Project Management


Entries in human development report Mongolia 1997 (2)


You Heard It Here First: Influencing Perspectives on the Global South | 24 June 2014



In 2013, UNDP launched its yearly global human development report ( The theme was the “Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World”. For those who have been following our e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions, or, been reading our magazine Southern Innovator, this will not come as a surprise. Both the e-newsletter and the magazine have consistently championed a new perspective on the global South and have shown through solid evidence that a fundamental shift is underway in the world. Both publications have been influential in shifting perspectives and priorities, and most importantly, in drawing attention to the plentiful abundance of innovators: all part of a global innovation culture. As can be seen below, the seeds of the HDR can be found in the first issue of Southern Innovator, launched in 2011.

The cover for the 2013 Global Human Development Report and its theme “The Rise of the South”.

SI Prototypes

In 1997, I was the Managing Editor for Mongolia’s first national human development report. The challenge was to deliver a report that reflected the new thinking on poverty expressed in the 1997 global human development report – that it was possible to apply human know-how to eradicate poverty within a generation – and to communicate the story of Mongolia’s turbulent transition years in a way that placed the people at the centre of the narrative, and to do it during a major economic crisis. The team decided to take a sharply different approach to the design of the report, placing the photograph of a child on the cover and using children’s illustrations throughout the report. It showed that human development is not just a series of charts and statistics, but is about making life better for the country’s large youth population. The cover also had a minor adjustment to how the title is presented, discarding the staccato breaking up of the words human and development, to run them side by side as “Human Development”. A subtle change but one that was picked up by the global human development report in its future editions. The report also chose to use its design and printing as a spur to improve the publishing industry in Mongolia. Devastated by the economic crisis, the domestic printing companies lacked the resources and skills to publish to modern standards. Working with a Mongolian publishing company, the large print run of the report (20,000 copies) was able to transform the company’s fortunes, enabling them to purchase new computers and equipment.

Human Development Report Mongolia 1997.
Human Development Report 1997 The 1997 global human development report and the 2013 human development report.




© David South Consulting 2017


Transforming How the UN Communicates in a Crisis | 11 November 2010

From 1997 to 1999, I led the communications office for the United Nations in the Northeast Asian country of Mongolia. The country was buffeted by two major crises: the economic and social chaos wrought by the transition from the command economy of the previous Communist system, to free markets and democracy – called at the time the largest peacetime economic collapse since WWII – and the Asian Crisis of the late 1990s.

I established the UNDP Mongolia Communications Office (have a look at some of the publications in Google Books), and began to transform how the UN communicated within Mongolia, as well as outside the country. The Office pioneered a structure and strategy that has since been modeled by the UN around the world. The Office was one of the first UN missions to go online and was praised in a global UN survey for having the fourth-best UN website in the world. When the UN won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001, it was communications initiatives like the UNDP Mongolia Communications Office which were cited as a major factor in the awarding of the Prize. The Office pioneered online and offline communications, and broke new ground. The country’s first human development report was one such case.

As can be seen, the MHDR eschewed obscure graphics for its cover and instead focused on the story of the Mongolian people during the transition years. It featured case studies telling of the hardships of that time and took a radically new approach to how human development reports were launched in a country. The MHDR was free and was distributed across the country, backed up with an intensive media campaign and road show. The popularity of the MHDR was such that a second run of 10,000 copies was published. Unlike many other reports and publications by international organisations, the MHDR was designed, laid out and published in Mongolia. This was a critical initiative in kick-starting the Mongolian publishing industry, badly hurt by the economic crises. The process of producing the MHDR introduced a modern approach to publishing and media publicity and was the catalyst for a new design movement in Mongolian publishing. Some examples are below:

© David South Consulting 2017