstanding loans stood at MNT12.8trn ($6.8bn) at the end of October, up 1.8% or MNT222bn ($118.2m) from the previous month and up 22.4% or MNT2.3trn ($1.2bn), year-on-year, noting that the pace of non-performing loans (NPL) – up 2.7% to MNT606.3bn ($322.8m)  month-on month – being added to the banks' ledgers was quickening.

At the start of the year, Moody's placed three Mongolian banks, Khan Bank, Trade, Development Bank of Mongolia and XacBank, on negative outlooks, citing risks from rising bad loans, slower economic growth and a deteriorating operating environment.

There is also concern about the cooling of the local property market. House sales in Mongolia are significantly down on last year with apartment sales down to a level five times lower than in 2013 according to some estimates. With banks having extended credit to construction firms and developers, an increase in unsold real estate could drive NPL rates further.

G. Ganbold, CEO of Golomt Bank, said the property slowdown may require banks to adjust their risk exposures in certain areas. "One potential problem area is construction and real estate," Ganbold told OBG. "We faced a big boom in 2011 and 2012, and now there are many unfinished projects or finished developments that cannot find buyers."

Hope from Oyu Tolgoi, retail banking

Despite the weakening outlook, Mongolian banks still see potential for expansion in some areas. Khan Bank CEO, Norihiko Kato, sees growth in retail banking, particularly card and ATM services. "On the whole, there are opportunities to be had and while the banking sector may not grow as quickly as it has in the past few years, its expansion will continue to outpace that of the overall economy going forward," Kato told OBG.

There are also hopes the government will clear some of the logjams that have held up major foreign investment projects, in particular the Rio Tinto project in Oyu Tolgoi, which has the potential to account for a third of GDP when fully up and running. Ch. Saikhanbileg said on being appointed, in mid-November, his main priority in office would be to invigorate the economy.

Onlooker agree it is the most pressing issue that needs to be solved. "If Saikhanbileg does not move quickly to resolve the Oyu Tolgoi impasse and stem the decline in economic growth, investors may choose to stay on the sidelines until after the 2016 elections," said Marius Toime, a projects partner at international law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner in a Financial Times column.

Link to article

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Politics & Legal

Mogi: kudos to MoM on finally getting these out in English, hope they keep it coming

"Transparent Mining" Conference Newsletter

December 23, 2014 -- No.1 -- Ulaanbaatar

The solution government has renewed and approved the structure and the staff of the Ministry of Mining. The Legal Division of the Ministry was abolished under the renewed structure of the Ministry. Ministry will function with 5 departments and 4 divisions with experienced and skilled workforce who know the sector in depth.

It is set that the Ministry will operate with 66 employees, upon downsizing 15 percent of the previous vacancy of 75. The Nuclear Energy Agency was abolished and 8 personnel who are responsible for the matters of radioactive minerals will transfer to the Ministry of Mining.

Ministry of Mining to support resource producers                                                                       

The Ministry will continue the Reform Government's policy in the minerals and petroleum sector, enhancing its undertakings, and support resource producers. Namely, the Ministry will introduce the renewed composition draft bill on Earth Bowels Law, Law on Transparency in Minerals Sector, Safety and Health in Mines Convention C176 of International Labor Organization, to be signed by the Parliament.

The Ministry will enforce the implementation of related bills and laws of the newly adopted State Policy on the Minerals Sector, and amend the related rules, regulations and standards accordingly. Furthermore, the Ministry will develop programs for copper, gold, fluoride, iron, rare earth element, zinc, mixed metals, and  the programs will be adopted by the Cabinet.

The Ministry will formulate and catalogue the policy on concentration and processing plants, and will take necessary actions for the implementation. Regulations and standards for the mine and processing plant closures, and will be developed and adhered to the international expertise and improve responsibility. It is to expand mutually beneficial cooperation further with countries where mining sector is highly developed. Mining and petroleum sector policies and activities will be broadly publicized, especially giving priority to provide information and promotion abroad, targeting global investors.

Miners to confer

Within the framework to commemorate the 92nd anniversary of the mining sector of Mongolia, the Ministry of Mining, Mineral Resources Authority, and Mongolian National Mining Association are organizing the "National Miners Symposium" with the slogan "For Occupational Safety and Health". The aim of the symposium is to promote sustainable development, improve productivity of the sector, and to discuss work environment, and issues the miners face. The symposium will be held on December 23, 2014.

Bidding process for the 106 special licenses organized in stages

Exploration licenses for 15 areas were re-issued out of 23 areas announced, where its bid threshold prices were confirmed, in accordance with the "Regulation for selection procedure to issue special licenses for the 106 mining and exploitation areas where its special licenses were revoked by court order".

In 12 of the 15 areas former special license holders won the bidding and obtained licenses. Remaining 3 areas, new entities won the bidding. The former license holders were granted permits to receive reimbursement for the expenses incurred in the licenses area.

Another three areas which have not received any bids after two consequent bidding announcements are transferred to the application areas under the Articles 18, 19 of Minerals Law of Mongolia.

About 316 million tugrik were allocated to the state budget from the selection procedure.

Mineral resource authority has announced a tender bid for additional 18 areas where geological exploration and other expenses were validated in accordance with relevant legislations.

Entities which have not confirmed the geological, exploration and other expenses incurred in the area need to contact with Mineral Resources Authority.

152 exploration report, 149 feasibility studies for mining and mining industries were received 2014

Minerals Professional Council has met 44 times in 2014, and resolved the following matters:

-       5 mining and mining industry technical and feasibility studies were discussed and determined by 3 extended meetings.

·         Outcomes for the geological studies funded by state budget, and budget amendments were discussed by 8 meetings; and 20 project outcomes as well as 38 ongoing project budget amendments were discussed and the Minister of Mining issued an order.

·         Council were convened 14 times, to discuss reports for privately funded minerals exploration work and to record the reserves in the state registration, and discussed and determined 152 reports.

·         149 mining and mining industry feasibility studies were discussed and determined by 19 meetings to discuss feasibility studies for mineral field exploitation.

·         17 category of minerals were added to the minerals reserves by the extended, and sector meetings of the Minerals Professional Council.

Main mineral reserves are: Gold 98.1 tons, Iron 35.6 thousand tons, Coal 6.5 mil.ton, Copper 978,846 tons, Fluoride 4,168.28 thousand tons.

MNT 10 billion is set for geology survey, financed by the state budget

The Parliament has ratified the geology survey financing at MNT 10 billion in 2014, as it is set forth in the State Policy on the Minerals Sector bill that the financing for the geology survey related expenses is to be increased each year. Indicated in the Government platform, works of integrated geological mapping at scale of 1:200,000 for the 81.94 percent of the territory, and 31 percent at scale 1:50,000 was done with fund increase in the geology survey financing. 8 thematic geology mapping, as well as 3 foreign cooperation projects are being implemented successfully.

State Committee received 24 new mining, and concentration plants in 2014

24 of the 45 mining, and concentration plant projects that started in 2014 were fully commissioned and received by the State commission. The remaining plants are not commissioned yet due to financial, market, infrastructure and other issues.

The commissioned plants are as follows: open-pit mining – 19, concentration plants – 4, semi coked briquette plant – 1. These plants created 2,687 new jobs, and the project investment reached the total of about 509 billion tugrik.

The minerals category are:

Gold mine – 5

Iron and coal mine – 9

Iron and fluoride dry-concentration – 3

Coal dry-concentration – 1

Construction materials – 5

Semi coked briquette – 1

Licenses for 20.94 million hectares is to be issued through applications process

By the 239th Government decree of 2014, exploration special licenses will be issued for a total of 20.94 million hectares of land through applications process; and 10.15 million hectares of land some of which containing minerals reserves, where its prospects are determined through geology survey funded by State budget, will be issued through a bidding process.

In accordance with national security policy, the groundwork is being laid to issue exploration special licenses in orderly and planned form, taking the infrastructure, green development, and investment equality into consideration.

Of the 10.15 million hectare field, 6.2 contains minerals reserves, prospects determined through geology survey funded by State budget; 2.32 – special licenses are expired; and 1.56 million hectares have provoked special licenses.

The fields where the value and prospects are determined first will be announced, and the licenses will be issued through bidding process.

Necessary preparations are completed to accept exploration special license applications online. Permits will be awarded starting mid-January, 2015, making it possible for the projected exploration work begin early spring.

Basic mineral commodity exports increased

Volume of mineral commodity production, and exports as of November 2014:

Item

Unit

Production

Export

I - XI, 2014

%

%

Volume

I - XI, 2014

Volume

I - XI, 2014

I - XI, 2013

I - XI, 2013

Copper concentrate

thousand ton

966.5

35.7

1,253.10

213

Molybdenum concentrate

ton

3,603.00

5.6

3,600.00

0.3

Coal

mil.ton

20.9

-19.3

16.9

5.1

Gold

ton

10.6

25.1

8.4

14.1

Fluoride

thousand ton

333.2

60.8

287.5

-7.4

Iron

mil.ton

7.4

32.8

5.6

-7.2

Zinc

thousand ton

84.9

-12.6

93.3

-23

Petroleum

mil.barrels

6.8

49.1

6.3

39.7

Production of copper concentrate rose by 254.5 thousand tons (35.7%); molybdenum concentrate 191.3 tons (5.6%); gold 2.1 tons (25.1%); iron ore 1.8 million tons (32.8%); fluoride concentration production 126 thousand tons (60.8%), petroleum production 2.3 million barrels (49.1%), respectively, compared to same period of the previous year.

The exports of the following raw materials have doubled in quantity since this time last year: coal by 822.6 thousand tons, or (35.7%); gold 1.0 ton, or (14.1%); petroleum 1.8 million barrels, or (39.7%); copper concentrate 667.1 thousand tons, respectively.

In November 2014, a total sum of MNT 1 trillion and 75.4 billion was contributed to the state budget as tax income from the mining industry.

Revenue performance of the Minister's budget is at 125.2 percent

Mineral Resource Authority contributed a total sum of MNT 41.6 billion to the State budget. Of these, MNT 38.2 billion was exploration and exploitation license fee; MNT 1.7 billion reimbursement fees for explorations funded by state budget, other at MNT 1.9 billion.

Petroleum Authority of Mongolia also contributed MNT 245.3 billion to the State Budget, of which petroleum income accounted for MNT 243.4 billion, with MNT 1.9 billion from other income sources. 

Oil price is stable

1.1 million tons of oil were imported in the first 11 months. 90.8 percent of the imported oil were from the Russian Federation, and the state owned Rosneft company supplied the 63 percent. WTI oil prices were dropped by 29%, Brent 36%, Urals-32 36%, Dachin-33 by 40% respectively in the world market. Currency rate discount through forward agreements and soft loan programs to stabilize retail prices are being halted in stages. Works to shift soft loans to commercial loans with conventional financing, and lower USD rate to MNT 1470 – 1800. Retail prices were stable for more two years, and studies are being done keep it stable further.

Fuel price is stable

As of 22 December 2014, the fuel reserve is 114.6 thousand tons, or suffice 43 days of regular consumption. Hereof, A-92 has 43 days, A-80 has 60 days and diesel fuel has 36 days of reserves left. It indicates increase in number of reserve days compared to previous months.

MINISTRY OF MINING

Link to article

 

Garamgaibaatar Replaces Erdenebat as Leader of Parliament Democratic Caucus

Ulaanbaatar, December 24 (MONTSAME) On Tuesday, the Democratic Party's faction discussed and then adopted an appointment of B.Garamgaibaatar the head of the DP faction after he had been considered by the DP's Executive Council.

Before the appointment, Mr Garamgaibaatar was the head of the parliamentary Standing committee on economy. He is also a member of the Mongolian National Progressive Party (MNPP) (Mogi: this is DP faction, not a party itself).

Garamgaibaatar Batkhuu graduated from Khentii aimag's school in 1973, the Ulaanbaatar Railway College in 1977 and the Institute of Politechnics in 1990. He started his career in 1977 as an assistant scientific worker at the Chemistry Institute at the Academy of Sciences. After having worked as a chairman of the National Association of Auto Roads in 2010-2012, he was elected the MP in 2012 from the DP. 

Link to article

 

Social Policy Standing Committee Chairman D.Battsogt (DP) Reelected

Ulaanbaatar, December 24 (MONTSAME) Incumbent head of the parliamentary Standing committee on social policy, education, culture and sciences Mr D.Battsogt was re-elected at its meeting on Wednesday.

His candidature was supported by a majority of the committee. The same day, the meeting backed a draft amendment to the law on tobacco control, which describes a creation of spots for smoking, and decided to discuss it at a plenary meeting of the parliamentary session.

Currently, the Standing committee is considering a draft new wording of the law on health insurance and other bills. 

Link to article

 

New heads of standing committees appointed

Ulaanbaatar, December 25 (MONTSAME) This matter was discussed by the plenary meeting of the parliamentary session on Thursday. A majority of MPs resolved, J.Enkhbayar has been appointed the head of the Standing committee on foreign policy and security, Su.Batbold--of environment, food and agriculture; A.Bakei--of state structure; B.Bolor--of budget; J.Batsuuri--of economy, and D.Battsogt--of social policy, education and sciences.

A new head of the Standing committee on petitions has not been appointed yet.

Link to article

 

Draft Resolution on State Education Policy Goes to Final Discussion

Ulaanbaatar, December 25 (MONTSAME) A plenary meeting of the parliamentary session on Thursday continued a first discussion of a draft resolution of parliament on the state policy on education.

The discussion started last Friday to debate principally different terms of the policy. This time, the MPs thoroughly considered the terms, then a majority backed a clause on developing the primary education by creating opportunities for children to gain essential skills and knowledge of the native language and to have a creative method of learning.

The MPs expressed positions, for example, Ts.Nyamdorj was not satisfied with nowadays pupils' poor study of the Mongolian language. "Good learning of the native language is closely related to the national independence," he stressed.

The working group in charge of introducing the Cambridge standards in Mongolia said,"There is a misconception that the implementation of these standards prevents learning the mother tongue," and explained that educating through the Cambridge norms does not mean all the lessons are going to run in English, "it aims to make the certificate of full secondary education internationally accepted and to provide pupils with a condition of learning subjects at international standards".

According to the draft resolution, the general education must have a 12-year system where the primary education takes lasts five years, a basic education--four years, and a full secondary education--three. Here O.Enkhtuvshin criticized that it is wrong in terms of logic, so the working group had to accept it deciding to make some alterations.

The the MPs considered a gender ratio at educational organizations. By a survey of the academic years of 2014-2015, women account for 98% in number of kindergarten teachers, 81.2%--of secondary education schools teachers, and 61.5%--of universities and institutes instructors. The working group proposed focusing on this ratio and regulating a system of preparing teachers through the policy.

It was decided to pass the draft resolution to the Standing committee on social policy, education, culture and science in order to have prepared it for the final discussion.

Link to article

 

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

23 Dec 2014 (UNDP) --

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.

Link to release

 

State's highest awards presented

December 24 (news.mn) President Ts.Elbegdorj issued a decree and presented public figures who have achieved success in politics, culture, sports, education and agriculture with state awards today, December 24th.

At the ceremony, President Ts.Elbegdorj also awarded Mongolian leaders with the Order of Sukhbaatar, Order of the Red Banner Of Labor Valor, Order of the Red Banner of Military Valor, and the Order of the Polar Star.

President Ts.Elbegdorj congratulated award recipients and addressed the audience:

"Celebrating the 103rd anniversary of the Restoration of National Liberty and Independence Day, these leading figures in their fields, who have exhibited leadership, achievements, and endeavors, have been awarded state awards and titles in the great ceremonial hall with the State's Nine White Banners, the symbol of Mongolian independence and sovereignty.

"These days, Mongolians mark 25 years of historic opportunities to enjoy the values of the freedom to think, create, to be the owner of our own fate, and to unite.

"I am delighted to pay respect to representatives of the thousands of hardworking people who make efforts for the country's development, prosperity and freedom.

"Among these public figures who have been rewarded are veteran dendrologist at the Capital City Governor's Office B.Chimid  (State Environmental Merit Figure); 2014 World Judo Champion G.Boldbaatar, 2014 United World Freestyle Wresting World Championship gold medalist S.Tserenchimed, bronze medalist of the 2012 London Olympics S.Nyam-Ochir, and GM of chess B.Munguntuul (State Merit Athlete award recipients); political and social figure, economist Ts.Loohuuz (State Merit Economist); publisher of Open Door Newspaper, journalist B.Ganchimeg, singer Ts.Siilegmaa, freelancer Ai.Tumur-Ochir and head of the Union of Mongolian Artists, singer of Sound of Bell N.Enkhbayr, Gamma Agency photographer S.Tsatsralt, and Editor of Montsame Ts.Surenjav  (State Merit Figure recipients); artist of the Mongolian Military Song and Dance Academic Ensemble Ch.Bayarmaa (State Merit Artist); artist of the State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet Ts.Munkhbold, khuumii teacher of Mongolian State University of Arts and Culture B.Odsuren, and artist Sh.Choijil (State Cultural Merit Figure recipients); director and doctor of Songdo Hospital B.Boldsaikhan (State Merit Doctor); and obstetrician  of the State First Hospital B.Oyungerel (State Merit Health Guardian Doctor).

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Business

Court finds banks illegally charged customers for transfers

December 25 (news.mn) Commercial banks filed suit against a report by auditors from the Authority for Fair Competition and Consumer Protection revealing that commercial banks violated the law by charging fees for transfers.

The District Administrative Primary Court reviewed the appeal by commercial banks and determined that commercial banks did indeed violate the law through the fees that were identified by the auditors.

The court says that charging the customers of commercial banks for transfers is illegal.

Civil Auditors of Authority for Fair Competition and Consumer Protection revealed several violations of the law during its inspections of commercial banks in Mongolia, and has imposed fines on commercial banks and insisted that banks repay the fees that were illegal charged to customers.

Link to article

 

Mining Ministry Hosts National Consultation of Miners on Health and Safety

Ulaanbaatar, December 24 (MONTSAME) Such consultation is running Wednesday at the Central Cultural Palace of Trade Unions, themed "Labour Safety and Hygiene". The Minister of Mining R.Jigjid gave the opening remarks.

The key lectors at the event are, B.Nergui, a head of Mining Policy Division of the Ministry, T.Erdene, senior officer at the Deprtment of Labour Policy Adjustment of the Ministry of Labour, Kh.Baavgai Ph.D., a head of the Division for Children and Family Development of the Ministry of Population Development and Social Welfare, S.Ganbold, the president of the Labour Union of Energy, Geology and Mining Industries, D.Khishigtogtokh, a director of a division at Research Center for Labour Health, and Ts.Erdenebaatar, a deputy executive director of the Union of Mongolian Employers.

They are presenting actions taken by the ministry of Mining for ensuring safety and health, issues of labour interactions within the mines, further actions on such matters, and concepts reflected in the Safety and Health in Mines Convention (No. 176) by the International Labour Organization.

Link to article

 

S. Bolormaa: My family has proprietary rights for name "Mongolian Star"

By D. Tseepilmaa

December 24 (news.mn) The company name "Mongolian Star Melchers" (abbreviated as MSM), well known for being official distributor of worldwide recognized brands such as Johnson's baby, Huggies, Kleenex, Moet Hennessy, Mercedes Benz and etc was agreed to no longer be used by its shareholders from the beginning of 2015.

The company name has been changed to 'Mongolian Star Management Corporation" and it is now 100 percent Mongolian invested company with subsidiaries "Mongolian Star Distribution" LLC and "Mongolian Star Properties" LLC. We interviewed Mrs. Bolormaa Suren, Chief Executive Officer of Mongolian Star Management Corporation LLC to discuss about this change, new company strategy and development.

Journalist: What was the reason to rename your old company "Mongolian Star Melchers"? I understand that there is not only name change, but also business change. Please let us start our discussion with this.

S.B: "Mongolian Star Melchers" LLC was established in 1998 with Mongolian, American and German investment and is known for distributing world renowned brands in the Mongolian market.   The shareholders came to a mutual decision to demerge the company because the foreign shareholders of "Mongolian Star Melchers" were no longer committed to stay in Mongolia for the long term.  As a result of the de-merger in March, 2014, I have established "Mongolian Star Management Corporation" which is fully Mongolian invested holding company with its subsidiaries.

Journalist: You had the right to keep part of the name "Mongolian Star" and changed "Melchers" to "Management"?

S.B: That is correct. I have proprietary right for the name "Mongolian Star" since my family has had few businesses recognized with this name.  As many might remember, back in 1991 my parents had established and operated the first privately owned hotel named "Star".  I myself owned a trading company called "Mongolian Star International" which merged in 1998 with L. Melchers Trading creating "Mongolian Star Melchers".   "Melchers" was family name of our German shareholder and after demerger "Melchers" part has been changed to "Management".

Journalist: Could you please elaborate more on agreement made between shareholders on company name during company demerger? It seems that "Mongolian Star Melchers" is still frequent in public media and advertisement, and image of MSM still remains among public.

S.B:  Both parties agreed to stop the use of old company name Mongolian Star Melchers in any advertisement, official correspondence, and public relations after company's official demerger date. However, due to the certain Ministry's requirements to change specific licenses or documents, there has been an agreed time frame of no later then December 31, 2014 for MSM to chance its name fully.   The deadline is approaching and I hope that name change is in the process to meet the contractual obligations.

Journalist: Let us discuss about your company history and achievements.  You have many years of experience in fast moving consumer goods business since becoming an official distributor for Johnson & Johnson in Mongolia. The brands have become a preferred choice for many consumers. I believe that you bear a high level of responsibility as a distributor of world brands.

S.B: That is right. Today we represent three Global Companies:  Johnsons & Johnsons, Kimberly – Clark and SC Johnson.  This is not only a huge responsibility, but also a great honor.   These corporations continuously invest to innovate and improve product quality, and are leaders in corporate social responsibility. By becoming a distributor for these Global Corporations we have a possibility to learn from their know-how developed over a long period of time.  Also, being a distributor of global companies that are not affected by one country's economy provides us with opportunity to continue to develop our business in today's shrinking economy of Mongolia.   Although I think the following couple years will be quite difficult years for Mongolia, we have a positive outlook and hope to continue our marketing support and investments to provide Mongolian consumers with ever changing and improving consumer products.  

Journalist: Did you face any challenge to introduce global brands into Mongolian small market with few buyers? How do you see future of Mongolian economy?

S.B: Frankly speaking, it was very challenging. I had high aspirations and managed to convince these companies to agree to partner with me and supply their products to Mongolia when annual median household income was less than USD1000 and monthly average wage was USD60-70, and 70-80 percent of household income was spent on food.  I was sure Mongolian market was going to grow at that time and except for 2009 crisis, Mongolian economy has been growing rapidly.  I believe that livelihood and quality of life in Mongolia will continue to improve in the future despite the difficulties we will face in the next couple of years.

Journalist: In a country where there is mishmash of politics and economy, politicians are so dependent on business groups and businesspeople have no choice but to be involved in politics.  How do you see this situation?

S.B: In my opinion, politics and economy are inseparable for country's development. But roles and responsibilities of politics and private sector are different like man and woman roles in family life.  Unfortunately private sector has to carry a large load especially in the economic downtimes due to the poorly developed policies.  On the other hand I see many of the private sector members getting heavily involved in politics.  We need to fix many of these issues going forward. 

Journalist: Are you an economist?

S.B: No. I am a lawyer by profession. I graduated with Law degree from Osaka University in Japan. Soon after graduation I worked for a consulting firm in Los Angeles, the United States. I attended short course in finance and economics at Harvard Business School; however, most of my knowledge I have gained from my experience in establishing and growing my company the past almost 20 years. 

Journalist: People who are educated and employed abroad rarely return home. What brought you back home?

S.B: I am a Mongolian and was raised here.   My heart for my home country brought me back.   My children will be raised and live in this country and hopefully contribute to the future of this country. 

Journalist: Your company also does business in medical sector. I feel that medical field is sensitive and requires a high level of responsibility.  Treating illness instead of preventing it is prevalent among Mongolians. Is it difficult to do business in this sector?

S.B: Same as the education sector, healthcare is a very sensitive field in a sense that it requires governmental controls and proper management system. One can say that it is the most valuable sector that demands a high level of responsibility because human life and human health is at stake.  Yet I think there is no country that has a perfect healthcare system. We are committed to continue to develop our operations and invest in the healthcare sector. The mentality of Mongolians to treat rather prevent has most probably been prevalent since communism. In a society where everything was considered to be state property, person's health in retrospect was state property, thus state had to care for it.   This mentality will change with time.  People start to understand the value of healthy lifestyle.  I think an investment spent into healthcare is the most valuable long - term investment for an individual.   

Journalist: Prior to this interview, I searched information about you on the internet and found nothing, not even a single photograph. Why do you not give interviews to media?

S.B: I admit I have not given many interviews, I guess I have not paid much attention to this. 

Journalist: Thank you very much for an open discussion and I wish you success in you and your company endeavors.

I had an image of Bolormaa Suren as stern and very private person.  But found Mrs. Bolormaa as an open, candid, successful businesswoman who has contributed to the development of the private sector in Mongolia.

Link to interview

 

Speaker Receives Turkish Business Delegation

Ulaanbaatar, December 24 (MONTSAME) The Speaker of parliament Z.Enkhbold Wednesday received a visiting Turkish business delegation, headed by Mr Hassan Jengis, a president of the Eurasia Local Management Society.

The Speaker thanked the delegation for visiting Mongolia. In response, Mr Jengis expressed him a gratitude for receiving them and said his country considers as necessity to develop and strengthen the bilateral long-year ties and cooperation in many spheres.

Some contracts and protocols are expected to be established in near future, Mr Jengis noted and hoped that the Mongolian parliament will support it. Then the sides exchanged views on expanding the cooperation.

Present at the meeting was E.Monkh-Ochir, the General Consul of Mongolia in Istanbul. 

Link to article

 

FAO: Mongolia's farmers build resilience to climate change

Key facts

Nineteen Chinese experts and technicians were sent to Mongolia for three years to share knowledge and experiences on improving national food security, building resilience and adapting to climate change. The project introduced intensive farming technologies for crop and livestock production that are producing quick results under extreme climatic conditions. This has improved food availability, as well as people's access to it. It has also contributed to changes in food preferences among Mongolian consumers who are opting for healthier and more nutritious choices. Additionally, the project facilitated mutual exchanges and promoted economic and trade cooperation in the agriculture sector.

No one feels the effects of climate change quite like farmers. In Mongolia, the growing season lasts for just 90 days and weather conditions have grown increasingly unpredictable, affecting crop production and, in turn, dietary diversity and nutrition. Malnutrition is high and diets are highly imbalanced.

In response, six Chinese experts and 13 technicians were deployed to 29 housing units in Mongolia, where they transferred knowledge on animal husbandry, crop production, food safety and trade and capacity development to local farmers and agriculture extension staff. The experts were primarily from the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China, and shared similarities in language, culture and agro-ecological conditions with those they assisted. Over three years, they introduced 11 new technologies, 42 new varieties of fodder crops and 80 pieces of agricultural equipment, in addition to organizing 67 training courses and training 4 700 people.

Seeing the results

The main aim of the project, facilitated under SSC with China, was to carry out the National Programme for Food Security (NPFS). The NPFS seeks to enhance agricultural production for national and household food security by improving water control, intensifying and diversifying production (such as greenhouse crops and livestock production) and promoting better food storage, food safety and marketing. Thanks to this initiative, achievements were made in a number of areas:

Animal husbandry - The SSC experts introduced 42 new varieties of fodder crops and early-maturing corn. This cultivation was highly successful and accepted as part of the Mongolian Government's strategy on building the resilience of herders. The experts and technicians also provided technical support in livestock production and artificial insemination.

Poultry farming - The SSC experts and technicians provided technical support to increase egg supplies through enhanced intensive farming production, and set up the first chicken farm veterinary laboratory in Mongolia.

Crop production - The SSC experts and technicians installed seven irrigation systems, demonstrating irrigation and water management technologies on 4 000 ha. It developed small-scale greenhouses, which extend the growing season by about two months, and introduced 32 new varieties of vegetables for mass cultivation and over ten varieties of trees and flowers. It also successfully introduced technology for designing and constructing winter solar greenhouses to prolong planting seasons and support crop diversification (vegetables and berries).

Food safety and trade - The SSC experts and technicians set up a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points working group. This group completed a report on the establishment of commodity exchanges in Mongolia, proposing seven recommendations for amendments to Mongolian law on agriculture sideline product market.

Technology extension - The SSC experts and technicians assisted the Mongolian Agricultural Technical Extension Centre to improve its system, and provided technical consultancy services to over 30 companies.

Capacity development - Thirteen training courses were organized, training more than 400 participants.

Way forward

The programme effectively transferred knowledge that can be adopted at local level, supporting national and household food security as well as agricultural intensification and diversification in Mongolia. Scaling up requires more partnerships and increased investment in agriculture. The technologies and varieties introduced could be carried out on a much larger scale given adequate resources.

Based on these initial successes, the Government has agreed to move ahead with the next phase, which will involve scaling up key technologies introduced during the first phase. Priority areas have already been identified, and 12 new experts are ready to work.

Link to release

 

Grand Challenges Canada Grant Recipient: Immunotherapy of Atherosclerosis, Eco Med LLC (Mongolia)

Project Lead(s): Aldar Bourinbayar, Allen Bain

Innovators at Eco Med LLC have modified an injectable tuberculosis (TB) vaccine into convenient once-daily oral pill to be taken together with TB drugs. This simple, affordable approach will address the unmet need of the enormous TB burden in developing countries.

Link to video

 

Talk with Me with Allyson Seaborn:

Ganzorig Ulziibayar, Chairman, Mandal General Insurance, December 21

Altai Khangai, Former CEO of Mongolian Stock Exchange, December 7

Ganhuyag Ch. Hutagt, CEO, Ard Financial Group, November 23

 

"Lean In" Leads Internom's Bestseller List for Last Week

Ulaanbaatar, December 24 (MONTSAME) The "Internom" bookstore released Wednesday a list of ten best-sold books in December 15-21. The list was topped by "Lean In: Women, Work and Will to Lead" by Sheryl Sandberg, "My Little Pony: Celestia" by Ball and Mebberson, and "One Hundred Years of Solitude" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

They were followed by "Sorkhugtani" historic novel by B.Sarantuya, "Sleeping Beauty" story for children, and "Development as Freedom" by Amartya Sen. The latter demonstrated in his book how personal freedom of individuals are affected by social events in communities.

The list goes on with "The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" by Stieg Larsson, which has been included in the bestsellers' list for more than two months. New bestsellers in the "Internom" stores include are "Short Stories by Leo Tolstoi", the fourth edition of "Admonishing Stories", and "Happiness of 365 days" by G.Naranbaatar.

Link to article

 

Forbes: Mongolia #63 - Best Countries for Business 2014

December 24 (infomongolia.com) American business magazine "Forbes" for the consecutive 9th year released the Best Countries for Business by grading 146 nations of the world.

The 2014 ranking of these states were determined on 11 different factors: property rights, innovation, taxes, technology, corruption, freedom (personal, trade and monetary), red tape, investor protection and stock market performance, where each category was equally weighted.

The data came from published reports from the following organizations: Freedom House, Heritage Foundation, Property Rights Alliance, Transparency International, World Bank and World Economic Forum.

The best country for business this year is Denmark, which ranked No. 1 three straight years between 2008 and 2010.

Europe dominates the top 25 with more than 70% of the entries. These countries score well almost across board on trade and personal freedom, as well as innovation and corruption.

The Asia-Pacific region landed five locales on the list with the U.S. and Canada making up the final components of the top 25.

The U.S. ranks No. 18 this year, down four spots from 2013. It is the fifth straight year of declines for the world's largest economy.

African nations make up 60% of the bottom 10 with high levels of corruption, red tape and taxes registering as major issues.

Guinea, which is at the center of the Ebola breakout, brings up the rear at No. 146.

Mongolia is ranked at the 63rd place for Business with its GDP Growth - 11.8%, GDP/Capita - 5,900 USD, Trade Balance as -32.7% of GDP and with total population of 3.0 million people.

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Ulaanbaatar

200 street signs installed on 54 streets

December 25 (news.mn) Ulaanbaatar's utility service department of the Governor's Office has installed 200 street signs at intersections on 54 streets.

The Ulaanbaatar Citizens' Representatives Khural confirmed the names of streets and squares and signs with names on a green background, written in Mongolian and English, were made according to MNS: 5283-2014 standards.

This is a part of measures to improve the city, providing information and time-saving measures to improve the lives of city residents.

The Ulaanbaatar public services brigade also installed 60 entry and exit signs in vehicle restricted areas in Bayanzurkh, Khan-Uul and Songinokhairkhan districts, upon the order of the Auto Road Authority.

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Diplomacy

Mongolia, China Hold First Strategic Talks of Deputy Foreign Ministers

December 24 (infomongolia.com) The First Strategic Talks at the Deputy Foreign Ministers-level between the Governments of Mongolia and the People's Republic of China is taking place in Ulaanbaatar on December 24-25, 2014.

Mongolian side is headed by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Mrs. Navaan-Yunden OYUNDARI and the China's Foreign Affairs by Assistant Minister Mr. Liu Jianchao.

Prior this official visit of Chinese delegates, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People's Republic of China to Mongolia, Mr. Wang Xiaolong was received by Deputy Foreign Minister N.Oyundari on December 22, 2014.

During the meeting, Ambassador Wang Xiaolong congratulated the recently appointed Deputy Minister and parties exchanged views on bilateral partnership issues in foreign affairs. 

Link to article

Related:

Mongolia-China Strategic Dialogue LaunchesMontsame, December 24

 

Foreign Minister Meets US, S.Korea, Turkey Ambassadors and Assistant Foreign Minister of China

December 25 (infomongolia.com) These days, the recently appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mongolia, Mr. Lundeg PUREVSUREN held meetings with Ambassadors of the United States of America and the Republic of Korea to Mongolia as well as visiting Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China.

On December 23, 2014, Foreign Minister L.Purevsuren received the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States to Mongolia, Mrs. Piper Anne Wind Campbell at her request, where sides talked about issues concerning the current development and further aspiration of bilateral relations and cooperation, and agreed to organize recurrent consultative meeting between the Foreign Ministries of Mongolia and USA as well as meeting of United States-Mongolia Council on Trade and Investment within the first quarter of 2015.

On December 24, 2014, Foreign Minister L.Purevsuren held a meeting with Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs of the PR of China, Mr. Liu Jianchao, who visits Ulaanbaatar to co-chair the First Strategic Dialogue at the Deputy Foreign Ministers-level between the two Governments. During the meeting, sides exchanged views on current Mongolia-China relations and cooperation as well as further measures to be carried out in the future.

On December 25, 2014, Foreign Minister L.Purevsuren received the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Korea to Mongolia, Mr. Lee Tae-ro and during the meeting sides exchanged views on measures to be organized in the scope of celebration the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties marks in 2015. Moreover, parties agreed to organize the First Intergovernmental Joint Committee Meeting in the near future.

On December 25, 2014, Foreign Minister L.Purevsuren received the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Turkey, Mr. Murat Karagoz and during the meeting, Foreign Minister expressed his satisfaction on successfully implementing high-level reciprocal visits and cultural events in the frameworks of celebrating the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties marks in 2014.

Link to article

Related:

FM meets Ambassador of TurkeyMontsame, December 25

 

Minister Oyunkhorol Meets Czech Ambassador on Environmental Cooperation in 2015

Ulaanbaatar, December 24 (MONTSAME) The Minister of Environment, Green Development and Tourism D.Oyunkhorol received the Ambassador of the Czech Republic to Mongolia Ms Ivana Grollova on December 23 to discuss with her a cooperation in 2015.

Agreement on Cooperation between the Ministries of Environment of the two countries was signed in 2001, in a scope of which several environment projects had been implemented successfully with the aid of Czech Government, for example, a project on assessing the mercury contamination of the bank of Selenge river in result of the minerals' extraction was realized in 2006-2009 covering the territories around the Tuul, Kharaa and Eroo rivers as well. Certain areas near the shores and their soils have been neutralized of chemical toxins. Another project was realized aimed to study and dispense of the environmental pollution around the "Khargia" treatment facility of Ulaanbaatar.

In frames of the Czech Development Cooperation Assistance, 12 takhi (Mongolian wild horses) were localized back to Mongolia from the Prague zoo in 2010-2013. The population of the takhi reached some 400 heads in 2013, of which 32 percent are the herds descended from the localized takhi thanks to the Takhi Conservation Project. These days, Government of the Czech Republic is realizing projects here on transporting and planting the trees able to grow in Mongolia, and on providing trainings on how to nurture the trees.

The Czech Republic has been expressing an interest in providing professional assistance to Mongolia in assessing and eliminating soil contamination, and improving the environmental remediation.

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Mongolia and Turkey to Broaden Cooperation on Environment, Tourism

December 25 (infomongolia.com) On December 24, 2014, Minister of Environment, Green Development and Tourism, Mrs. D.Oyunkhorol received in her office the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Turkey to Mongolia Mr. Murat Karagoz.

At the beginning of meeting, Minister D.Oyunkhorol noted that however the two countries have an extensive experience of collaborative working in the environment field, but need to forward the cooperation into a newer level and therefore, agreements and contracts established earlier should be renewed.

Also, Minister offered several possible proposals of future cooperation, in particular, issues concerning of air and soil pollutions as well as waste management in Ulaanbaatar city. Besides, she added that there is a great opportunity of collaboration development in tourism as considered as a main sphere in economical sector. Further, Minister expressed her willingness to involve Mongolian experts in trainings to study in Turkey that aims to develop practical partnership in implementing joint projects and programs. Moreover, Minister D.Oyunkhorol requested the Ambassador M.Karagoz to pay a particular attention on implementing the planned "Orkhon Govi" project.

In turn, Ambassador Murat Karagoz said, "Even the environment and tourism have separate directories, but linked to each other closely. The three sectors you are responsible for have been regulated by three Ministries respectively in Turkey. I am fully agree with your proposals to step up partnership and intend to organize a workshop meeting in the sectors mentioned.

Particularly, if the Government of Mongolia includes the water issue into priority policy, it would be a step closer to cooperate".

Furthermore, Minister D.Oyunkhorol mentioned, the Government of Turkey has potential experiences in resolving environmental issues and in this regard, Mongolia with supports of Turkey has been carrying out three projects in the fields, of which one of them is a project to supply with smoke-free stoves in ger areas of Mongolia. Also, preparations of construction of hydro-electric power station have been completed in Bayan-Ulgii Aimag. In addition, a 20 million USD project for construction of waste water treatment plant in Khan-Uul District of Ulaanbaatar is also ready. Therefore, Minister asked the Ambassador to assist in order to complete these projects effectively. Moreover, she said the Ministry is planning to host an exhibition and fair trade to share Turkish tourism industry's experience, the country that stands sixth in the world's tourism sector.

Concluding the meeting, Ambassador M.Karagoz conferred an official invitation to participate in the Expo 2016 Antalya, an International Horticultural Exposition to take place in Turkey for the first time.

The Governments of Mongolia and the Republic of Turkey have been collaborating in environmental field since 1998 by signing a MoU to cooperate in Meteorology and Environment sector. Later, an Agreement of Cooperation between the Ministries of Environment was established in 2006 and MoU in 2009 respectively.

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S.Korean Ambassador received by Energy Minister

Ulaanbaatar, December 24 (MONTSAME) The Minister of Energy D.Zorigt met with the Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Mongolia Mr Lee Tae-ru on December 24 in order to discuss with him a bilateral cooperation in energy sector on anticipation of the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations of the two countries.

The Minister said that a Comprehensive Partnership was established in 2011, that South Korea is the fourth biggest partner of Mongolia in trade, and that the ties are based on complementary and development-targeted principles. He expressed a satisfaction with the expanding cooperation in energy and with the organization of a forum themed "Energy Cooperation of Mongolia and S.Korea" which took place December 10.

Current actions running between Mongolia and S.Korea are the negotiations on the agreement with S.Korea's POSCO Energy, the bid winner to implement project on constructing fifth power source of Ulaanbaatar; a successful participation of POSCO Energy in the bid to select the contractor for construction of Power Station at Tavan Tolgoi deposit; the signing of MoU of KEPCO with the Center for Energy Development on cooperation in the Renovation of the Second Thermal Plant Project; a joint researches by KEEI (Korea Energy Economics Institute) and Korgaz Inc. with the Center for Energy Development and the Mongolian Energy and Economics Institute in scope of an MoU on cooperation.

Mr Zorigt mentioned a successful implementation of Dalanzadgad Thermal Station project, realized with the financing from KOICA and the S.Korean Ex-Im Bank in 1997-2002, and a great effort by KOICA on training of young cadres of Mongolia's energy sector.

About the multilateral cooperation, Mongolia has shown its rooting for the candidature of the Republic of Korea to the International Gas Union presidency election took place in October this year, added the Minister.

Suggestions in light of the further development of energy cooperation were made by the Minister to the Ambassador Mr Lee as follows: to determine an adequate mechanism of bilateral cooperation, mentioning that the Intergovernmental Sub-Committee on Energy relations have held 11 meeting in 1992-2011; to focus on attracting large companies on the project of Water Power Station Project at the rivers of Eg and Shuren; and to cooperate on resolving the problems of heating faced in the remote communities of Mongolia.

The Ambassador congratulated the Minister for being appointed the new office and wished a success in his works. He promised to pursue these suggestions immediately and to put all efforts that can be put by him.

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Energy Minister receives Russian Ambassador

Ulaanbaatar, December 24 (MONTSAME) The Minister of Energy D.Zorigt received on December 24 the Russian Ambassador to Mongolia Mr I.K.Azizov.

The sides discussed the Mongolia-Russia cooperation in energy sector. The Minister said the last two years have been a success for the two countries relations, and that a working visit of the Russian President V.Putin and signing of the Agreement on Strategic Partnership in September revived the bilateral cooperation. Pilot commissioning commenced on the recent extension of the Fourth Thermal Station, built in 1983 with a non-refundable aid from that times USSR government, and the project has been co-realized by Russian Ural Turbine Plant, he said.

Sustainable trades of energy and power are running between the two countries, he went on. In order to upgrade the relations in the energy sphere, the sides should discuss about constructing aero-transit power grids to exchange power between Mongolia, Russia and China in a scope of "Steppe Road" project; Russia's support to the Water Power Stations' projects in Mongolia; put mutual efforts to implement works reflected in "Road designs", adopted November 27 of 2013 during the 17th meeting of Intergovernmental Committee; and exchange opinions on the issue of "Energy Club", which was outlined in the MoU signed December 6 of 2013 in Moscow.

The Ambassador congratulated D.Zorigt for being appointed the Minister and wished him success in his works. He also promised to put all possible efforts to boost the energy cooperation and to pursue immediately the matters suggested by the Minister.

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Armenia and Mongolia strengthening cooperation

YEREVAN, 23 DECEMBER (ARMENPRESS) The Governments of Armenia and Mongolia will sign an agreement on exempting persons with diplomatic and official passports from the requirement of an entry visa. As "ArmenPress" reports, the issue on approving the draft of the agreement is included in the agenda for the government's December 25 session.

Based on the justification provided by Armenia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the signing of the agreement is based on the need of fostering relations between the Republic of Armenia and Mongolia. Armenia and Mongolia have held several meetings and discussions in the course of the past 20 years of relations with the purpose of expanding cooperation. The last major development was the appointment of an Armenian Ambassador to Mongolia in December 2013 (seat in Beijing).

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Social, Environmental & Other

Mongolia Launches the State of the World Population Report

ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia, December 15 (UNFPA) - "Never before have there been so many young people - never again is there likely to be such potential for economic and social progress," Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA's Executive Director, said at the launch of the agency's flagship report, The State of World Population 2014 , in London.

"Today, nine in 10 of the world's 1.8 billion young people live in less developed countries, where the young encounter obstacles to their rights - to education, to health, to live free from violence. Many of these young people may never realize their full potential, as leaders, as change-agents, as entrepreneurs, as people with the power to transform the future," Dr. Osotimehin said.
However,with proper investment in education, health, human rights and welfare of young people, these countries could see their economies soar, the report says.This is because when a country's working age population is larger than its number of dependents, it can reap a "demographic dividend" - an economic boom in which households are better able to save and invest in health, education and well-being and economies are more productive.

A demographic dividend of this magnitude could lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and catapult economies forward, the report states. But to maximize this dividend, countries must ensure young people entering the work force are equipped to make the most of the opportunities before them.

To do this, countries, like Mongolia, must do more to ensure gender equality, protect human rights including reproductive rights, improve health including sexual and reproductive health, and provide skills and knowledge to build young people's capabilities and agency.

During the State of World Population press conference in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, UNFPA Director of Management Services in New York, Mr. Subhash Gupta, recognized and appreciated the Mongolian Government's commitment to investing in young people.

He highlighted for instance, "the Government of Mongolia has taken significant steps with the establishment of a Youth Division at the Ministry of Population Development and Social Protection, which is dedicated to address youth issues, and with frequent meetings with youth NGOs to understand their concerns and see how they can be reflected in the Government's programmes. The Government, with technical and financial support from UNFPA, is also in the midst of drafting a National Policy on Youth with active participation of young people, and has also established 7 Youth Development Centers and 5 youth friendly clinics throughout this year alone."

While UNFPA recognizes that these achievements are notable, there is still an urgent need to ramp-up the investment in young people in Mongolia. The global SWOP report categorises Mongolia as a "late transition" country, and recommends to spur economic growth and expand employment of young people through:

1. Macroeconomic management
2. Open trade
3. Good governance
4. Well-functioning labour and financial market

However, we must remember that "It is too easy to talk about the demographic dividend in terms of money, savings and economic growth, which have so far excluded many," Dr. Osotimehin said. "The demographic dividend must be harnessed to achieve inclusive growth and offer opportunities and well-being for all."How we meet the needs and aspirations of every young person, and enable him/her to enjoy his/her rights will define our common future.

- See more at: http://www.unfpa.org/news/huge-potential-economic-growth-requires-fulfilling-promise-youth-flagship-report-says#sthash.AZUBFTud.dpuf

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Teen pregnancy rises in Mongolia to 40% of childbirths

December 25 (news.mn) Mongolia has seen dramatic teen birth rates in the past two years. A total of 3,589 teenagers, aged 15 to 19, gave birth in Mongolia in 2013. Forty percent of 1,000 successful childbirths occur for girls from the ages of 15 to 19.

The Princess Center, an organization working for the protection of girls and young women's rights, has launched the three-month "I am a Flying Girl" campaign on December 1st.

In the scope of the campaign, the publication of the book "Fly High, Girl" for teenagers, the "I am a Flying Girl" television special, and an event day have been planned. The television special will involve teen and young mothers who gave birth in their adolescence. There will also be a photo exhibition featuring portraits of the young mothers. 

During the "I am a Flying Girl" event, over 200 girls from 20 schools in the city will create wings.

Teenage pregnancies are often associated with unprotected sex and sometimes sexual assault. There are dozens of cases of discrimination and suicide attempts resulting from teenage pregnancy.

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Saving women's lives in Mongolia through cancer screening

December 2014 (WHO) Sharav Otgontsetseg, 37, from Ulaanbaatar's Songino-Khairkhan district in Mongolia considers herself very lucky. Mother of two, Otgontsetseg recently underwent surgery for cervical cancer at the country's National Cancer Centre, after a routine Pap smear tested positive.

Since 2012, cervical cancer screening has been made available for free through family clinics throughout Mongolia for women aged 30 to 60 - thanks to a project supported by the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).

Cervical cancer is caused by the human papilloma virus and is treatable when detected early. According to an article published in the Asia Pacific Journal on Cancer Prevention, cervical cancer is one of the most common cancers among women in Mongolia accounting for 17% of cases and 8% of deaths from cancer in 2011. This is predicted to rise in the coming years to almost 1 in 5 cancers among women by 2016. Data from the National Cancer Centre indicates that cervical cancer is the fifth most common cancer in Mongolia overall.

Institutionalizing cervical cancer screening in primary health care

In 2013, over 70 000 women from the target age group underwent cervical cancer screening at the primary health care level nationwide. With support from the MCC, nurses and cytologists were trained to administer and interpret Pap smears. To facilitate diagnosis, provincial, or aimag, and district-level clinics were also equipped with microscopes with cameras. In cases where the results were inconclusive, a system was put in place where samples could be sent to the National Cancer Centre in the capital for verification.

WHO has provided support in terms of building capacity among local oncologists in the use of ICD-10 for coding and diagnosis, improving cancer registries in Mongolia and strengthening the competence of cytologists by organizing training with an expert from the academe.

The new screening system recommends that all women within the target age range undergo a Pap smear every three years. Eligible women are initially notified by post or text message inviting them to visit the family clinics to undergo screening. Samples are then collected and sent to the aimag clinics where a cytologist examines them and interprets. Each of these secondary health care institutions is ideally staffed by one cytologist.

Challenges faced

Unfortunately, despite the tremendous promise and impact of the project, it has been faced with several challenges in recent months. Of note is the lack of trained cytologists to interpret the samples collected delaying results. This is further compounded by the fact that some of the cytologists who underwent training have since resigned leaving many posts unfilled.

"When people do not get their test results in a timely manner it turns them off," says Gotov Uyanga, the Director of the National Centre of Pathology and a lead trainer of the MCC project. "Unfortunately out of the 32 cytologists we trained, about half are no longer working in that capacity."

She suggests that interpretation of the samples be centralized in the National Centre of Pathology to ensure the quality and consistency of the diagnosis. "One needs a lot of practice to detect 5-10 pathological cells among 50 000 healthy cells," says Uyanga, herself a pathologist by profession. A lack of practice coupled by the absence of regular quality checks may lead to incorrect diagnosis.

The women themselves must also be encouraged to undergo screening. Since the beginning of 2014, 56 000 women have undergone screening under the programme, a significant drop from the year before.

"Only 28% of all women who are eligible to be screened for cervical cancer this year were actually screened," says Tudev Undarmaa, a Cancer Epidemiologist at the National Cancer Centre's Department of Public Health, Research and Training. "We need to conduct a study to understand why there is relatively low pick-up." She surmises that this is due to a combination of factors such as a lack of financing support (the MCC project has ended), insufficient information campaigns and a lack of personnel.

Saving lives through screening

"Cervical cancer is a pressing issue but perfectly preventable," according to Dr Soe Nyunt-U, WHO Representative in Mongolia. "The worrisome spread of sexually transmitted infections, including the human papilloma virus, underscores the importance of screening measures to detect dangerous consequences such as cervical cancer."

Despite these challenges cervical cancer screening has shown promise in detecting cases and promoting appropriate treatment. For example, of the 90 women who tested positive in the Songino-Khairkhan district, 15 were diagnosed with cancer and subsequently referred to the National Cancer Centre. The others who tested positive underwent coagulation treatment at the district hospital. For her part, Sharav Otgontsetseg is thankful that she underwent the screening and shares her story openly with friends encouraging them to undergo cervical cancer screening themselves. "I'd like to encourage all women – mothers and daughters – to undergo screening. Better to undergo screening now and get treated than to be sorry later on."

With further improvements in the system and continued political commitment, cervical cancer screening may yet save the lives of many more women in Mongolia in the years to come.

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UNFPA Mongolia: Telemedicine Key to the Reduction of Maternal Mortality

ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia, December 19 (UNFPA Mongolia) Telemedicine has been a key component in the reduction of maternal mortality in Mongolia, according to the United Nations Population Fund Director of the Division of Management Services Mr. Subhash Gupta.

Mr. Gupta made his first visit to Ulaanbaatar this week to strengthen collaboration between UNFPA, the Government of Mongolia, and the private sector. During his visit to the National Centre for Maternal and Child Health, Mr. Gupta observed the innovative approaches taken by Telemedicine Project andits highly trained staff.

Mr. Gupta expressed that "having a functional Maternal Death Surveillance and Response system is key to national accountability. I am pleased to see the system is in place and, most importantly, it is sustainable." The surveillance system is a direct response to the United Nations Secretary General's initiative on the Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health.

The heart of this project lies in the improvement of skills for maternal and newborn care specialists. This project has worked not only to train professionals at the National Centre in Ulaanbaatar, but at the aimag and soum levels as well.

Through innovative interventions, such as the creation of an online learning platform for health professionals and the introduction of advance technology, the National Centre now falls in line with the international standards set by the United Nations. Health professionals can easily access information and support from experts in Ulaanbaatar. This improved access to knowledge and professional expertise has led to the reduction in maternal mortality in Mongolia's rural communities.

The telemedicine approach has been a highly effective strategy for Mongolia's context, with its vast geographical areas, sparse population and huge disparities in quality and access to health services. Through this project, pregnant women do not necessarily have to travel to Ulaanbaatar any more, and service providers can provide timely and quality care in maternal and child health.It is a cost-effective way in ensuring quality care, and complements the existing health facilities.

Mr. Gupta was delighted to see the success of the project and is looking forward to sharing Mongolia's Telemedicine success story with other countries.

As a human rights agency, promoting safe delivery for every woman, UNFPA is committed to providing technical assistance in advocating for such innovative and catalytic programmes and initiating policy dialogues in sexual and reproductive health. 
UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is an international development agency that is delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person's potential is fulfilled.

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UNICEF Mongolia: Helping children turn their lives around

December 15 (UNICEF Mongolia Blog) When Bat (not his real name) was 14, he would run away from home a lot. Sometimes for a day, sometimes for longer. His older brothers would look for him and when they found him would bring him home and often beat him.

Bat was running away from a difficult family situation. Both his parents had drinking problems and were unemployed. The family of eight (two parents and six children) were living in a ger, a traditional Mongolian house that has only one-room house and no bathroom or shower. Bat's father was abusive towards his mother, and there was family violence within the home.

"Because it was such a difficult situation at home, I didn't want to be there and I didn't want to go to school, so I dropped out of school", he says. "When I ran away from home I would stay away for a few days. It was hard to go home because I was of afraid of my parents and older brothers. I needed clothes and food. Twice I stole things I needed. When I think about it, I regret it".

Bat was caught stealing and charged. He is still awaiting the outcome of his court case.

His mother Dulmaa (also not her real name) blames herself. "I wasn't paying attention to my son. I didn't know what was going on in his life," she says. "For example, I didn't know that he had dropped out of school for a long time, until his teacher came to my home and talked to me."

"The situation has been very stressful," Dulmaa explains. "Hopefully Bat will have not go to jail, and will receive probation. But I don't know what will happen. When we have spoken to the prosecutor they have said they will take into consideration the efforts he is making to turn his life around".

Since his arrest Bat's life has changed. He is back studying for a trade at the local vocational training center. He has stopped hanging out with the people he was mixed up with when running away from home.

"I have learnt a big lesson going through all of this," he says. "I hope that I will not be jailed and will receive probation. If the court case is ok, I know everything will be ok".

Supporting children in need

Since his arrest, Bat and his family have been receiving support from local authorities, specifically the Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT).

Dorjkhand, a Child Rights and Protection Officer at the Department of Families and Children, says the MDT has helped Bat enroll in a course at the vocational training center, provided him with material support so he can study and given advice and support on his court case.

"We are also working with the family to improve Bat's life," she says. "His mother's behavior has changed and she is trying to pay more attention to Bat and get sober".

"Before, when we did not have the MDT, the Department of Families and Children was the only place that was dealing with children's issues," Dorjkhand explainss. "But now there are a lot more people and agencies involved, providing better services and support to children.

"The MDT is difference in every location, but in our local area it comprises of social workers, Bagh and Soum Governors, Department of Family and Children staff, health workers, police and one non-government organizations," she says.

UNICEF Child Protection Specialist Amaraa Dorjsambuu says the MDT is making a difference.

"In Mongolia the justice system only looks at what the law says," she explained. "It doesn't look at the child's life, their situation, or the context of the crime. Before the courts didn't think about the impact of their decision on the child. But with the MDT it brings together many different people and they can see what the best outcome is for the child and work together towards achieving it."

Bat said the MDT helped him a lot. "I am thankful and very grateful for the support I have received", he says. "With this support I am in a much better situation. Without it, I would have continued to commit crimes and my situation would have been much worse".

Bat's mother Dulmaa agrees. "The MDT had a direct impact," she says. "There was an immediate change in Bat. The support for the MDT and their commitment to him has been incredible and it is a big thing. Without the MDT the future would be very daunting".

Unfinished work

Amaraa says that it is important that services that protect, support and help children are made available, so that children do not end up like Bat.

"One of the roles of the MDT is not just to help children after they have committed a crime, but to intervene when a child is at risk," the UNICEF staffer says. "The MDT should be also be helping at risk children access social services. But this is not always happening."

One of the reasons is that child protection is a relatively new concept in Mongolia, and is not always understood, according to Amaraa. "Other countries are much further ahead of Mongolia on child protection issues, and we need to work hard to catch up because otherwise children like Bat will slip through the cracks and not have the opportunities they deserve".

Amaraa highlighted some recent child protection developments, such as the establishment of the MDTs and a nationwide child helpline. "But more can and must be done to protect children from violence, exploitation and abuse. Had there been a better system in place, Bat and others like him, might find themselves in very different situations where they are offered support and assistance early, rather than when they are facing criminal prosecution".

"We are working with the National Center Against Violence and the Ministry of Justice to see legislation to formalize the MDT system pass through the parliament," she says. "Currently the MDTs are established by the discression of the local authorities, the legislation would require MDTs be established in every town, village or district".

For Bat, the extra support from the MDT has made a world of difference. His family situation has improved and that he is no longer afraid to go home. He is going to school and looking forward to building a life for himself, once the court case is settled. "Life is much brighter now," he says.

Author

Zetty Brake is the Communications and External Relations Officer at UNICEF in Mongolia

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From Mongolia to Oakland, a desperate quest to save a child

December 23 (SFGate) In the days after his 5-year-old daughter died from a rare brain disease, Gan-Erdene Ganbat's desperate focus turned to his younger child, Nomin.

Just 3 years old, she was already showing symptoms similar to her big sister's. She was losing her speech, falling too often, walking slower than her peers.

It was an unimaginable terror, foreseeing the same fate for a second child, and it sent Ganbat and his wife, Davaasuren Zunzendorj, into a frantic search for the only treatment that promised any hope. In their native Mongolia, there was no way to get the drug: an experimental therapy available only in clinical trial. They were determined not to run out of time as they had with their older daughter.

After more than a year of searching and fighting, Nomin started taking the drug in November at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland. The hospital is one of only five sites in the world studying the treatment that Ganbat believes will save his daughter's life.

"My hope is the medicine will work very well on my child — that if it doesn't take it away completely it will at least stop (progression of the disease). Even that would be enough," said Ganbat, speaking through an interpreter at the hospital this month.

He watched worriedly as Nomin, now 4, ambled around the sunlit lobby of the outpatient clinic, climbing low walls and grabbing for books and magazines to study. Her gait was unsteady, her limbs clumsy from disease, but she was obviously eager to explore.

"This is her last chance," Ganbat said. "We know there is no other possible treatment for her."

Extremely rare disorder

Nomin and her sister, Nandin, were diagnosed with a genetic disorder that falls under an umbrella of conditions called neurodegeneration with brain iron accumulation, or NBIA. The conditions as a whole are thought to occur in only 1 to 3 people per million, although they can be difficult to diagnose so the numbers may be higher.

The conditions typically hit children and are always progressive, although not necessarily fatal. No cure exists, and the only treatments target symptoms, not the cause of illness. The diseases primarily affect muscle function, from limb control to the ability to speak, chew and, eventually in some cases, the ability to breathe.

Cognitively, the children tend to be normal and suffer little if any mental degeneration.

The most striking biological sign of the disorders is the buildup of iron in a specific part of the brain called the basal ganglia.

"Most of the brain is normal. It's really one tiny part that is kind of the control tower for integrating movements that becomes disabled with this disease," said Dr. Susan Hayflick, a pediatrician and neurologist at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland who is one of the leading NBIA researchers in the world.

Hayflick said scientists don't know how much the iron buildup actually contributes to symptoms. The iron, she said, may be more of a marker of disease — a side effect of some other biological malfunction.

Aiming at iron buildup

But the iron accumulation certainly causes some damage, both to the specific area where it collects and surrounding tissue that can be injured by iron oxidation, said Dr. Elliott Vichinsky, the director of hematology and oncology at Children's Hospital Oakland who is leading the trial that includes Nomin.

The treatment he's studying is aimed at preventing iron accumulation with a type of drug called a chelator, which is used to reduce toxic iron buildup in other diseases.

Vichinsky has treated a handful of other patients with the drug, and a few have shown signs of dramatic recovery. They aren't cured, but he's seen patients walk and talk again after being forced to use a wheelchair and unable to speak. About 30 children are enrolled in the current trial and will be followed for 18 months each.

"The (Ganbat) family, they wanted to do something to help (Nomin) after living through the nightmare of their first kid," Vichinsky said. "My job is to make her better than she is now. And I can tell you, I've seen a lot of kids get better."

Working toward a cure

Hayflick isn't convinced that the chelator is entirely responsible for the improvements seen in some children. But she's thrilled to see clinical trials under way and hopeful that as her group and others discover more about the cause and nature of the NBIA disorders, more treatments, and even a cure, will be available in the next decade or two.

Ganbat, though, has to hope that the chelator will be good enough.

It took more than a year to diagnose Nandin. Ganbat and his wife were told repeatedly by doctors that their oldest would catch up with other children her age. But she didn't, and by the time she was 4, the delays were obvious and troubling.

They took Nandin to one of the top neurologists in Mongolia, who looked up the girl's symptoms online and found a reference to NBIA. She translated the English page to Ganbat, but that was the best she could do. She told them to search online themselves for international experts in the disease and clinical trials that would give them access to experimental therapies.

But before the parents could make much progress, Nandin's condition deteriorated. She turned 5 in June 2013 and was hospitalized a month later. She died this August, just before her sister turned 3.

Though they already had a diagnosis for Nomin and even a hint at possible drug therapy, Ganbat and his wife struggled to get her to treatment. They spent months trying to hunt down locations and contact information for clinical trials that might accept their daughter. Eventually a Mongolian woman who lived in the United States read about their situation on Facebook and agreed to act as a go-between for the family and researchers in Oakland.

Even then, the family faced repeated setbacks. The worst of them came at the very end, when their visa applications to travel to the United States were rejected twice. Finally, the U.S. Embassy agreed to grant visas only to Nomin and one parent; her mother stayed behind. The hospital is working with the embassy to try to get her mother into the country too.

"In our culture, we say if a child stays away from a parent, it's like a disease. We're afraid the sadness will lead to more disease," Ganbat said. So Nomin and her mother don't talk, and Ganbat erased most photos of his wife from his phone and an iPad. "They were making (Nomin) cry too much. It reminds her and she just starts crying."

Home away from home

Ganbat and his daughter arrived in Oakland on Oct. 27. Since then, they've been living in a one-bedroom apartment with five Mongolian men in downtown Oakland. It's all Ganbat and his wife, who run a small shop selling imported goods in the Mongolian capital, can afford.

He can't work because his daughter requires around-the-clock supervision. She takes the trial drug twice a day — it's too soon to say whether it's helping her — and goes to the hospital once a week for blood tests to check for possible side effects. If not for the weekly blood draws, she could return to Mongolia for the course of the trial, but Ganbat said the lab tests aren't available there.

Their days are spent entirely together, usually in the apartment, where Nomin draws or they play games. If the weather's nice, there's a park nearby to visit, and Nomin looks forward to their regular trips to buy groceries.

Ganbat has gotten used to being the primary caretaker, something that fell to his wife at home. On a recent visit to the hospital, Nomin's hair was in a dozen tiny ponytails her father had tied all around her head.

It's hard being here, so far from his life and his family, and knowing they must stay for at least another year and a half, Ganbat said.

"But we will make it here," he said. "There is no other choice."

Erin Allday is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: eallday@sfchronicle.com

NBIA disorders

Neurodegeneration with brain iron accumulation (NBIA) is a group of rare, genetic disorders that affect mostly children and cause a wide range of neurological issues, although symptoms mostly involve muscles.

Diagnosis: The disorders are marked by a buildup of iron in a specific area of the brain, the basal ganglia, that controls movement. The buildup can be detected on an MRI, which is one way the disorders can be diagnosed.

Symptoms: Symptoms include muscle weakness or stiffness; cramping or jerky, uncontrolled movements; tremors; poor balance; loss of speech; and loss of muscle control in the jaw and mouth, including the ability to chew. The disorders can be fatal.

Treatments: There is no cure or standard treatment. Some therapies are used to treat specific symptoms.

Experiments: Several sites around the world, including UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland, are testing an experimental drug that removes iron buildup in the brain.

How to help

Donations to help Nomin and her family with housing and other needs can be sent through the Children's Hospital and Research Center Foundation. Go to http://bitly.com/1rfXmad and direct the donation to "other," then type in "NBIA fund."

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DAEMEN COLLEGE AND MONGOLIAN GOVERNMENT FINALIZE AGREEMENT ON STUDENT, FACULTY EXCHANGE

AMHERST, N.Y., December 15 -- In a formal ceremony held Dec. 9 at Daemen House, the presidential residence, college officials signed a memorandum of agreement with a high-level delegation of governmental officials from Mongolia that will lead to exchanges of faculty and students between Mongolia and the U.S.

"Daemen College has a longstanding relationship with the Mongolian government and its people, and we are delighted that this agreement will enable many students and faculty from Mongolia to come to our college as well as our faculty to visit Mongolia," said Daemen President Gary A. Olson.

Dr. Michael Brogan, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college, presided over the signing ceremony. "This agreement will lead to a new level of collaboration with our Mongolian partners," said Brogan. "We expect many students from Mongolia to join the student already studying here to form a cohort of Mongolian students as the first of many generations of those from their country who will study at Daemen."

In attendance at the ceremony were Colonel Pagva Bira, head of special forces training for the Mongolia National Police; Jambaa Solongo, chairman of the Mongolian Institute of Cinematography; and Carmen B. Cabell, consul of Mongolia, Foreign Missions Head of Post.

"Through this wonderful relationship with Daemen College, we are building a vital educational bridge between the U.S. and Mongolia," said Bira.

Link to release

 

From Here to Eternity : Poverty, Herders, and Survival in Mongolia

December 16 (Medium) Last October I had a conversation over Facebook with a good friend I first met while living in England two years ago. A native of the Ukraine, my friend now divides her time between Chicago and the UK.

Still, she remains a Ukrainian and feels a visceral connection to the violence consuming her native land:

" It's a very weird feeling," she wrote. "While my friends are sleeping under tanks or recovering from wounds and have literally no money to their name, I work in a very leisurely environment, make in one month more than they will make in a year and want to buy frivolous things. There's always a guilt that follows you after you leave poverty or see the sharp contrast."

She then asked me if I felt the same about the poverty I witnessed since moving to Khovd City, a town in the Khovd Province of Western Mongolia, last August.

"Is the economic gap very visible?" she asked. "I was talking to one of my former tutors from Oxford a few weeks ago and she said that after working in Mali she gets no joy out of having nice things…and just sees the cost of anything as being contrasted by what that money could achieve in Mali."

At the time I was not sure I had a satisfactory answer to my friend's question. While I saw terrible poverty in Ulaanbaatar, I was unsure of what to make of the poverty I saw around me in Western Mongolia.

My students at the university where I work as an English teacher are, by any Western standard, poor. Most of them come from the countryside, where they live with their herder parents in traditional gers without running water or central heating. They have little, if any, disposable income and usually pool their hard-earned resources in order to go out drinking or throw parties. As for university tuition, it would appear that their whole family contributes.

The majority of my neighbors also live in gers, though usually enclosed by a wooden fence or a wall. Still, they have no running water and no central heating. They have few possessions and often have multiple sources of income in order to provide for themselves and their children; this task is complicated by the fact that most of them have at least three children to feed, clothe, and educate.

My colleagues at the university, though considered the region's intellectual elite, also struggle financially. While many of them live in centrally heated apartments with functioning electricity and running water, their lives are considerably more difficult than those of their counterparts in the West. Most teachers at my university make 650,000 tugriks a month, or roughly $344. Rent for the average apartment in Khovd City costs between $211 and $265 a month. In addition to these relatively high rents, Mongolians in Khovd get married and start having children just after they finish university which considerably increases their cost of living within a few years or even a few months of earning their university diplomas.

Many university professors also hold jobs on the side, often as tutors or part-time translators. Some even go into business for themselves, as landlords or shop owners. One of my coworkers, for instance, divides her time between teaching and running an imported clothing shop with her husband.

Although the stipend I receive through my Fulbright grant would not allow me to live well in the US, I certainly have more purchasing power than the average resident of Khovd City. While I remain frugal, I must recognize the ease of my life in comparison to those of my colleagues and neighbors of the same age.

Still, I wonder, is that a cause for guilt? And what is the appropriate sort of compassion for this situation? How could I be certain that my guilt is not self-serving or patronizing? We manage with the circumstances we are dealt. Though my neighbors and colleagues struggle financially, they do more than survive; they thrive. They lead full lives, raising families, organizing enormous parties with the rest of their community, singing songs in the local theater, drinking, dancing, and educating themselves.

A few weeks ago, I took a long walk on the outskirts of Khovd City with a friend and colleague named Oyunbold. Oyunbold spent much of his childhood living in a ger on the steppe and, though he lost most of his fingers to frostbite as a child, went on to become a champion boxer in the Red Army. He now teaches English at my university.

Though he currently lives in an apartment and enjoys the conveniences of modern life, Oyunbold remains aware of the rigors and necessities of herding life on the steppe.

As we walked, we passed a group of gers tucked away in a small wood. "Do the herders have many financial difficulties?" I asked. "Do they often use money?"

"Not often," he answered. "Most of what they need comes from the earth and their livestock. They eat meat and drink milk, which come from the animals, so they don't buy much food. They can also fish and exchange animals for other supplies."

To heat their homes, the nomadic herders insulate their gers with woven and felted wool pads. This dispenses them of having to pay energy bills. While many do purchase coal, they can also chop wood or collect animal dung for their stoves.

Gasoline for their cars or trucks, however, is a necessity as they use these vehicles to ferry animals to and from the town markets. This was not always the case. Before the proliferation of cars in Mongolia, herders could hire collective vehicles or even just use horses for transportation.

Nevertheless, herders remain self-sufficient; they earn a small income that satisfies their basic needs.

The hardships of herding life are derived less from low incomes than the elements. Between 1998 and 2002, for example, different parts of Mongolia faced severe droughts and fierce winters known as zud, which prevent livestock from grazing by freezing pastures and covering them with snow. 7 million animals died as a result of these meteorological disasters, killing off entire herds and leaving many families incapable of making a living. In 2010, another zud was responsible for the deaths of almost 9 million livestock.

Climate change also poses a grave threat to the herders' way of life. Last September, Rachel Nuwer, reporting for the New York Times, wrote that a"10-year drought and heat wave from 2000 to 2010… was the most severe the country had had in a millennium."

Like much of the world," continues Nuwer, "Mongolia is already experiencing the effects of climate change. The country's average annual temperature has risen more than 3.8 degrees Fahrenheit since 1940; paradoxically, winter months have grown colder over the past 20 years. Streams and lakes have begun to dry up, and fires frequently blaze across millions of acres of steppe and forest."

These factors, combined with "the rise of miningalong with overgrazing by herders chasing the cashmere markethave led to wide desertification," with some studies indicating, "70 percent of Mongolia's grasslands are degraded."

Yet life goes on, at least for the herders I see here in Khovd. They remain abundant and can be seen all over Khovd City, buying and selling livestock, refueling their trucks, and occasionally, playing billiards behind the local black market.

Herding has been a constant in Mongolian life for as long as anyone can remember. In certain times it has also served as a social safety net. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989, leaving the Mongolian economy in shambles, many newly unemployed urbanites returned to the countryside to try their hand at subsistence herding –albeit sometimes to disastrous effect.

It's difficult not to look at herding life and not see permanence. First, because this form of social organization has existed since the Neolithic revolution and second because it does not require very much in the way of resources. So long as there is grass to feed the livestock, herders will survive.

According to a report issued by the American Association for the Advancement of the Sciences (AAAS), our planet will experience "massively disruptive consequences to societies and ecosystems," including "large-scale ice sheet melting, collapse of the Gulf Stream, destruction of the Amazon rainforest and coral reef die-off." Changes of this magnitude to the Earth's ecosystems and the ensuing confluence of food, water, and energy shortages could very well lead to the explosion of resource wars across the globe and widespread social collapse. Once written off as the ramblings of hysterical greens, fiery predictions of this sort are now common. One NASA-funded study goes as far as suggesting that global industrial society may soon face "irreversible collapse", a fate comparable to those of the Roman, Han, Mauryan, and Gupta Empires.

If and when this catastrophe occurs, one can be certain Mongolian herders will be in the best position to survive it. Living off of what they produce, using minimal quantities of natural resources, and retaining the ability to exchange cars for horses, one wonders if the most remote herders will notice the collapse of modern civilization at all.

Although I admire the herders, I cannot say I wish to live like them. I enjoy flush toilets, central heating, and city life too much to abandon my apartment for a ger.

Regardless, I'm glad they exist. Watching herders go about their routines, I begin to wonder if the era I inhabit is nothing more than a flash of opulence in a turbulent cycle of fertility and decay. If human history is driven largely by chance and accident, we can be certain that the fruits of "civilization" and technological progress are not only aberrations, but fleeting moments of ethereal brilliance, never meant to amount to more than a drunk's short, heady grasp of the infinite as he sucks at the dregs of the night's first bottle.

As for guilt and pity, they have no business on the steppe. The herders have what they need, and while they may endure harsh lives, they assume the risks of their occupation. Such is the price of their freedom.

Link to article

 

De Facto: Interview with His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama

December 24 (NTV) --

Link to interview

 

Help us to save Snow leopard habitat in Mongolia!

Save Mongolia's Endangered Snow Leopard!

The snow leopard is endangered and only 3500 are left in the wild! Snow leopards are often solitary and elusive. For decades they were considered 'ghosts of the mountains.' But thanks to new science and lots of hard work, we now know that more than 20 of these beautiful cats inhabit the Tost Mountains of Mongolia's South Gobi. This is the most densely populated habitat in the world!!

Unfortunately, Tost is located in the southern part of Mongolia—a region where mining activity is booming. Right now, 22 mining licenses threaten the Tost Mountains. Snow leopards in Tost need your help now!

Help us make the Tost Mountain into a National Park. Right now, these snow leopard mountains are not securely protected. There are at least 20 cats, and over 200 herder families who need your help! If we can make the mountains into a National Park, all mining will be forced to stop.

We need your help to make a documentary to raise awareness for snow leopards in Mongolia, and the importance of making Tost into a National Park. This documentary will be shown to politicians and other decision-makers, and distributed to gain support from the general public of Mongolia.

If we can show people how the land is being degraded, we can raise more support for protecting it.

With your funds, we will hire an experienced film crew in Mongolia. This film crew has:

-       Produced a series on Mongolian wildlife (the popular " Environment" show), which has been widely watched throughout the country;

-       Been awarded "The Best of 2014" by Baldorj Fund, Mongolia's highest award for journalism.;

-       Received an award for their international short video during the 16th Hong Kong Independence day. You can see some of their work from the link below. http://www.ifva.com/2010/page_en/competition/winners.php

We need to raise $ 15,000 to make this important documentary.

Your support be spent on the following:

·         Producing a 30-minute documentary about Tost Mountain and their importance for snow leopards.

·         Mass public exposure to bring the film to decision-makers in government, and the mass public

·         Follow-up advocacy to call for Tost Mountains to be made into a National Park

Please donate to Mongolia's snow leopards today!!

Please also share this project with people around the world!!

Link to Indiegogo page

 

Sumo Champion Hakuho Looks to Break All-Time Record in 2015 with Just One Win

By JUN HONGO

December 25 (WSJ) The sumo equivalent of Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's career home run record is set to take place in 2015.

Hakuho, a yokozuna or grand champion, will have six opportunities in the year to win his 33rd tournament, which would put him one ahead of the late Taiho for most tournament wins.

The first tournament of the year begins on Jan. 11. Here are five questions and answers about Hakuho's historic challenge.

How likely is it that Hakuho will set a new record in 2015?

There are no guarantees, but it would be a surprise if Hakuho fails to grab his 33rd championship trophy within the year. The 29-year-old has won five of the six sumo tournaments held in 2014 and nine of the past twelve. "I'd like to get it done quickly," the yokozuna told reporters Wednesday.

Has Hakuho always been invincible?

Hakuho was named yokozuna, the highest rank for a sumo wrestler, in 2007. He is 192 centimeters (6 feet, 3 inches) tall and weighs 157 kilograms (346 pounds). His father won the silver medal in wrestling at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico. But when he arrived in Japan from his native Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, in 2000, he weighed nearly 100 kilograms less than he does today. "Who would've thought that a boy weighing 62 kilograms would become this huge yokozuna," he wrote in one of his blog posts.

How many bouts has he won?

Since his first professional bout in March 2001, Hakuho has won 880 matches and lost 186. He won 63 consecutive bouts in 2010, which was six shy of the record set by Futabayama in 1939. One of Hakuho's strengths is his speed; according to a documentary that aired on NHK in 2010, Hakuho has a response speed that is as quick as the world's fastest sprinter, Usain Bolt.

Who was Taiho?

Taiho was born to an Ukrainian father and a Japanese mother on the Russian island of Sakhalin, then controlled by Japan, in May 1940. He made his debut as a sumo wrestler in 1956 and became a yokozuna in 1961. The 187-centimeter-tall wrestler dominated the sport during the 1960s and won at least one tournament every year after reaching the top tier of the sumo division in 1960. Overall he won 872 bouts and lost 182 before retiring in 1971.  Taiho died on Jan. 19, 2013, at age 72, and the government posthumously awarded him the highest national honor. Hakuho was present at the award ceremony held at the prime minister's residence.

Was Hakuho close with Taiho?

During an interview after winning the March 2013 tournament, Hakuho urged people in the hall to get on their feet and honor Taiho with a moment of silence. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wrote on his Facebook account following the act that he was moved by the scene.

Hakuho has said Taiho gave advice to him on many occasions. Taiho once told him that records "are meant to be broken," according to the yokozuna's blog.

Link to article

 

Cycle, Trek and Horse Ride Mongolia with SpiceRoads Cycle Tours

SpiceRoads is reaching higher altitudes with the launch of a multi-activity tour across the magnificent rugged plains of Mongolia.

Bangkok, Thailand, December 15, 2014 --(PR.com)-- SpiceRoads Cycle Tours, the leading bicycle tour operator in Asia for more than a decade, has launched a 9-day multi-activity adventure of biking, trekking and horse riding across one of the most unspoilt locations on the planet, the Mongolian Steppe.

The special multi-activity exploration will cover 218 kilometres across a variety of terrain with breathtaking scenery.

This tour has been designed for those thirsting for a real challenge. Highlights of the tour include cycling on dirt trails used by wild animals and local herdsmen, hiking through dense pine forest to conquer the majestic 2656 metre high Altan Olgi Mountain and horse riding through gorges alongside gushing rivers.

Other highlights include stargazing in a tented camp by crystal clear lakes, learning some of the Mongolian traditions that have been passed down for centuries, such as sampling horse milk and cheese, and staying a night in a "ger," a traditional felt-covered tent.

Due to the remoteness of the activities and minimal contact to civilization, except for the odd friendly nomad tending his flock, the scenery is the main attraction. Mongolia is home to vast grasslands, towering mountain ranges, magnificent dense cedar forests, fast flowing streams, meadows filled with glorious wild flowers and an abundance of wildlife including bears, wolves and deer.

As most of the trip takes place off-road, a moderate level of physical fitness with confidence tackling rough terrain is recommended. Prior horse riding experience is not a prerequisite but a willingness to have a go is. Mongolian horse riding technique is unique and an experienced local guide will give detailed instructions. There will also always be a support vehicle on hand.

This 9-day Mongolian Steppe Adventure tour covers 218 km in total: 120 km cycling, 61 kms horse trekking and 37 kms of hiking. Each activity is for 2 days. The tour costs US$2,250 and there are two departures planned for 2015: June 7 and September 6.

Link to release

 

LIFE LESSONS: HUNTING IN MONGOLIA

SPONSORED BY CHARLES SCHWAB

Travel should be more than just a vacation. It should be an eye-opening adventure, an insight into unknown cultures and the ancient landscapes that have shaped them. Luckily, there are still places in the world that can give back, not just with their beauty, culture, or people, but by changing the way you look at everyday life. These are the places that should be a priority for all of us to make time to experience.

Mongolia, with its picture-book wild plains and soaring mountains, is the setting for an experience that will alter the way you see your world. Here, nomadic tribes hunt for their food, galloping on horseback across the endless plains, armed only with a golden eagle. This is a tradition sculpted by thousands of years of culture, and thousands of years of expertise passed from generation to generation. Only in Mongolia can you take part in this hunt, one of the most ancient and unique experiences the world has ever known. You'll discover that it's a lesson in the techniques and skill of the hunt, but even more than that, it's a lesson about the inescapable modernity of the lives we lead and one that will resonate long after you return home.

For Mongolia's nomadic tribes, this is not hunting for fun, this is hunting for survival. You'll see for yourself as the precious morning's catch becomes your evening meal, an organic process that lies in direct contrast to our everyday, eat-on-the go culture. It's a completely different approach to life, where eating is a basic necessity, rather than a luxury one can take for granted.

Hunting with a golden eagle is an extraordinary experience, but discovering the integral role the hunt's plays in this culture is an incredible experience that will change your entire world. Taking the opportunity to travel to Mongolia is taking an opportunity to experience a way of life resistant to the passage of time. No passing trends, no technological advancement can alter the traditions of these nomadic tribes. It's a life that remains constant, unchanged. A lifestyle you must witness, in order to evaluate and appreciate your own.

Link to release

 

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