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Strong relationship between the U.S. and Mongolia continues to grow

Interview - February 14, 2014
Piper Anne Wind Campbell is the U.S. ambassador to Mongolia. In this interview with Worldfolio, she talks about the fruitful relationship between the U.S. and Mongolia, educational ties, the country’s successful efforts to eradicate corruption and the fantastic work of the U.S. Peace Corps in the country
Please share your thoughts about the evolution of the relationship and the key ties that you aim to strengthen as the major representative of United Sates in Mongolia’s territory?

The main goal of the embassy is to reinforce socio-economic and commercial cooperation, along with cultural matters. There is already a strong relationship between the United States and Mongolia. Just recently, in November 2013, we held what is called the annual bilateral consultations between the United States and Mongolia in Washington.

The deputy foreign minister was the head of the Mongolian delegation. We discussed quite a wide range of topics.  

I point out that consultation because I think it illustrates the depth and breadth of the U.S.-Mongolia relationship. We have a strong focus on growing the economic and commercial cooperation between the two countries, but we also have strong people-to-people ties, including a really vibrant Peace Corps program, and I hope that perhaps some of the people who read about Mongolia in your insert might contemplate comingto Mongolia and volunteering through the Peace Corps. We also have the Fulbright program which sends both Mongolian students to study in United States universities, but also brings Americans to do research and study in Mongolia.
Moving to education: what kind of initiatives are you currently implementing in order to transfer know-how and expertise to the Mongolian education system? What lessons can be learnt here from the United States education system?

We are very pleased with the establishment of the American University in Mongolia. We think that creates additional opportunities for cooperation with U.S. educational institutions. In fact many U.S. institutions of higher education already have partnerships with different institutions here in Mongolia. I think the fact that Mongolia has a highly literate population (98% literacy) is an important fact to note, and I have to say that since the day I arrived one of the things that has impressed me the most about Mongolia is the sophistication of the population. It’s highly educated. I wish that I spoke foreign languages as well as many of the Mongolians with whom I interact do.

Whether it's when I am getting out of Ulaanbaatar and visiting villages and cities like Khovd or Darkhan or when I interact with students here – high school students, university students – I am really impressed with how much they know and how globally connected they are. We also have a fantastic alumni association called MASA. It’s made up of Mongolian Alumni of U.S. studies. These are Mongolians who did either short or long term studies in United States and have returned. 
Can you tell us about the transparency agreement signed between both countries? 

When the transparency agreement is in full effect between the United States and Mongolia, the government of Mongolia will have committed to having draft laws available in English in advance of their passing.  

This is especially relevant for laws on commercial business issues. And it will allow interested or effected stake holders to understand what is contemplated.  Also, when new U.S. businesses come into Mongolia, the agreement means that the laws of Mongolia will be available to them, easily understood, and that the implications for business will be easily understood. Mongolia’s signing of the transparency agreement and the passing of the new investment law are two strong signals of the government of Mongolia's intent to create a welcoming environment for foreign direct investment.

On your opinion, what are the main challenges concerning corruption in Mongolia? How do you see the government’s strategy to end it?

I am really pleased with the work that the U.S. government has funded through our USAID program -- The work that we funded with the government to address different aspects of the corruption challenge. We recognize especially that rapidly growing economies face the challenge of corruption.  

A key question is: what is the government, what are people, what is civil society doing about it and how do they improve? The IAAC (Independent Authority against Corruption) is a Mongolian entity which was created a couple of years ago to address specific issues related to corruption. USAID has worked through The Asia Foundation and Mercy Corps to seek to assist both the Independent Authority against Corruption, as well as strengthen the government at both the national and the local level. There are surveys produced every six months, which track Mongolian perceptions of corruption.

Those are available from the Sant Maral Foundation. I think it’s interesting to note [from the survey data] that Mongolians are decreasing their emphasis on corruption as a problem which is impacting them, and they are increasingly positive in terms of their perception of the effectiveness of the IAAC. The work that U.S. government has been able to support in this area has been very important in engaging civil society especially at the local level. 
Can you tell us about the Peace Corps and how you would like to see Mongolia and the United States working more closely together?

We usually have 140 volunteers in Mongolia at anytime. We are very focused in having our volunteers working throughout Mongolia, especially in areas outside of Ulaanbaatar. I think that the U.S. Peace Corps program is the preeminent program to bring international volunteers to work in Mongolia. We have been here for over 20 years. Just last week I spoke to a group of our current volunteers, who are working in education, in health, in small enterprise and in supporting communities. The American volunteers, the people who are here, are not only young, I should add.

In many cases, we have people who have recently retired – or who are looking for a life change – that look to the Peace Corps, who know what a great program it is. These people come to work with students, work with health systems here, and when I talk to them they have such passion for what they are doing. 
What message would you like to convey to our readers about Mongolia?

Every official visitor who comes to Mongolia falls in love with this country. It is a country of beautiful vistas, it is a country that is changing and growing so quickly and there are such exciting places to visit, to see animals and nature and things that you can find only in Mongolia, but also then to learn about the culture.

How is the relationship between the United States and Mongolia going to evolve in the coming years?

We are absolutely confident that the strong relationship between the United States and Mongolia will continue to grow; last year we celebrated the 25th anniversary. It will continue to shift from being a development-based relationship to being a vibrant economic and commercial relationship that will support the interests of both the Mongolian and American people.