Since the fall of socialism in the early 1990s, Mongolia has moved steadily towards a free-market democracy. But the most important decisions continue to be made by the central government, without consulting local administrations and affected citizens. The mining boom in Mongolia is generating unprecedented revenues for the state, but decisions concerning the use of these revenues are also taken by the highest state authorities.
From passive obedience to participation
Mongolians continue to be affected by the legacy of the socialist era: citizens tend to passively obey authorities. As a result, Mongolians do not participate in decision-making processes because they believe their opinions have no influence. In addition, there are few established channels through which the communities can effectively discuss and decide matters regarding their local administrations.
In order to tackle these challenges, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) launched a Governance and Decentralisation Programme together with the Government of Mongolia in April 2012. The programme will assist the Mongolian government to reform the centralised administrative system and to delegate more powers to the local authorities.
Political decentralisation: all voices count
Local communities will learn why their opinions are important and how they can become involved in local government affairs and decision-making processes. All citizens, including nomadic herders, will be able to engage with their local governments in different ways and hold public officials accountable for the services rendered.
Consequently, citizens will be better informed, more concerned about local development issues and they will be able to influence local decision-making. Citizens will realise that their voices count and that they can make a difference in their communities. Local governments, in return, will become more responsive to the peoples’ needs and deliver higher-quality services.
Fiscal decentralisation: using funds to improve lives
The new Budget Law of Mongolia introduces a new source of grant funding that did not exist before: the Local Development Fund. With this fund investments will be made to improve citizens’ quality of life. The law specifies that local governments must involve their communities in the planning and budgeting processes. In addition, amendments to the Public Procurement Law of Mongolia open up new opportunities for small, local businesses to provide government services that are increasingly being outsourced. The SDC programme will help the Government of Mongolia to effect the new laws at the local level.
Administrative decentralisation: less time in queues
Citizens spend hours queuing, or days knocking, at different doors to access such public administrative services as civil registration, social welfare and insurance. It is even harder for poor urban residents and herders living in remote areas as they need to spend time and money to travel to the nearest administrative centre for these services.
The SDC has already gained experience in improving Mongolia’s public service delivery with the introduction of the One-Stop-Shops (OSS): citizens can access various public services under one roof and by «knocking» at one door. Customers save up to 70 percent time using the One-Stop-Shops.
The new SDC programme will build on the achievements of the OSS project and expand it further by simplifying public service delivery processes and introducing new forms of technology-based service delivery, such as via mobile phone messaging.
Co-ordinated decentralisation efforts
In the past few years, the Government of Mongolia and its development partners have implemented various activities that contributed to the decentralisation process. However, these efforts were ad hoc, disconnected and often lacked solid evidence. The Governance and Decentralisation Programme will build on existing knowledge and conduct additional analyses that will help policymakers to develop strategies to advance the decentralisation process in Mongolia.