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Statement by the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights at the 23rd session of the Human Rights Council: Report on her mission to Mongolia

28 May 2013

Mr. President, distinguished delegates,

I have the honour of presenting my report following a country visit to Mongolia in December 2012. I extend my gratitude to the Government of Mongolia for its support and cooperation during the visit.

In recent years Mongolia has rapidly risen to lower middle income country status, with its national economy expected to triple by 2020.. Despite the significant growth rate, economic prosperity has not been inclusive. It has failed to reach the most vulnerable in society and has not been translated into a significant reduction in poverty.

I recognize the significant challenges facing the Government in its endeavours to eradicate poverty and I welcome the positive commitment it has already made during its short time in office in identifying the fight against poverty as one of its key focus areas going forward.

I am concerned however that implementation gaps in almost all social policies, combined with a lack of consistency at the policy making level, have hindered progress in poverty reduction. It is essential that a coordinated multi-sectoral strategy is developed to address these weaknesses, along with mechanisms to monitor progress and ensure accountability.

People living in poverty in Mongolia face many challenges in the realization of their rights, including limited access to justice, housing and land, as well as social security.

My report highlights several gaps in the current social protection system. I welcome the Government’s overall intention to strengthen the human rights approach to its social protection programmes, and the efforts made so far to depoliticize it. However I would urge the State to develop a comprehensive system to ensure that the poorest of the poor are reached as a matter of priority, with the aim of progressively achieving universal coverage for all those in need.

It is essential to establish equal access to services without discrimination and take positive actions to enable access by those who suffer from structural discrimination such as women, persons with disabilities and ethnic minorities.

Given that corruption can seriously undermine the capacity of the State to fulfill its responsibilities towards people living in poverty, tackling corruption must be a priority. This is of particular relevance today due to the large investment projects in the country, especially in the mining sector. I commend the steps taken so far, and would encourage Mongolia to improve local government legislation, establish a zero tolerance policy against corruption and ensure accountability at all levels.

Poverty in Mongolia has had a disproportionate effect on women, particularly those belonging to female headed households. I acknowledge the establishment of a solid legal framework and implementation strategy on gender equality, however I am concerned that the deep-rooted stereotypes relating to the roles and responsibilities of women and men in the family and society has prevented many women from equally participating in economic and political life. Domestic violence is also an issue of considerable concern.

A lack of sustainable investment in children’s rights has meant that in practice many good policy provisions are not sufficiently enforced. I commend the significant progress made in providing free and compulsory education, however I am concerned by reports that children from poor families are less likely to receive education higher than primary or lower secondary level. Children from herder households living in remote areas of the country and children from families who have migrated to the city are particularly vulnerable to violations of their right to education, as are children with disabilities. Violence against children, child labour and the use of children as jockeys are also issues of concern that impede children from enjoying their basic human rights in Mongolia.

As well as women and children, persons with disabilities, nomads and herders, ethnic minorities, internal migrants, persons living with HIV/AIDS and LGBT persons are also extremely vulnerable to poverty in Mongolia and my report outlines recommendations to overcome the economic deprivation and social exclusion that they face.

In conclusion, I take this opportunity to commend the steps already taken by the new Government to tackle inequality; increase employment generation and improve the effectiveness of poverty reduction measures. I call on the State to redouble its efforts to reduce poverty, and to ensure that the current economic growth is sustainable and will benefit the poorest and the most vulnerable in society. I believe that with continued political will and the coordinated implementation of a robust poverty reduction strategy Mongolia can tackle the current challenges and make impressive strides in the fight against poverty in the near future.