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Wednesday
May232018

War, Peace and Development | May 2018


Preface

It could be said the world and the global order both stand at a crossroads. Countries have never been so connected as they are today because of the communications revolution that began in the 1990s. The trade linkages brought about by the most recent phase of globalization (post-1980s) have dramatically increased prosperity for some regions and countries, China being the most obvious example. But, as we are reminded on a daily basis, the environment is stressed, with species depletion and pollution being the most extreme signs of this stress. And war and civil strife are still with us.

In 2015, the United Nations launched the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 15 years after it had launched the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000. Both sets of goals attempt to benchmark progress on improvements to human well-being and to give countries and the international community a road-map to what is most important. The eight MDGs have been followed up with 17 SDGs (and many views on how effective such a strategy really is). It seemed as good a time as ever to reflect on what role I have played in this period, as well as to look forward to what will happen over the next 12 years (2030).    

The Quotes

"The United Nations is designed to make possible lasting freedom and independence for all its members."

“We must build a new world – a far better world – one in which the eternal dignity of man is respected.” 

US President Harry S. Truman

"It has been said that the United Nations was not created in order to bring us to heaven, but in order to save us from hell." 

UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold at University of California Convocation, 13 May 1954.

"Today continuing poverty and distress are a deeper and more important cause of international tensions, of the conditions that can produce war, than previously."

"The stark and inescapable fact is that today we cannot defend our society by war since total war is total destruction, and if war is used as an instrument of policy, eventually we will have total war."

"The grim fact is that we prepare for war like precocious giants, and for peace like retarded pygmies."

Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson

"A shift is necessary toward lifestyles less geared to environmentally-damaging consumption patterns."

"We may get to the point where the only way of saving the world will be for industrial civilization to collapse."

Maurice F. Strong, Former Under-Secretary General of the United Nations; Founder of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) 

"a super-crate, to ship a fiasco to hell"

"a sinister emblem for world power"

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright 

The First Development Phase 

From its founding, the United Nations was constructed around the highest human aspirations after two devastating World Wars, while also drawing fire from its critics and skeptics (American architect Frank Lloyd Wright being one of the more biting).

In January 1949, US President Harry Truman set forth a challenge for the remainder of the 20th Century. The wealthy nations must aid the poorer ones to become wealthier and more democratic: in short, to become like the United States (Starke 2001: 143). The means of accomplishing this was to be international development, and its tool, foreign aid. 

Development as defined by President Truman at the start of the first international development period of the 20th century meant “nothing less than freeing a people from want, war, and tyranny, a definition it is hard to improve on even today (Starke 2000: 153).”

I grew up in the Canada of the 1970s and 1980s. For most of that time, the charismatic and internationally-minded Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was in power. Canada's profile and role in the United Nations and international development was high at this time, in particular in 'peacekeeping' missions.

Peacekeeping holds a special place for Canadians. An innovative initiative from then-Ambassador to the United Nations and later Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson in the 1950s (he received the Nobel Peace Prize for it), Canada has since had a long history with peacekeeping missions.

When I served with the Canadian Armed Forces Reserve in the early 1980s, we trained not only for war with our Cold War foe the Soviet Union, but also for peacekeeping missions. In fact I nearly went on one if not for my acceptance to study at the University of Toronto in 1985. Otherwise, I would have been off on a peacekeeping mission that year.

This phase of international development and the United Nations was framed by the Cold War and its tensions and limits: the world divided between opposing ideologies and economic systems and travel between these two worlds (Communism versus free markets and democracy) was severely restricted. 

And when I graduated in 1989 from the University of Toronto, all this fell apart very quickly. The First Phase of International Development had come to a swift end. 

Above: Pierre Trudeau, John Turner, Jean Chretien and Prime Minister Lester Pearson. Photographed 4 April 1967. Source: Digital Library of Canada. Below: David South photographed at Hillcrest High School, Ottawa, Canada, 1985.

The Second Development Phase

In 1997, I was hired to head the communications office for the UN/UNDP Mongolia mission. It was a pivotal time in international development. With the forces of 'globalization' unleashed (and China's rapid rise already well underway), the UN was clearly also in a period of great change and stress. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and its trading system (Comecon), pitched former Communist countries into severe crisis. Comecon locked-in Soviet Union satellite allied nations (including Mongolia) into a reciprocal arrangement of trade links and subsidies. The Mongolia I arrived in in 1997 was a country in turmoil. Poverty was widespread, food was difficult to get, unemployment was very high, families were falling apart under the stress of the crisis, and people's health was poor, with very high rates of alcoholism and STDs. 

This second phase of international development can be characterized by the international response to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the adjustment to the rapid changes brought about by the forces of globalization. The communications revolution was getting underway at this time as the Internet began to arrive, even in Mongolia, which had been cut-off from full relations with the Western world during the period of Communism. Mobile (cell) phones were around but still a luxury item used by wealthy businessmen or senior government officials. International aid and development was primarily in the domain of large international institutions and bilateral donors. 

UN/UNDP Mongolia played an important role in helping to stabilize Mongolia during the late 1990s and to put in place the foundations for recovery from crisis (called "one of the biggest peacetime economic collapses ever" at the time). Mongolia eventually, briefly, became the fastest growing economy in the world by the second decade of the 21st century.

In the 1990s, the UN was being challenged to think and do things differently and to respond to the communications revolution. This presented a great opportunity to use the Internet and computing to communicate in new ways; to innovate and experiment. Despite its crisis, Mongolia was able to embrace these new ways and was called a "role model" for the wider United Nations by 1999 (the end of my assignment in Mongolia).   

United Nations identity card circa 1997.

UN head of communications for Mongolia, David South (seated front row centre), 1997-1999.

The Third Development Phase

With the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000, it could be argued, a third development phase had begun. The turn of the century was also during the so-called 'Dotcom Bubble' when investment in the Internet economy was peaking, and China was on the cusp of being accepted into the WTO (World Trade Organization) and getting set for another period of rapid expansion and growth. Both phenomenon were fueling greater trade and connectivity, especially between the countries of the so-called "global South". 

The MDGs were an attempt to guide and focus development at the international and national level by setting forth eight goals as a challenge. But, just as these internationally agreed goals were being rolled out, something was quietly happening away from New York. In China, it was clear the country had done something truly remarkable: following its own development goals and plans, China lifted the largest number of people in human history out of poverty in the shortest space of time. Those who are students of history will know how stunning an accomplishment this is: China was once a country held up as a poster child for poverty, political instability, frequent famines, human misery and global isolation. China had been the country featured in the charity and famine appeals pleading for relief and aid, just as the countries in Africa and Southeast Asia were to become.

China's growing export power was also powering globalization. And liberalized trade was powering growth for many countries in Asia and Latin America. This increasing export trade and global connectivity was creating new wealth for many countries and growing the middle classes of the so-called 'global South'. At the same time, the Internet revolution was being joined by the mobile technologies revolution. These communications tools were making it possible to connect with people who had been frozen out of global markets, while simultaneously creating whole new digital economies employing people and creating new wealth.

Beginning in late 2006 after working around the world in various UN missions on assignments related to the MDGs, I began an exciting new opportunity with the then-Special Unit for South-South Cooperation (SSC) (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation - UNOSSC).   

From 9-11 December 2017, I participated in the Workshop on Innovations in Service Delivery: The Scope for South-South and Triangular Cooperation held in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Hosted by the a2i (access to information) division of the Bangladesh Prime Minister’s Office, the implementing unit for Digital Bangladesh, it was convened by the Government of Bangladesh and the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC). Senior Partner David South is third from the left on the panel. Photo: Yoko Shimura

21 Years of Creating International Change | 1997 - 2018

Timeline

Early to Mid-1990s: Covering the United Nations as a Journalist. Stories included the Canadian peacekeeping mission in Somalia (Somali Killings Reveal Ugly Side of Elite Regiment and Does the UN know what it's doing?), debates over the response to the conflict in the Balkans (Peaceniks Questioning Air-Raid Strategy in Bosnia), and what constitutes appropriate food aid (Aid Organization Gives Overseas Hungry Diet Food). In 1993 I covered the World Health Organization's Canada-wide roll-out of the Healthy Cities initiative in the feature Taking Medicine to the People: Four Innovators in Community Health for Canadian Living magazine. In 1996 I covered, from Port-au-Prince, the Canadian UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti for Id Magazine (Haiti Turns to Free-Market Economics and the UN to Save Itself).

1997: Begin a two-year assignment as head of communications for the UN/UNDP Mongolia mission (1997-1999). Called "one of the biggest peacetime economic collapses ever", I was thrown into the deep end as part of the UN's efforts to rescue Mongolia from this severe crisis. I established the award-winning UN/UNDP Mongolia Communications Office (a high-profile and lively hub staffed by media professionals) and quickly developed and launched the award-winning UN Mongolia Development Portal (www.un-mongolia.mn) (called a "role model" for the United Nations). I developed and launched the mission's first newsletter, Blue Sky Bulletin, as well as the first Mongolian Human Development Report, the Mongolian AIDS Bulletin, the UN's and Mongolia's first online magazine, Ger, while overseeing the country's largest bilingual online and offline publishing operation. In Starting from Scratch: The Challenge of Transition, I document the challenge to re-start Mongolia's data collection after it was wiped off the mainframe computers that once stored it during the Communist period (a cautionary tale for our times if there ever was one!). In Freedom of Expression: Introducing Investigative Journalism to Local Media in Mongolia, I give an account of a workshop for Mongolian journalists keen to learn more about the discipline of investigative journalism and how important it is in a democracy. In Partnership for Progress: UNDP in Mongolia, I painted a picture of Mongolia's country conditions in 1997, what was at stake, and how the UN was responding.  

1998: Develop and launch Mongolia's first web magazine, Ger. Lead two international media tours of the country, one in 1997 (Scandinavian media), and the other in 1998 (women journalists). Many stories were generated from the two international media tours and were compiled in books published by UNDP, including  In Their Own Words: Selected Writings by Journalists on Mongolia, 1997-1999 (ISBN 99929-5-043-9). Read an example story here: The Milk of Kindness Flows in a Peculiar Land A Steppe From Nowhere by Leslie Chang (The Asian Wall Street Journal, 15 August 1998). 

1999: Publish many books on Mongolia's development, including In Their Own Words: Selected Writings by Journalists on Mongolia, 1997-1999 (ISBN 99929-5-043-9) and the Mongolian rock and pop book (ISBN  99929-5-018-8). Whilst working for a UK-based international development consultancy, I prepared papers for the American Foundation for AIDS Research, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Harvard Institute for International Development (HIID), for various UN agencies including UNCTAD and UNAIDS, and coordinated the preparation of the report and launch strategy for the World Bank's Task Force on Higher Education.    

2000: My work in Mongolia is covered and cited in various books published after 1999, including Wild East: Travels in the New Mongolia by Jill Lawless (ISBN 97814-5-964-5783), Modern Mongolia: From Khans to Commissars to Capitalists by Morris Rossabi (ISBN 9780-5-209-38625), and Dateline Mongolia: An American Journalist in Nomad's Land by Michael Kohn (ISBN 9781-5-7143-1554)Ukraine. Work on the strategic re-launch of the UN Ukraine web portal and advise on the communications strategy for the UN Resident Coordinator. This is also the year in which the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were launched and the new development portal reflected this in its structure and content. 

2001: Begin work on the development of the award-winning GOSH Child Health Portal for the National Health Service (NHS). As part of the NHS' Modernisation Plan, it was called a "role model" for the NHS and one of the “three most admired websites in the UK public and voluntary sectors,” and was developed and launched under heavy public and media scrutiny. Each stage of the Portal's development would coincide with a high-profile media launch. For example, the Hospital's 150th birthday celebrations included Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and pop star Madonna.  

2002/2003: Win the Childnet Award in 2003 for the Children First website. 

2004: South Africa. Work at the University of Pretoria for UN South Africa on a digital communications and marketing strategy for a youth volunteer organization.  

2005: Turkmenistan and Mongolia. Work for UN missions on an MDGs communications strategy and on the country programme review. 

2006: Turkmenistan. Work for UNICEF. Begin working for the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation (SSC) in New York

2007: Research and write UN e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions for UNDP's Special Unit for South-South Cooperation (SSC). Sample Stories:

Computing in Africa is Set to Get a Big Boost

Ring Tones and Mobile Phone Downloads are Generating Income for Local Musicians in Africa

Dynamic Growth in African ICT is Unlocking Secrets of SME Treasure Trove

Grassroots Entrepreneurs Now Have Many Ways to Fund Their Enterprises

Trade to Benefit the Poor Up in 2006 and to Grow in 2007

Business as a Tool to Do Good

Social Networking Websites: A Way Out of Poverty

Creative and Inventive Ways to Aid the Global Poor

Innovation from the Global South

Youth Surge in the South A Great Business Opportunity

Web 2.0 to the Rescue! Using Web and Text to Beat Shortages in Africa

Mobile Phones: Engineering South's Next Generation of Entrepreneurs

2008: Research and write UN e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions for UNDP's Special Unit for South-South Cooperation (SSC). Sample Stories:

Cyber Cities in the South: An Oasis of Opportunity

Nollywood: Booming Nigerian Film Industry

Illiterate Get Internet at the Touch of a Button

The South Has a Good Story to Tell

Insects Can Help in a Food Crisis

New Weapon Against Crime in the South

Urban Youth: A Great Source of Untapped Growth

Innovative Mobile Phone Applications Storm South

Computer 'Gold Farming' Turning Virtual Reality into Real Profits

Mobile Phones: New Market Tools for the Poor

Reader response experiment begins with crowd-powered news website NowPublic. Initial proposal for the development of book or magazine on innovation. Awarded grant for Cuba study tour by BSHF. 

2009: Research and write UN e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions for UNDP's Special Unit for South-South Cooperation (SSC). Sample Stories:

Debt-free Homes for the Poor

DIY Solution Charges Mobile Phones with Batteries

Cashing in on Music in Brazil

Solar Powered Village Kick-Starts Development Goals

Rebuilding After Chinese Earthquake: Beautiful Bamboo Homes

Making the World a Better Place for Southern Projects

Growing a Southern Brand to Global Success: The Olam Story

Afropolitan: African Fashion Scene Bursting with Energy

Diigtal Mapping to put Slums on the Map

Adjust e-newsletter content based on reader responses. Begin posting content on Twitter platform.

2010: Begin development of the new global magazine Southern Innovator with the UN's Special Unit for South-South Cooperation (SSC) and a design team in Iceland led by Solveig Rolfsdottir. The magazine was produced to the UN's design standards, as well as abiding by the UN's Global Compact. With production in Iceland, the magazine could be designed and laid out using 100 percent renewable energy sources.

Develop and launch the new branding for David South Consulting and its website, davidsouthconsulting.com, all designed by one of Iceland's top graphic designers and illustrators, Solveig Rolfsdottir

2011: Launch the first issue of Southern Innovator Magazine at the GSSD Expo in Rome, Italy.

It is called “a terrific tour de force of what is interesting, cutting edge and relevant in the global mobile/ICT space…”. Launch www.southerninnovator.org website (now www.southerninnovator.com) and social media including Twitter account @SouthSouth1. 

To avoid censorship and interference, Southern Innovator's editorial operations were based in London, UK and its design studio was based in Reykjavik, Iceland (a high-ranking country in the World Press Freedom rankings and a former top place holder in the UNDP Human Development Index). Using a women-led design studio, it developed a design vision that could communicate across borders using clear graphic design and high-quality images. For example, when it launched in 2011, infographics were rare in development publications and at the UN; now they are commonplace. It also tried to be as  ‘green’ as possible. The studio was powered on 100 per cent renewable energy (in particular, geothermal energy); the hard copy of the magazine is printed on paper from renewable forests. 

2012: Launch second and third issues of Southern Innovator Magazine at the GSSD Expo in Vienna, Austria.

Called a "Beautiful, inspiring magazine from UNDP on South-South innovation.”

With 201 Development Challenges, South-South Solutions stories posted on the NowPublic platform, a total of 336,289 views by 2012 had occurred, according to the NowPublic counter. 

2013: Launch fourth issue of Southern Innovator Magazine at the GSSD Expo in Nairobi, Kenya.

Called “fantastic, great content and a beautiful design!” and “Always inspiring.”. 

2014: Launch fifth issue of Southern Innovator Magazine at the GSSD Expo in Washington, D.C. U.S.A. The Twitter account @SouthSouth1 called “ one of the best sources out there for news and info on #solutions to #SouthSouth challenges.” Final issues of e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions published.  

The two publications proved influential on a number of fronts, being early to draw attention to the following: the rising use of mobile phones and information technology in development, the world becoming an urban place, innovative food solutions including the nascent insect food sector (now a big thing), altering perspectives on what is possible in Africa, the use of data science to innovate development, and tracking the growing number of technology hubs and the fast-growing start-up culture in the global South. The publications were cited for shaping the new strategic direction adopted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (the UN’s leading development organisation) and its first youth strategy, and the development of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As the world’s first global innovator magazine, Southern Innovator’s design had to be appropriate for a diverse audience. It has drawn praise for being both “beautiful” and “inspiring”, while its use of sharp, modern graphic design and infographics inspired others in the UN to up their game when it comes to design. 

2015: Develop scale-up plan for Southern Innovator Magazine.

South-South cooperation and innovation have now become the key methodology for the UN’s delivery of its programmes and projects. In 2015, China pledged US $2 billion to “support South-South cooperation” and called for the international community to “deepen South-South and tripartite cooperation”. In development parlance, they have been “Mainstreaming South-South and Triangular Cooperation” in their plans.

The current policy vogue for innovation in developing and developed countries can trace its roots back to some of the early work done by these two publications (and which was further amplified by the annual Global South-South Development Expo (GSSD Expo), which often would feature innovators from the two publications, spreading the innovation message around the world). Both publications had set out to inspire and “champion a global 21st century innovator culture”. And they have done this, as can be seen from concrete evidence and anecdotal responses from individuals and organizations alike.

UN Bribery Scandal

After the arrests in 2015 related to the unfolding UN Bribery Scandal (read more on this here: The Strange Saga of "South-South News"), the budget for the UNOSSC was suspended pending the outcome of two internal audits conducted by the United Nations (Statement Concerning the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation). The second audit can be found online here: https://www.scribd.com/doc/307245166/OIOS-Audit-of-Ng-South-South-News-OIOS-Cut-Out-Ban-Photo-Op-with-Ng-at-UNCA-Ball.

UNDP (the United Nations Development Programme) had the following to say about the UNOSSC's senior management up to 2015 under the Directorship of United Nations Envoy for South-South Cooperation, Yiping Zhou, calling it "unsatisfactory":

"The United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) is an independent entity created by the General Assembly in 1974, General Assembly resolution 3251(XXIX), to support cooperation among developing countries.

UNOSSC receives its mandate and policy framework from General Assembly decisions and resolutions. UNOSSC also serves as the Secretariat of the High-level Committee (HLC) on South-South Cooperation, a subsidiary body of the General Assembly.

UNOSSC is hosted by UNDP and, as is the case with similar entities, is expected to follow UNDP rules and regulations, including those pertaining to financial and HR management. UNOSSC is likewise subject to UNDP’s oversight and due diligence instruments.

UNDP’s Office of Audit and Investigation (OAI) recently published an Audit of UNOSSC which rated the Office ‘unsatisfactory’.

The Audit makes 16 recommendations with the objective of improving UNOSSC’s effectiveness in the areas of: governance; programme and project activities; and operations." Excerpt from Statement (5 May 2016)

The retirement in 2016 of Southern Innovator's Editor-in-Chief, Cosmas Gitta, meant the magazine lost its strongest advocate within the UNOSSC and thus was not included in the next budget post-audits. 

The US investigations by the F.B.I. (Federal Bureau of Investigation) leading to arrests and subsequent court trials from 2015 onwards, were joined by Australian authorities in 2018. These revelations and confessions paint a picture of a high-level, multinational criminal conspiracy to launder money and pay bribes at the United Nations that also included the collusion and aid of various senior UN officials at the time. Not only do these revelations offer new context to Southern Innovator's attempts to gain future support from the UNOSSC, they explain why Southern Innovator faced extensive obstruction, deception and unethical and unprofessional behaviour during this time, despite the documented success of the magazine and its associated e-newsletter to reach and inspire readers, while shaping UN strategic policy on innovation (Strategic framework of the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperatio, 2014-2017).   

2016: Many books have been published citing stories from the e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions and Southern Innovator Magazine. They include: Beyond Gated Communities edited by Samar Bagaeen and Ola Uduku (Routledge: 2015), Chile in Transition: Prospects and Challenges for Latin America's Forerunner of Development by Roland Benedikter and Katja Siepmann (Springer: 2015), Export Now: Five Keys to Entering New Markets by Frank Lavin and Peter Cohan (John Wiley & Sons: 2011), Innovation Africa: Emerging Hubs of Excellence edited by Olugbenga Adesida, Geci Karuri-Sebina and João Resende-Santos (Emerald Group Publishing: 2016), New Directions in Children's and Adolescents' Information Behavior Research edited by Dania Bilal and Jamshid Beheshti (Emerald Group Publishing: 2014), A Sociological Approach to Health Determinants by Toni Schofield (Cambridge University Press: 2015). 

Many papers have been published citing stories from the e-newsletter and the magazine. They include: Afro-futurism and the aesthetics of hope in Bekolo's Les Saignantes and Kahiu's Pumzi by Mich Nyawalo, Journal of the African Literature Association, Volume 10, 2016, Issue 2, Autonomous Systems in the Intelligence Community: Many Possibilities and Challenges by Jenny R. Holzer, PhD, and Franklin L. Moses, PhD, Studies in Intelligence Vol 59, No. 1 (Extracts, March 2015), Decoding the Brand DNA: A Design Methodology Applied to Favela Fashion by Magali Olhats, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina Florianopolis, 2012, Edible Insects and the Future of Food: A Foresight Scenario Exercise on Entomophagy and Global Food Security by Dominic Glover and Alexandra Sexton, Institute of Development Studies, King’s College London, Evidence Report No 149, September 2015, Evaluation of Kenyan Film Industry: Historical Perspective by Edwin Ngure Nyutho, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Nairobi, 2015, Evaluation of the Regional Programme for Africa (2008-2013), UNDP Independent Evaluation Office, 2013, High-level Committee on South-South Cooperation Seventeenth Session: Framework of operational guidelines on United Nations support to South-South and triangular cooperation: Note by the Secretary-General, 22-25 May 2012, New York, The New Middle Class and Urban Transformation in Africa: A Case Study of Accra, Ghana by Komiete Tetteh, The University of British Colombia, 2016, Propagating Gender Struggles Through Nollywood: Towards a Transformative Approach by Nita Byack George Iruobe, Geonita Initiative for Women and Child Development, 17 July 2015, Reberberation: Musicians and the Mobilization of Tradition in the Berber Culture Movement by TMG Wiedenkenner et al, The University of Arizona,  2013, Recasting ‘truisms’ of low carbon technology cooperation through innovation systems: insights from the developing world by Alexandra Mallett, Innovation and Development, 5:2, 297-311, DOI: 10.1080/2157930X.2015.1049851, Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, 2015, "Slam the Slums": Understanding architecture through the poor by Malini Foobalan, November 26th, 2009, Song Lines: Mapping the South African Live Performance Landscape: Report of the CSA 2013 Live Mapping Project Compiled by Concerts South Africa, Samro Foundation, 2013, Strategic Framework of the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation, 2014-2017Executive Board of the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Population Fund and the United Nations Office for Project Services, 27 to 31 January 2014, New York, Wearing Your Map on Your Sleeve: Practices of Identification in the Creation and Consumption of Philippine Map T-shirts by Pamela Gloria Cajilig, paper presented at the 6th Global Conference (2014): Fashion: Exploring Critical Issues, Mansfield College, Oxford, United Kingdom, 15th to 18th September 2014,  Young Girls' Affective Responses to Access and Use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Information-Poor Societies by Dania Bilal et al, New Directions in Children's and Adolescents' Information Behavior Research, Library and Information Science, Volume 10, Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2014, Youth Empowered as Catalysts for Sustainable Human Development: UNDP Youth Strategy 2014-2017United Nations Development Programme, Bureau for Development Policy.

Testimonials

“The e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions proved to be a timely and prescient resource on the fast-changing global South, tracking the rise of an innovator culture driven by the rapid adoption of mobile phones and information technology … 

“In 2010, work began on the development of the world’s first magazine dedicated to the 21st-century innovator culture of the global South. My goal was to create a magazine that would reach across countries and cultures, meet the UN’s standards, and inspire action. Southern Innovator was the result. Mr. [David] South played a vital role in the magazine’s development from its early conception, through its various design prototypes, to its final global launch and distribution.  

“Both the e-newsletter and magazine raised the profile of South-South cooperation and have been cited by readers for inspiring innovators, academics, policy makers and development practitioners in the United Nations and beyond.  

“I highly recommend Mr. [David] South as a thoughtful, insightful, analytical, creative and very amicable person who has the unique ability to not only grasp complex problems but also to formulate a vision and strategy that gets things done. … ” Cosmas Gitta, Former Assistant Director, Policy and United Nations Affairs at United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) in UNDP 

“I think you [David South] and the designer [Solveig Rolfsdottir] do great work and I enjoy Southern Innovator very much!” Ines Tofalo, Programme Specialist, United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC)

2017: Invited to speak at the Workshop on Innovations in Service Delivery: The Scope for South-South and Triangular Cooperation in Dhaka, Bangladesh.  

2018: 

Stories

Aid Organization Gives Overseas Hungry Diet Food: Diet Giant Slim-Fast Gets Tax Write-off for Donating Products

Somali Killings Reveal Ugly Side of Elite Regiment

Does the UN Know What it's Doing?

State of Decay: Haiti Turns to Free-Market Economics and the UN to Save Itself

Opinion: Canada is Allowing U.S. to Dictate Haiti's Renewal: More News and Opinion on What the UN Soldiers Call the "Haitian Vacation"

Starting from Scratch: The Challenge of Transition

Philippine Conference Tackles Asia's AIDS Crisis

Lamas Against AIDS

UN Contest Winner in "State of Total Bliss"

A UNDP Success Story: Grassroots Environmental Campaign Mobilizes Thousands in Mongolia

Freedom of Expression: Introducing Investigative Journalism to Local Media

Traffic Signs Bring Safety to the Streets

Eco-cities Up Close

Smart Cities Up Close

Stories: Development Challenges, South-South Solutions | 2007

Stories: Development Challenges, South-South Solutions | 2008

Stories: Development Challenges, South-South Solutions | 2009

Stories: Development Challenges, South-South Solutions | 2010

Stories: Development Challenges, South-South Solutions | 2011

Stories: Development Challenges, South-South Solutions | 2012

Stories: Development Challenges, South-South Solutions | 2013

Stories: Development Challenges, South-South Solutions | 2014 

Books + Publications

A Steppe Back?: Economic Liberalisation and Poverty Reduction in Mongolia

Blue Sky Bulletin Newsletter UNDP Mongolia | 1997-1999

Human Development Report Mongolia 1997

In The Interests of the Exploited?: The Role of Development Pressure Groups in the UK

In Their Own Words: Selected Writings by Journalists on Mongolia, 1997-1999 

Innovations in Green Economy: Top Three Agenda

Lima to Delhi: What Can Be Learned on Urban Resilience?

Mongolia Update - Coverage of 1998 Political Changes

Mongolian AIDS Bulletin 

A Partnership for Progress: UNDP in Mongolia 1997

Pax Chaotica: A Re-evaluation of Post-WWII Economic and Political Order

The Sweet Smell of Failure: The World Bank and the Persistence of Poverty

Southern Innovator Magazine Issue 1: Mobile Phones and Information Technology

Southern Innovator Magazine Issue 2: Youth and Entrepreneurship

Southern Innovator Magazine Issue 3: Agribusiness and Food Security

Southern Innovator Magazine Issue 4: Cities and Urbanization

Southern Innovator Magazine Issue 5: Waste and Recycling 

Southern Innovator and the Growing Global Innovation Culture: Background Paper 

South-South Cooperation for Cities in Asia

UNDP in Mongolia: The Guide | 1997-1999

UNDP Travelling Seminar: Environment and Development | Mongolia 1998

What is the Next Agenda for the Next 21 Years?: The Fourth Development Phase?

Update: I will publish this in the new year after the holidays. Keep checking back for this post. 

Further Reading

Peacebuilding: The Twenty Years' Crisis, 1997-2017 by David Chandler, Palgrave, 2017

© David South Consulting 2018 

Wednesday
Jan102018

US-Mongol Construct 2000 Business Prospectus: Building a New Democracy | 2000


Researcher and Writer: David South

Consultancy: David South Consulting

Publisher and Client: USAID

Published: 2000

Background: This excerpted text is from a business prospectus prepared in 1999 for USAID to promote construction opportunities in Mongolia to the US construction industry. At the time, Mongolia was in the grip of a severe crisis, called one of "the biggest peacetime economic collapses ever". By 2012, Mongolia was called the "fastest growing economy in the world". It is proof the foundations for Mongolia's recovery from crisis were laid in the late 1990s.

“No other Asian country enjoys more political freedom today than Mongolia. And no other Asian country has shown greater commitment to open markets. But Mongolia has received little reward for its efforts.” Fortune Magazine, December 1998

Discover a New Democracy

Mongolians are some of the highest per capita donor recipients in the world: On average US $50 per person. The vast majority of this aid is targeted at infrastructure projects. Mongolia in 2000 is an opportunity waiting for American business. Democratic, with a free market economy, the country offers regulatory freedom, a belief in the private sector setting standards and a pro-Western attitude friendly to American companies. 

Mongolia's history is marked by the rise and fall of cities, the ebb and flow of political and economic systems. The country has experienced being the largest empire for its time in the 13th century, to being occupied by foreign powers. Economically and socially the country has lived through feudalism, communism and now, capitalism. The one thing that has remained stable throughout this rich history has been the nomadic way of life. Livestock remains to this day a major pillar of the economy and contributes to one of the country's major foreign currency earners, cashmere wool. 

After over 70 years of communist rule, Mongolians finally turned their backs on communism and robustly embraced free markets and democracy in 1996 with the election of the Democratic Coalition. A gradual opening up of the country had begun under the ruling Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party after the collapse of the Soviet Union and under pressure from peaceful public demonstrations.  

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the country suffered what many economists have called the largest peacetime economic collapse in the 20th century. 

While it is a fact that Mongolia's economy is severely underdeveloped, both in terms of infrastructure and diversity, it is also true the country is the freest in Asia. As Fortune Magazine noted in a December, 1998 issue, "No other Asian country enjoys more political freedom today than Mongolia. And no other Asian country has shown greater commitment to open markets. But Mongolia has received little reward for its efforts." Mongolia, for American business, offers a win-win situation, an opportunity to join in the building of a strong democracy in Asia while tapping the rich resources, both natural and in human capital. American businesses can enjoy a regulatory environment that is more flexible than in the United States, and a government that lets businesses do what they do best: serve the needs of customers and make money. 

Youthful

A Bright Young Future

Demographically, Mongolia is a very young country. A by-product of high birth rate policies during the communist period, 60 per cent of Mongolia's population are aged between 1 and 24, with 37.6 per cent between the locally accepted definition of youth of 15 to 34. In 1998 the New York Times Magazine called Mongolia "The youngest place on earth". Even a cursory glance at the streets of the capital, Ulaanbaatar (population 600,000), will reveal a young population taking their fashion and cultural cues from the West, and who hold correspondingly Western aspirations to own homes and start businesses. Mongolia enjoys exceptionally high rates of literacy ( 96 per cent), post-secondary enrolment (65,089 students in 1998) and the urban population quickly embraced Western consumer products as they became available. 

Growing

The Construction and Environmental Services Industry in Mongolia

Today, Mongolia officially has 100 architectural and engineering design companies and over 500 construction companies. Of these, 40 are considered large operations with their own in-house design and engineering outfits, or who have a close relationship with one or more companies that either manufacture or import construction materials. The country is a rich resource for raw materials for the construction industry, but this vast wealth remains under-utilised. According to geological surveys spanning the decades from 1930 to the 1990s, over 200 deposits were discovered that could be tapped for construction materials. 

At the beginning of the 20th Century, there were few permanent standing structures in Mongolia, apart from Buddhist monasteries and royal palaces. At the beginning of the 20th Century most Mongolians lived in the round ger felt tent. It wasn't until the communist revolution that construction of sedentary dwellings and buildings in the country picked up pace. In 1924, three years after the 1921 revolution, the State Committee for Construction was established (by 1926 it became the Construction Department of the Ministry of Industry), and undertook the large-scale construction of buildings based on European designs. 

From the 1960s the construction industry in Mongolia emerged as the country industrialised. Mongolia received aid from both China and Russia up to the Sino-Soviet dispute, and both countries were the main funders for construction projects. Many buildings in the downtown of the capital were built by the Chinese government.

Up until the election of the Democratic Coalition in 1996, all construction activities were conducted under the direction of the state. Building booms took place in the 1970s and 1980s as the communist government tried to meet the demand for apartments and other facilities. At its peak in 1989, the construction sector made up 10 per cent of the gross national product. With the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of the 1980s, many building projects in Mongolia ground to a halt as Soviet subsidies were withdrawn.  Across the country it is possible to see the empty shells of apartment buildings, holiday resorts and half-built sports stadiums.

The Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party, under popular pressure for a change, began to gradually make the shift to free markets and democracy. The first state privatization programme began in 1993 under the direction of international experts. It wasn't until the election of the Democratic Coalition in 1996 that significant reforms were taken to fully introduce a free market economy. And it wasn't until 1997 and 1998 that the fruits of these measures started to appear.

The construction industry was fully privatised in 1998, with companies becoming limited or wholly owned entities. There now exists a mix of private and public companies in this sector. All of the companies are in the early stages of learning how to work and prosper in the free market.

The legacy of working under a command economy has left many companies ill-equipped and under-funded, many not operating at full capacity or not at all.

The private sector has shown itself to be capable of initiating real estate development projects, most commonly the building of private apartments, shopping complexes and small hotels.

Weaknesses in management and financing do lead to long delays, poor quality and in some cases, the abandonment of a construction project mid-way.  According to the State Statistical Office, the construction sector shrank from 1991 to 1994. In 1994, activity increased 26 per cent from 1993. Since then the gross national product has averaged growth of 3.3 per cent, but still has not caught up with the rate at the end of the 1980s. 

The environmental services sector has received a significant boost from international donors working in Mongolia. Various donor funded projects are building and renovating facilities using energy-efficient technology. These donors have also conducted training workshops and education campaigns for local construction companies. Being a very cold country, awareness is high over the financial and environmental benefits of energy-efficient techniques. Construction techniques, however, are weak and Mongolia has a long way to go in utilizing these technologies efficiently.  

It is a misnomer to think most Mongolians are wandering nomads. In fact the majority of the population of 2.4 million now live a sedentary lifestyle in small towns or in the big cities of Ulaanbaatar, Erdenet and Darkhan. Under communism these urban centres were economically dependent on state enterprises, many of  which now have either gone bankrupt, idle or have been privatized. There is currently a significant migration to the capital from these economically devastated communities. Officially the government was able to track 6,518 people, mostly between the ages of 18 and 39, moving to the capital in the first half of 1998 – a 60 per cent increase on 1997. Unofficial migration to the capital is believed to be far higher. 

At present a majority of the population still live in ger tents or sub-standard makeshift wooden housing. The construction industry cannot meet the high demand for modern housing, with amenities like running water, toilets and electricity.

“The business atmosphere in Mongolia is inviting and [our] partnership has faced very few obstacles while entering the market. Based on our positive experience here, we plan to continue and expand our presence in the Mongolian marketplace.” Mrs. Bolormaa Reiner, Representative Johnson and Johnson-Mongolia

Foreign Aid

Economic Prospects for the Country

Large donor community

Along with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Mongolia also lost significant economic subsidies, which contributed to the severe crisis of the early 1990s. The World Bank has estimated these subsidies reached a third of Mongolia's GDP in the late 1980s. Since then international donors have played a key role in helping to restructure the Mongolian economy to adapt to the demands of a market economy.  

Infrastructure has always been a weak point for Mongolia, and it was considered the most isolated and underdeveloped of the former Soviet bloc countries. International donors have placed infrastructure development at the top of their agendas. Since 1997 foreign aid in the form of grants and loans has hovered around US $250 million, with the vast majority of this aid going towards infrastructure development. Priority areas are highways and transportation, power stations and communications. By sector the aid breaks down as follows: 30 per cent to mining, 27 per cent to energy, 19 per cent to transport, eight per cent to communications, five per cent to social security and three per cent to other areas. The donor community and the Mongolian government want to dig the country out of decades of underdevelopment, which currently hampers the budding private sector from becoming more sophisticated. 

These large-scale infrastructure projects offer enormous opportunities for US firms experienced in working in cold-weather conditions. There are also opportunities to develop world class office space for these international donors, something that is currently lacking in Ulaanbaatar.  

Foreign investment to date

Actual large-scale foreign investment to the country has been slow coming and still doesn't represent a major economic opportunity. The major players in direct foreign investment outside of development aid have been Mongolia's old neighbours, Russia (20 per cent) and China (33 per cent). This decade the country has attracted US $200 million in foreign investment and registered 840 jointly owned or wholly owned ventures.

New-found affluence

It is estimated that around five per cent of the capital's population fit into a middle or upper income category. The late 1990s have seen the emergence of a new breed of affluent Mongolians. Many of these affluent Mongolians struck it rich trading in once-unobtainable consumer products or servicing the expanding foreign community. This class of traders have developed a sophisticated taste for all things Western – Mercedes Benz cars, four-by-four jeeps and western fashions. Vehicle registrations have steadily risen since the introduction of a market economy. In 1996 the number of vehicles was 65,020; by 1997 it was 70,088. 

New home owners

In 1998 50,000 families became homeowners as a result of privatization of apartments. All the apartments are of Soviet era and do not meet the aspirations of the growing middle class. Many of these new homeowners immediately set about renovating these apartments, installing modern appliances and furniture. A significant minority is renovating apartments with the intention of selling them on to wealthier Mongolians or foreigners. The high number of renovations and additions to buildings in the capital is also indicative of other things: the economy has changed and existing buildings do not meet the new demands, and that people have money to pay for the renovations. 

Business Opportunities

USAID has identified the following opportunities in the Mongolian construction sector:

- Donor-funded projects: Large-scale infrastructure projects that are funded by loans or grants from international donors, are a safe bet. These projects require management and technical expertise that is often difficult to find locally. This includes projects that require an international tender.  

- Fully funded foreign projects: Any project requiring a building that meets international standards. International companies have little choice when it comes to finding adequate office or retail space.

- Low-cost labor: The Mongolian workforce is highly literate and often speak a second language, usually Russian amongst older workers, and English amongst the young. Unemployment levels are high in Mongolia and workers are keen to get a job. Generally salaries are as follows:

- Manager: US $250

- Accountant: US $200

- Engineer: US $150

- Secretary: US 100

- Driver: US $100

- Qualified worker: US $100

Source: FIFTA

- Donors: Many large-scale projects are directly funded by donor grants or loans and therefore are a low-risk, reliable source of income. At the June, 1999 donors meeting in Ulaanbaatar, US $320 million was pledged, the largest amount in eight years of donor funding. Most of these pledges are targeted at “hard” infrastructure and private sector development. 

- Imports rule: Imported construction materials dominate the marketplace and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Many of the materials are poor quality and from China. American companies can attract customers with their obvious advantages in both quality and innovation.

- Large resource base: Mongolia's large wealth of mineral resources is inefficiently utilized, with many mines and factories working under capacity or not at all. These resources could be tapped to produce construction materials locally for the domestic market, or more lucratively, for the booming Chinese market hungry for resources. 

- Very cold country: Mongolia's capital, Ulaanbaatar, is the coldest capital in the world. Mongolia's winters dip below minus 40 Celsius, and for those who live in apartment buildings, this can be a difficult time. Many apartments are inadequately insulated, and dip below zero when the central heating system is disrupted due to poor maintenance. There is an urgent need for high-quality aluminium and plastic windows and doors. Budgets are tight in Mongolia yet many organizations spend vast sums to heat buildings. It has been proven that during the course of the winter heating costs can be reduced from Tg 4,200 (US $4.20) per square metre, to Tg 280 (US $0.28) in an energy efficient dwelling. 

-  Windows are expensive: Mongolia must import all windows and glass products. When the cost of freight is added, windows become an unnecessarily expensive portion of any construction bill. This is a business opportunity for any company who can domestically produce glass products and windows at a cheaper price than imports. A National Code for Insulation of Buildings is being revised and none of the existing windows and doors meet this requirement.

- No chemical industry: While Mongolia exports oil to China for refining, the country does not have a domestic chemical industry, and consequently plastic and rubber is imported for construction purposes. Stone tiles like marble are currently also imported from outside, despite this resource being available in Mongolia.  

- Central heating and water unreliable:  For those who live in apartment buildings, the regular disruptions to both the water and heating supply are not only inconvenient, but also bad for business.  Technology that can by-pass relying on the central system (common to many Soviet-era cities, this system is wasteful and subject to regular breakdowns), is urgently needed. Alternative energy sources like solar power and wind can bring electricity to those who are not on the grid.  

- Free trade zones: The towns of Sukhbaatar (Russian border) and Zamyn-Uud (Chinese border), both served by rail, are the focus of Mongolian government attempts at increasing cross-border trade. At Zamyn-Uud Japan has upgraded the customs house facilities and trans-shipment facility. On the Chinese side, a major trading market has been constructed and a boom is taking place based on trade with Mongolia.  

“Arthur Andersen has had representation in Mongolia since 1993. We have been very active in the development of the accounting and auditing profession in Mongolia. January 1999, Arthur Andersen opened Arthur Andersen Mongolia Audit LLC.” Mr. C. L. Ruddell, Representative Arthur Andersen-Mongolia

What Do Mongolians Say They Need?

In interviews conducted by USAID, Mongolian government officials and construction companies detailed what they felt were the most urgent priorities: 

- Education and training: The vast majority of engineers and managers in the Mongolian construction industry received their training under communism. They were trained to work under a centrally planned economy, and will need to learn how to thrive in a free market situation where there are no guarantees. The Construction Training Institute currently only offers courses to managers and engineers. Its curricula is out-of-date and awareness of modern construction techniques and standards is weak. Exposure to computer-assisted construction methods is urgently required as well as training in foreign languages. 

- Awareness of International Standards: No Mongolian companies can offer state-of-the-art consulting on construction projects. 

- Licensure, apprenticeships and guilds: Standards are very weak in the construction sector and there is not a highly developed mechanism to ensure construction managers, engineers and workers meet a minimum qualification.     

- Being Earthquake-proof: While the National Design Codes and Regulations do stipulate that buildings must meet minimum requirements against earthquakes (Mongolia is located in a seismically active region, and severe earthquakes have happened), most buildings post-1989 fail to meet these requirements. 

- Weak infrastructure: Developing the transportation infrastructure of Mongolia will be key to future improvements in the economy. The rapidly developing Chinese economy offers many opportunities to Mongolia if roads and highways can be upgraded.  

- Better coordination and promotion: Working with FIFTA or the Foreign Investment and Foreign Trade Agency, Mongolian companies seeking foreign investment for projects need to improve their networking and presentation skills.  

Obstacles and Market Risks

Corruption: While Mongolians will tell you corruption has reached all levels of government, it is important to keep in mind it does not come close to the levels of corruption found in other former Communist countries. Foreign businesses do not suffer from harassment or intimidation by criminal gangs. 

Inexperience with the free market: Foreign businesses and travellers to Mongolia do experience difficulties communicating Western business concepts like consumer rights and service. It has to be said that over the past three years this has changed considerably for the better, and continues to improve as Mongolian businesses learn the importance of the axiom "the customer is always right". 

Differences between Mongolian and US standards: While Mongolia's regulations and laws are different from those in the US, it is important to keep in mind that the regulatory environment in Mongolia can be much freer in some areas. Also, many of the new laws have been drafted based on US laws and Mongolia's constitution was written upon the advice of US legal experts. 

Harsh climate: The long cold winters do present problems for some foreign businesses not used to working in cold-weather climates. This is also an area where American companies are at a specific advantage. 

Financial instability: Mongolia has had a number of serious banking crises since the early 1990s. Many private and public banks are insolvent due to bad loans. This can lead to long delays to construction projects and/or non-payment of salaries.   

Contract bidding: Only those contracts that are directly commissioned by the government will be subject to an open bidding. Private sector work is usually not subject to open bidding or design competitions. 

Downtime: Since Mongolia does no international corporate presence in the capital, any technical problems to equipment or software can involve downtime and delays as parts or repairs are sought in China. It is important to take this into consideration when establishing an operation in Mongolia. 

Advantages of Working in Mongolia

- Regulatory freedom

- Private-sector driven

- Market economy taking off

- Democratic

 Privatization of Land: Can I Own Land in Mongolia?

The dual legacies of communism and nomadism have made the issue of private ownership of land in Mongolia a thorny one. The government has passed the necessary legislation to make owning land in urban areas possible. However, inexperience with the concept of owning property and the laws that govern this make buying land risky. It is advisable to get a reliable local partner and to use the services of a law firm that knows the Mongolian situation. Long-term leases are available and might be a good option. 

Mongolian Government 

Financial commitment to date: 

The Ministry of Infrastructure Development has developed projects to encourage the production of construction materials locally. Due to financial constraints these projects have not been implemented. They include projects on cement, glass and paint production, rock processing, lime extraction and road development.

Government plans:

At this time the Mongolian government has not been able to develop a long-term strategy for the development of the construction sector. There are no specific policy incentives directly supporting real estate and housing development. The Ministry of Infrastructure is looking to the private sector to offer direction and guidance. 

Future Opportunities

The Tumen River Project: The eastern portion of Mongolia is included in a major trade zone development project initiated by the United Nations Development Programme. The Tumen River Area Development Programme (TRADP) is focusing foreign investment and infrastructure upgrading on eastern Mongolian, North-East China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and eastern Russia. This region has cumulatively attracted US $961 million from 1991 to 1997, with Mongolia's second biggest trading partner, China, making significant development gains.  While the Democratic People's Republic of Korea has been a thorn in the Project's side, both Mongolia and China are keen to push ahead with improving infrastructure and trade links. It is impossible to ignore the fact that China has made significant gains and that trade links with Mongolia continue to tighten. 

A feasibility study is currently underway on a railway link from Arxan, China to Choibalsan, Mongolia, and possibly on to Ulaanbaatar. As donors begin to fund these projects it would be prudent for American businesses to start building a relationship in the region to take advantage of future contracts. 

Commercial Street 2005: The City of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia's capital and commercial centre, has drafted the blue prints for the construction of a modern commercial and business centre for the next millennium. Commercial Street 2005 will offer infrastructure and services that match global standards. The current Soviet-era infrastructure of Ulaanbaatar is an impediment to future growth and is unsuitable for Mongolia's new market economy. 

The project covers 20 hectares of 1 km length in a historically vibrant part of the city. The city will pay for the engineering and infrastructure works for the complex and local businesses will pay for the construction of secondary buildings. Commercial Street 2005 is looking for foreign investment to participate in the building of a food supermarket, trade and service complex, a twin-towered international trade and service complex, a banking centre, a business centre and renovations to nearby apartment buildings. It is estimated the project will create 10,000 jobs and would cost an estimated US $100 million. 

Darkhan: With a population around 55,000, Darkhan is as-yet an untapped opportunity. Located north of  Ulaanbaatar and close to the border with Russia, Darkhan is linked by a good road and rail. Along with the mining town of Erdenet, Darkhan has a modern infrastructure. Having been trained to work in the former state industries that once dominated the city, the population is well-educated and skilled. Today, coal mining and agriculture are key to the economy. The city is potentially a good stable base for accessing the Russian market.

Getting started

Registering prior to undertaking construction work is relatively simple. The Government Agency for Construction issues three degrees of licenses. The first license is for small projects, the second is for small to medium-sized projects, and the third is for large-scale projects anywhere in Mongolia. As the project develops the company is obligated to notify and allow local building inspectors to enter the site. 

Residency Permits

All foreigners wishing to remain in Mongolia for more than 30 days must apply to the State Centre for Civil Registration and Information for a temporary residency permit or a short-term residency permit. 

Temporary Residency Permit

The applicant must present to the State Centre for Civil Registration a request issued by FIFTA. FIFTA will issue such a request to any agreed foreign investor immediately. Permits are generally issued within a couple of days and are valid for a period of time from three months to one year. A temporary residency permit can be renewed an unlimited number of times. Each renewal will re-validate the permit for a period from three months up to one year, as requested by the investor. 

Short Term Residency Permit

This non-renewable permit is issued to foreigners who plan to spend no more than 90 days in Mongolia. Applicants are required to present a written request from a Mongolian or foreign organization stating the activity in which the person will be engaged and the reason the permit is needed. In case of an exploratory visit by a potential investor, a letter from the home company will suffice. 

Entry Visas

Investors may apply for single-entry and multiple-entry visas at the Foreign Ministry's Chancellery Building in Ulaanbaatar or at Mongolian diplomatic missions in other countries. 

Single-Entry Visas

A single-entry visa is valid for three months from its date of issuance and entitles the bearer to enter and stay in Mongolia for 30 days. A letter of invitation or applicable work papers are required. This type of visa is issued at the Ulaanbaatar airport or land border-crossing point. 

Multiple-Entry Visa

A multiple-entry visa entitles the bearer to enter and exit Mongolia an unlimited number of times and is valid for a period of six months to one year. For the issuance of this type of visa, an official letter stating the reason for travel and a copy of the certificate of the organization must be submitted by the investor. 

(Source: FIFTA)

Infrastructure facts

Airports – Mongolia has 81 airports, of which 31 can be used year-round. Only eight are paved. 

Roads and highways – Mongolia has 1,531.7 km paved roads.

Railway – Mongolia has 1,750 km of rail track, mostly a north-south line reaching from Russia to China, with spur lines to the copper mining city of Erdenet and the coal mining city of Baganuur. A short line goes from the eastern city of Choibalsan to Russia. 

Registered trucks - 25,473 (1998)

Major infrastructure projects (1997-1999)

USA 

Mongolia energy sector project - US $45,500,000

World Bank

Mongolia coal project - US $35,000,000

Transport rehabilitation project - US $32,313,000 

Asian Development Bank

Telecommunications - US $24,381,000

Power station rehabilitation - US $38,277,000

Ulaanbaatar heat efficiency project - US $29,487,000

Provincial towns basic urban services project - US $7,695,000

Road development - US $22,499,000

Ulaanbaatar airport project - US $37,524,000

Japan

Road construction (1996)  - (Yen) 11,590,000

Rehabilitation of power plant IV (1995) - US $46,000,000

France 

Rehabilitation and extension of UB telephone network - (F Franc) 25,000,000

Germany

Telecommunications - (DM) 10,000,000

South Korea

Thermoelectric power plant in the Gobi desert - US $8,000,000

Upcoming major infrastructure projects

Asian Development Bank 

Improving Ulaanbaatar heat efficiency (until 2002) - US $39,785,000 

Japan

Building of rural schools - US $20,000,000

In 1998 Tg, 208 billion was invested in Mongolia, of which Tg 57.2 billion was on construction/major improvements

Source: State Statistical Bulletin

Construction trends in Mongolia show that in-country production of materials has suffered greatly. 

Building doors and window

Tg 417.8 million in 1989

Tg 2.9 million in 1998 

Bricks (million pieces)

172.8 (1989)

18.9 (1998) 

Cement (in thousand tons)

512.6 (1989)

109 (1998)

On a positive note, sales of furniture went up

Tg 34.7 million in 1989

Tg 185.2 million in 1998

US-Mongol Construct 2000: Building a New Democracy was published by USAID. It helped lay the foundations for a construction boom in the mid-2000s.
© David South Consulting 2018  
Saturday
Dec162017

Southern Innovator in Dhaka, Bangladesh: Public Service Innovation Workshop | December 2017


Southern Innovator issues 1 and 5 at the Bangladesh workshop on public service innovation, 9-11 December 2017, and the launch of the South-South Network.

The following blog report does not reflect the views of the UNOSSC or UNDP. 

Dateline: Dhaka, Bangladesh (9-11 December 2017) - From 9-11 December 2017, I participated in the Workshop on Innovations in Service Delivery: The Scope for South-South and Triangular Cooperation held in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Hosted by the a2i (access to information) division of the Bangladesh Prime Minister’s Office, the implementing unit for Digital Bangladesh, it was convened by the Government of Bangladesh and the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC).

I was asked to do a presentation for the health component of the Workshop on my past experience in public sector digital innovation. This work stretches back to the beginning of the roll out of the Internet in the late 1990s. I chose three projects I have led that had a large and significant impact in the digital public space: the UN Mongolia development web portal I launched and ran for two years (1997-1999), the GOSH Child Health Web Portal I launched and ran for two years (2001-2003) and the Southern Innovator brand I launched for the UNOSSC (2010-2015). 

I also joined a panel discussion as Senior Partner representing the David South Consulting/David South International consultancy at the end of the last day (we have worked with the UNOSSC since 2007 and with UNDP since 1997 - a timeframe which saw the rise of the Internet and the mobile and information technology revolution take the global South by storm). 

As the Workshop invitation letter says, “The digitization of service delivery, user-centric methodologies, and experimentation geared towards improvement in service delivery, and the data revolution may have originated in developed countries but is now of increasing relevance for the developing world. To respond to rapidly rising expectations of the citizens, governments in both developing and developed countries are embracing approaches and tools to adopt more citizen-centric approaches in their service delivery. These practices are establishing a culture of citizen-centric innovation within governments, breaking silos of operations and helping move towards a whole-of-government planning and execution.”

According to the a2i, Bangladesh has the “world’s largest government web portal” comprising over 25,000 government websites for 43,000 government offices (Bangladesh’s population was over 162 million as of 2016 - World Bank). Bangladesh has one of the highest population densities in the world and is considered the 8th most populace country in the world (Wikipedia). In total, these government websites receive 60 million plus hits a month, according to the a2i, from an online population of 79.7 million people, nearly half the population.

A lot is at stake: According to the World Bank (which has been supporting the country since 1972), “Bangladesh has made substantial progress in reducing poverty, supported by sustained economic growth. Based on the international poverty line of $1.90 per person per day, Bangladesh reduced poverty from 44.2 percent in 1991 to 18.5 percent in 2010, and is projected to decrease to 12.9 percent in 2016.

The country achieved the MDG 1 on halving poverty five years ahead of time, with 20.5 million people rising out of poverty during the 1991-2010 period. In parallel, life expectancy, literacy rates and per capita food production have increased significantly.  Progress was underpinned by strong economic growth, with 6 percent plus growth over the decade and reaching to 7.1 percent growth in 2015/2016. Rapid growth enabled Bangladesh to reach the lower middle-income country status in 2014.      

However, sustained growth has rapidly increased the demand for energy, transport and urbanization. Insufficient planning and investment have resulted in increasingly severe infrastructure bottlenecks.”

Arriving in the capital, Dhaka, on the 9th of December, it was clear to see what the World Bank is highlighting: the “severe infrastructure bottlenecks”. Just like other megacities, Dhaka is clogged with traffic and suffers from the air pollution this causes (one of the worst cities for this in Asia). But these are just the visible signs of success if you think about it (as frustrating as that might be), as booming economies combined with rapid urbanisation, if not planned well, tend to lead to traffic congestion and high levels of air pollution. 

The country’s rising living standards since 2000 and impressive gains in the provision of information and mobile technology services and connectivity, reveal a country brimming with potential and capable of getting a handle on its many development challenges. The streets are visibly lined with small and medium enterprises and there are construction projects in various states of completion all around Dhaka. At the airport, glossy posters advertise many real estate developer’s dreams and show-off the heavy construction equipment for sale or lease from China and Russia. 

The population no longer suffers from food crises such as the 1974 famine, which killed 1.5 million people (Christian Science Monitor). According to the UN, Bangladesh cut chronic hunger by half since 2000 and is considered one of the success stories from the past 10 years that the rest of the developing world can look to as they push to eliminate hunger by 2030 as part of the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) (https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Foreign-Policy/2015/0617/From-famine-to-food-basket-how-Bangladesh-became-a-model-for-reducing-hunger). Clearly, Bangladesh is a country that can get things done when it draws on the power of its population.  

According to Digital Bangladesh, with a deadline of 2021, it has achieved half its goals to get the population online and its economy and government services online. In 2017, the country made US $800 million from exporting ICT (information and communication technologies) products and services. It is currently building 12 hi-tech parks with the ambitious goal to export US $10 billion in ICT services from them by 2030 and make US $5 billion by 2021. 

The streets of Dhaka. Workshop

Sharing ideas at the Workshop.

Speaking at the Workshop, Anir Chowdhury, Policy Advisor to the Access to Information  (a2i) Programme of the Prime Minister’s Office, believes the concept of South-South Cooperation (SSC) is about enlightened self-interest but at present there is no framework for SSC in Bangladesh and most cooperation is ad hoc. If global South countries are not cooperating, then they are just re-inventing the wheel, he added. SSC is about avoiding feeling each country has to make it own their own: SSC can facilitate development leapfrogging and prevent leaving country success to chance. However, there needs to be better ways to communicate Southern solutions.

And Bangladesh has a good story to tell to the global South: To date, Bangladesh’s digital public service delivery has saved the country US $2 billion in cost for government services plus 1 billion man days in time spent trying to carry out tasks using government services, according to the a2i. With this success under their belts, the hope is to market Bangladesh as a world leader in innovation. To go from MDGs poster child to leader of the global South. 

UNOSSC Director and Envoy of the UN Secretary-General on SSC, Jorge Chediek (https://www.unsouthsouth.org/about/unossc-director/), emphasised the need to tell stories of how South-South is changing the world; the pressing need to change the narrative around the global South in order to be able to achieve the 2030 agenda.

It was an honour to be invited to present my three case studies on public sector digital innovation (GOSH Child Health Portal, Southern Innovator Magazine and the UN/UNDP Mongolia Development Portal). All three share the same characteristics: a public demand for digital resources and a need to create high-quality content on limited budgets and to build public confidence in those resources. These projects were also engaging with enormous complexity and needed to find a way to simplify this for online readers.

I was impressed by the level of debate at the Workshop, and how Bangladesh’s digital initiatives are communicated (the excellent use of infographics and simple step-by-step explanations), and the overall excitement and energy around digital and the digital economy in Bangladesh. But, importantly, the foresight to give attention to the coming wave of automation and robotics (the so-called fourth industrial revolution) and how this will affect Bangladesh. 

In the health workshop, we shared two projects for the reverse engineering component: the GOSH Child Health Portal and the magazine Southern Innovator (link to PowerPoint). Using the Reverse Engineering tool (see images below), each project was broken down as to how it worked and also what was its contribution to South-South Cooperation. 

I shared experience from the early days of digital public innovation in the late 1990s. This has included applying digital to crisis recovery, healthcare modernisation in the early 2000s, and the campaign to achieve the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals), as well as during the mobile/information technology and social media revolution in the global South, which took off after 2007. 

Reverse Engineering

GOSH Child Health Portal (2001-2003)

Issues discussed here included the recent online fake news scandals and how important it is for the public sector to offer the antidote to this with quality, factual digital information and resources. The GOSH Child Health Portal was one good example, where it entered the crowded online medical and health information marketplace and succeeded in drawing a large online audience by offering high-quality, peer-reviewed resources, thoroughly fact-checked and proofread and presented using high-quality online design. By the end of the project’s two-year timeframe, it was receiving over 7 million hits a month and was acknowledged as a trusted global source in child health. The content is cited in many books and papers, as well. 


Reverse engineering GOSH Child Health Web Portal, 2001-2003.

Southern Innovator Magazine (2010-2015)

Throughout the Workshop, I heard over and over again about the urgent need for a more cohesive platform for sharing Southern innovations and initiatives. Many complained this was currently very fragmented. While there are many media and development organisations documenting innovations and stories, there is no one-stop shop for countries to go to. 

The Southern Innovator brand (incubated and developed by the UNOSSC) is a good example of what can be achieved with a more cohesive and strategic approach. Southern Innovator, first launched in 2011 by the UNOSSC, was able to leverage its limited resources to reach a large global audience via the web and social media. The brand became established with innovators and five issues were published (from 2011 to 2015). An Action Plan for scaling-up the Southern Innovator brand was also developed with the UNOSSC in 2015 (but awaits funding). 

The original Southern Innovator website (southerninnovator.org, now southerninnovator.com) did fulfil the role of offering a one-stop shop for stories on global South innovation and these stories were widely cited in websites, papers and books on the global South. But the terrain has shifted radically in the global South - and at the UN - since Southern Innovator’s launch in 2011. With the widespread adoption of mobile and digital technologies, the opportunities to communicate innovator solutions have never been better but require a more sophisticated approach to be effective. In fact, we now exist in a world where the solutions already exist to the major problems affecting the global South (and even the funding is available through many sources). The problem is not the lack of solutions, innovators or technologies and business models to resolve problems (both e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions and Southern Innovator proved this) but how people can access these resources and in a format that makes sense to them and is available when they are searching for a solution. With modern computing technologies, this is no longer an unsolvable problem. And the people to connect with to do this also already exist in the global South. What is missing is a coherent and cohesive approach. The multiplicity of development actors in this case are hampering effective action by dissecting and scattering resources, leaving end-users confused and poorly communicated with in many cases. As an example, there was a definite need to assist people in understanding how the 17 SDGs can fit into practical actions and a definite psychological need for simplicity: a problem highlighted by former UNDP head Helen Clark back in 2015 (https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2015/jul/07/sustainable-development-goals-will-be-hard-sell-for-united-nations).

For UNDP, with its human development approach and presence in most countries, an opportunity exists to rapidly accelerate development gains and shorten the time it takes to recover when disaster or conflict strikes. Something that came out of the Workshop is the presence of excellent examples of global knowledge sharing already underway for decades around the world. Think of the scientific community in general (working on vast projects such as the CERN facility in Switzerland), or aerospace industries, or the global adoption of the principles of air safety managed by IATA in Montreal, Canada, or sport - all proof countries do successfully share knowledge and adopt common, high standards when they feel it is a priority and necessity. No country wants to be frozen out of flight routes, for example. 


Reverse engineering the Southern Innovator magazine brand, 2010-2015. 

Panel Discussion

At the closing panel discussion, I was asked how to engage more donors to be part of the South-South Network. I said there is a need to get people excited and show why the South-South Network is different; how it is related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). There needs to be a communications strategy and to establish some ambitious first goals that are original: to show that this is part of a clear trend. International aid and development is a crowded space so there is a need to show how the Network would tackle the challenges of the global South in the 21st century head-on, with a more effective solution. And of course, I championed the existing and successful Southern Innovator brand developed by the UNOSSC since 2010 as, potentially, part of this communications strategy. 


Senior Partner David South is third from the left on the panel. Photo: Yoko Shimura

Finally

This impressive embracing of e-initiatives and all things digital was visibly missing at the airport. On the way in, long lines and then a confusing scramble to buy a visa created confusion for visitors. As the first impression for visitors, this could be a great place to show-off Bangladesh’s digital capabilities. 

And finally, as the World Bank says, this all about job creation and increased living standards: “The World Bank has identified job creation as the country’s top development priority. Bangladesh needs to create more and better jobs for the 2.1 million youths entering the job market every year. But to do so, Bangladesh will need to remove the barriers to higher growth posed by low access to reliable and affordable power, poor transportation infrastructure, limited availability of serviced land, rapid urbanization and vulnerability to climate change and natural disasters, among others. “

Bangabandhu International Conference Center hosting Digital World 2017 and Dhaka's Shahjalal International Airport.

Further reading and links: 

South-South in Action: Citizen-friendly Public Service Innovation in Bangladesh

Digital Bangladesh: Digital Service for All

GOSH Child Health Web Portal

UN/UNDP Mongolia Development Portal 

Southern Innovator and Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

© David South Consulting 2017 

Thursday
Dec142017

Featured in New Book Busted: An Illustrated History of Drug Prohibition in Canada | December 2017


Upon my return from a United Nations workshop in Dhaka, Bangladesh, I was delighted to receive a copy of the new book Busted: An Illustrated History of Drug Prohibition in Canada (Fernwood Publishing, 2017, ISBN 978-1-55266-976-1) by Professor Susan Boyd from the Faculty of Human and Social Development at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada. 

Busted: An Illustrated History of Drug Prohibition in Canada by Susan Boyd (Fernwood Publishing).

It is a beautifully illustrated book and an excellent introduction to Canada's unique history surrounding drug use and drug prohibition. As the country embarks on a new phase in its relationship to some drugs, the book gives the bigger picture that many Canadians are probably unaware of. Canada had a period of extensive social experimentation in the late 1960s and early 1970s, defying perceptions the country is 'boring' and where excitement doesn't happen.

A feature we did for Toronto's Watch Magazine in 1994 (in which I was Editor-in-Chief) is on page 124 in the chapter on The Counterculture Movement: The 1960s and 1970s.

"Peace, Order and Good Pot" by Bill White from Toronto's Watch Magazine in 1994.

Acknowledgements page from Busted: An Illustrated History of Drug Prohibition in Canada by Susan Boyd.

© David South Consulting 2017 

Friday
Nov172017

David South Consulting Online for Seven Years | November 2017

 


When it first launched in 2010, the David South Consulting (davidsouthconsulting.com) website was beautiful but sparse. Designed by one of Iceland's top graphic designers and illustrators, Solveig Rolfsdottir, it was basically an online CV (curriculum vitae). 

A lot has happened since: the new global magazine Southern Innovator was launched, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) came to an end in 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) launched, and the UN adopted an innovation and South-South agenda, and so did many other countries, including China. And the content of the website has expanded to reflect this. The entire archive of the influential United Nations e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions can be found here, as well as many resources chronicling the international development journey from the late 1990s.   

We even moved to a new studio and headquarters next to a bird sanctuary and nature reserve (matching our green words with green actions)!

The front page of the David South Consulting website.   

About David South Consulting.

 

Services at David South Consulting. 

David South Consulting had an Alexa rank of 7,243,014 in 2017.

David South Consulting international clients.

Practice Zones and HQ and Studio for David South Consulting.© David South Consulting 2017