April 12, 2017

As part of a series on the Leaders Advancing Democracy Mongolia (LEAD Mongolia) program, World Learning sat down with program participants to learn more about who they are, what they learned from LEAD Mongolia and how they plan to use their experience back home.

LEAD Mongolia is a two year initiative run by World Learning with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which aims to bring together aspiring leaders from Mongolia to the United States to learn about democracy, and how they can work together to tackle Mongolia’s most pressing issues, including corruption, poverty, discrimination, urbanization and the environment.

Civil society leaders in Mongolia are working hard to address persistent government corruption, a problem they say undercuts economic and social progress for citizens across the country.

It’s a decades old problem for the young democracy. A 2005 report by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) highlighted that the country suffered from a lack of transparency and access to information, an inadequate civil service system, limited political will and weak government institutions.

Seven years later, in 2012, Mongolia’s former leader Nambaryn Enkhbayar was arrested on live television and charged with five counts of corruption. He was jailed for four years after being found guilty of taking television equipment intended as a donation to a monastery, and charges relating to the illegal privatization of a hotel and publishing house.

Despite his arrest, Enkhbayar’s activities are just the tip of the iceberg, according to Battulga Chambu, a LEAD Mongolia Fellow and government employee who is committed to fighting corruption.

“Corruption has become one of Mongolia’s biggest issues,” Chambu says.

Chambu is a supervisor at the Government Procurement Agency of Mongolia in Dornod, a province in East Mongolia. His agency was created in 2012 to foster transparency in the 21 provinces across the country, and to provide support for public and private sectors working to reign in official corruption. But Chambu says despite the recognition of the agency, corruption remains prevalent, and prevents citizens from accessing independent information, financial statistics or news.

“In my opinion, corruption is the root of all problems in Mongolia. If you defeat this problem, then other problems we face will become better,” says Chambu. He argues that one of the best tools is education, and he wants to start a program that gives high school students information about laws and teaches them how to avoid corruption.

Chambu participated in the LEAD Mongolia program to learn how he can help tackle corruption and transparency issues. He says the program taught him how to organize civic action plans, and exposed him to the American experience and culture — the kind of cross-cultural collaboration that will help leaders like him to find the answers to Mongolia’s thorniest problems.