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Mongolia - Introduction

Mongolia is the only successful, functioning democracy through the entire expanse of inner Asia from the Pacific Ocean to Eastern Europe. But Mongolia's transformation into a democracy and market economy is far from complete; democratic behavior and norms have yet to be institutionalized. There is a pervasive lack of transparency in government transactions; corruption, including widespread disregard for conflict of interest among elected and appointed officials.

Mongolia is the Poland of Asia, stuck between two much larger and more powerful states. Mongolia is a landlocked country with a large territory [1,564,116 km2, the 19th largest country], and a small population [3,180,000 people, ranked number 135, just behind Uruguay], sandwiched between the world's largest country, Russia, and the world's most populous country, China. The end of the Cold War, disintegration of the Soviet Union and the collapse of the socialist system have given rise to a brand new external environment around Mongolia. The foreign policy priority of Mongolia is not to adopt the line of either of these two countries but maintain a balanced relationship with both of them. The end of the Cold War allowed Mongolia, for the first time since the 17th century, to chart its own future, and explore new opportunities to determine its national security.

Despite increasing urbanization and industrialization, nearly half of the population lives either by the traditional methods of pastoral nomadism--moving their herds (sheep, horses, cattle, goats, and yaks) from one area of temporary sustenance to another--or in a close symbiotic relationship with the nomads. Despite its hardships, the nomadic life provides Mongols with national values and a sense of historical identity and pride.

The Mongolian Armed Forces comprise 5 components: General Purpose Troops, Air Defense Forces, Construction Corps, Civil Defense Forces and Mobilization Reserves. The Border Troops and Internal Troops are defined as "Other troops" which become part of the armed forces in a state of war with a foreign country or a state of war. The Mongolian People's Army had been comprised one Combined Army which had four motor rifle divisions and service branch units; air defense troops; air force; civil defense troops and a number of independent units assigned for border protection.

Mongolia's armed forces represent a compromise between national identity and practical reality. As of 2009 there were three national-level armed services, only one of which fell under the Ministry of Defense: the 12,500-man Mongolian Armed Forces. The Ministry of Justice oversees the Border Forces (13,000 soldiers out of the 18,500 strong General Border Protection Board, which also includes Customs and Immigration personnel) and the Internal Troops (approximately 4,000). An additional disciplined service, the National Emergency Management Agency, reports directly to the Deputy Prime Minister and is responsible for civil defense, fire and disaster response.

In late 1989, Mongolia saw its own democratic revolution that led to a multi-party system and the transition to a market economy. In 1990, Mongolia switched from a political communist system to a democratic system which respects human rights and where citizens have free and open participation. The State Great KKhural is the highest legislative branch, the Government is the highest executive branch and the Courts at all levels are the judicial branch. The Executive Government is appointed by the Parliament, and it reports to the Parliament. The President of Mongolia is the head of State and the symbol of the unity of the State. Judicial power is exercised only by the courts in Mongolia. At present 18 political parties are registered and approximately 38 percent of all adults are registered as members of a political party. The number of civil society organizations is also increasing. The administration of Government revenues is relatively centralized making local governments largely dependent on the central Government. Since 1990, Mongolia has pursued an open, multi-faceted and pragmatic external policy in line with its national interests.

The area of what is now Mongolia has been ruled by various nomadic empires. The Mongol Empire was founded by Chinggis Khaan (Genghis Khan) in 1206. In the 16th and 17th Centuries, Mongolia came under the influence of Tibetan Buddhism. At the end of the 17th Century, most of Mongolia had been incorporated into the area ruled by the Qing Dynasty of China. In 1911, Mongolia declared independence, but had to struggle until 1921 to firmly establish de-facto independence, and until 1945 to gain international recognition. As a consequence, it came under strong Russian and Soviet influence.

Mongolian Culture has been heavily influenced by the nomadic way of life. The rich heritage of nomadic culture is very much in place in Mongolia especially in rural areas. Approximately 35 million head of livestock supply the staples of Mongolians’ diets. The other important influence is from Tibetan Buddhismi. Traditional Shamanism was, except in some remote regions, suppressed and marginalized. In the 20th century, Russian and European cultures had a strong effect on Mongolia.

Mongolia's economy is centered on agriculture and mining. It has rich mineral resources and copper, coal, molybdenum, tin, tungsten and gold operations account for a large part of its industrial production. Economic growth has improved in the recent past from 4 percent in 2002 to 9.9 percent in 2007. With spiking international commodity prices there has been a surge of international interest to invest in the Mongolian minerals sector. How effectively Mongolia mobilizes private international investment around its comparative advantages (mineral wealth, small population, and proximity to China and its burgeoning markets) will have a major role in determining its rate of economic growth in the future.

Most of the country is hot in the summer and extremely cold in the winter, with January averages dropping as low as - 30°C. Precipitation is highest in the north (annual average of 30 to 40 centimeters (cm)) and lowest in the south, which receives 5 to 10 cm annually. Land area consists largely of dry grazing land with only 9.1 percent of the country having forests. Mongolia has unique biodiversity and a range of endangered plant and animal species. Major environmental concerns include loss of biodiversity, increasing desertification, air pollution in the capital city and the illegal utilization of toxic chemical substances in mining.

Mongolia is the world’s first UN-recognized single-State Nuclear Weapon Free Zone. Moreover, Mongolia ’s nuclear-free status has received the endorsement of all nuclear states, as well as of the entire international community. The country’s nuclear weapon-free status is making a specific contribution to strengthening the regional peace and stability.

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Page last modified: 01-07-2012 18:53:58 ZULU