Later this month, Mongolia will host the 7th ministerial conference of the Community of Democracies (CD), an intergovernmental forum of democracies formed in 2000 at the initiative of Bronislaw Geremek of Poland and Madeleine Albright of the United States. Several civil society events will accompany it.
The April 2013 conference in Ulaanbaatar will be an occasion for the CD to further reinvigorate its agenda. Mongolia, which currently holds the CD presidency, offers a number of lessons to offer that could contribute to the organization’s recommitment to its objectives, especially emphasis on the interdependence between poverty, development and democracy.
The case of Mongolia on poverty and democracy is instructive. The country started transitioning to democracy over twenty years ago and, for almost as long, the rate of poverty has stood at 30 percent and above. In the 1990s, much of it could be attributed to the disruptions caused by changes in its political and economic system. Harsh weather has been an intermittent factor, too. But no significant progress has been registered in later years, when the economy has grown at an annual average of 9 percent in the past decade.
The lesson to be drawn from (Mongolia's) experience is that, early on in the transition process, new democracies should put economic liberty and transparency on a par with other democratic values such as regular elections, rule of law, human rights, freedom of association and freedom of speech.
Eradication of poverty and the building of democracy go hand in hand, and we can learn a lot from Mongolia's experiences.
The impending Community of Democracy discussions in Ulaanbaatar will provide Mongolian leaders both in government and in civil society with an opportunity to reflect on the current status of the country’s MDGs on poverty reduction and democratic governance and commit to their acceleration.
Since the next CD ministerial will take place in 2015, only a couple of months removed from the global gathering on development, the Ulaanbaatar CD ministerial is an opportunity for democracies to start working together to include the democratic principles of accountability, transparency and participation into the post-2015 poverty eradication agenda.