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FEATURE STORY

Mongolia: Promoting Social Accountability

February 21, 2013

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As Mongolia rushes from nomadism to high growth, its citizens hope that the public services in the country also catch up. Watch how they make an effort.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mongolian citizens want to improve the public services they get from the government.
  • A World Bank-funded program introduces social accountability to the country and trains local NGOs how to use tools to hold the government accountable.
  • The 14 pilot projects of the program have increased public awareness and also reached out to government officials.

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, February 21, 2013 – As Mongolia rushes from nomadism to high growth thanks to a mining boom, its citizens hope that the public services in the country also catch up.

These are some of the typical complaints from Mongolians:

“We spend 20% of the national budget on education, but there are 40 children in a classroom, in three shifts.”

“I pay for nine family doctors, but only five of them actually work.”

“I wait for 40 minutes to get just one form.”

“I knock on ten doors to get a single document.”

“Our studies show that Mongolian citizens are not happy with the public services they get from the government,” says G. Undral, Network Coordinator of the Partnership for Social Accountability.

Introducing Social Accountability to Mongolia

To address the public's concerns, the Partnership for Social Accountability, together with international partners, implemented the Social Accountability Learning in Action Program with World Bank funding, to promote social accountability in Mongolia.

Social accountability simply means to “hold the government accountable”, explains G. Undral. So, the program, besides introducing the concept to the country, also trains local NGOs on how to use tools such as Citizen Score Cards, Citizen Report Cards and Public Expenditure Tracking Surveys to hold the government accountable.

“Social accountability is a new concept for Mongolia, unlike the public demonstrations we had in the mid 2000s. It is objective, measurable and results-oriented,” says D. Tserenjav, Network Coordinator for the Citizen Oversight of Budget.

Through the program, these organizations learned how to collect information about deficiencies in services, verifying them with facts and evidence.

“We have shared these facts and evidence with government agencies, which add value to our advocacy,” says B. Nyamsuren, Coordinator of the Dashin Dem Foundation. She finds the concept and practices of social accountability are the most useful ways for citizens to engage in the process of obtaining and improving the most needed public services.

“We citizens pay tax and in return we receive public services from the government,” she says.

Open Quotes

When we in public agencies start engaging with citizens, we see clearly what we do well and what we need to work on better. Their feedback helps us improve our performance. Close Quotes

S. Enhtsetseg
a public official in Ulaanbaatar

Piloting Projects to Demand Accountability

To test what they learned on the ground, the Partnership for Social Accountability looked at what needed to be done to improve the quality and accessibility of public services and, during 2010-2012, carried out 14 pilot projects in five areas: education, health, governance, infrastructure and mining. 

D. Oyunbolor worked on a project to raise her community’s awareness of the extractive industry operations and their environmental impacts.

“Mining operations create excessive dust and their negative impacts on livestock and humans are huge. So the community was very interested in the project,” she says.

Before the project, they had no information about the mines nearby – who was managing them or what was being mined. “We just saw the few people digging the land and trucks running around. Fluorspar was mentioned, but no one knew anything for sure,” she says.

“The project taught us what laws, rules and documents are there, how they can be applied, how the mining sector operates,” she says. “The project linked citizens and the mining industry.”

B. Bayarmaa is the head of Owners of Huvsgul Lake NGO and they monitored revenues, expenditures and reporting of the Human Development Fund. This fund, which disbursed 21,000 MNT (US$20) per month to each citizen, was set up by the government to ensure that citizens get a share from the income gained from mining operations.

The project covered many aimags (provinces) and used Citizen Report Cards, Community Score Cards, focus group discussions, expert interviews and surveys.

People responded to these simple tools very well.

“These tools provide scientifically verifiable findings that make sense to policy-makers,” says B. Bayarmaa.

Reaching out to Government

The projects increased public awareness and also changed the mindset of government officials.

 “When we in public agencies start engaging with citizens, we see clearly what we do well and what we need to work on better. Their feedback helps us improve our performance,” says S. Enhtsetseg, a public official in Ulaanbaatar.

“We often criticize public services as weak and not working,” says Oyuntuya, CEO of Voters’ Education Center. “But it is important to sit down with service providers face to face and have an open discussion about where problems exist and how we can solve them by working together.”