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President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj - 'Mongolia can play a more active role globally'

Interview - January 15, 2014
In an interview with United World, the President of Mongolia Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj talks about the inspiration of his family, the evolution Mongolia’s young democracy and a foreign economic policy that is seeing the country form stronger relations with countries such as the United States
With the death of Nelson Mandela recently, the world is a more saddened place. He was a very inspirational leader who fought for equality, human rights, anti corruption and income equality. Where does your courage come from to tackle these issues that Mongolia is enduring?

Regarding Nelson Mandela I would like to say that he was a unifier when the world was divided, he faced adversity when the world needed it most. Even when I was at school I used to hear about Nelson Mandela, he stood as a beacon of equality and democracy, a real leader of his people, he became president when he was 73 years old, even then he did not pursue his captors that imprisoned him for all those years, he was very composed and a true example of civility, compassion and humility.
I would have to say that it’s in my family where I get my inspiration. I was the youngest son of a herder, in a family of eight boys. I would have to say my mother was a real inspiration to me.  She made all the clothes we wore, the food we ate and was exceedingly hardworking on a daily basis. It was this hardworking atmosphere, sharing with others, sharing successes and failures together, that really formed who I am today.
I think when talking about democracy in Mongolia, we have to see it as a collaboration with other nations, its no good just focusing on Mongolia, we must see what others are doing, constantly learning and improving. We must respect each other.

For example in Singapore, a reporter once asked me, what do you think about China, will it become a democracy or not? What formula of society can produce the strong economic growth experienced by China? China has more than five thousand years of history. If the economy is robust people know that there will be peace alongside its prosperity. China is stronger than ever, not only strong, they are flexible, they know how to communicate with their neighbours, they know how to communicate with the USA, they know how to communicate with Mongolia. I think that it’s this adaptability; this is the route of their success.

In Mongolia the philosophy is very different. In this vast land with volatile temperatures, there are many strong individuals, and we must continue to make our people strong. Mongolian’s need to know their civil rights, if the government is not supportive, they have the right to contest and question the actions of the government. Mongolia belongs to its people and not its cabinet. Alongside its people Mongolia needs a strong, dynamic and diversified private sector, it is essential for Mongolia’s future prosperity, we must continue working towards that.
Bilateral relations between Mongolia and the United States of America are deeper and stronger than ever before, you having visited President Obama back in 2011, while Hilary Clinton returning the favour last year during her trip to Ulaanbaatar. How have bilateral ties been evolving between the two countries and where do you see more room for greater engagement between these two great nations?
When I met with President Obama in 2011 during his re-election campaign, I began our conversation sharing with the news that I had visited a military hospital the previous day; that I met American soldiers who fought in Afghanistan.  The logic is that these are common, shared and lasting interests, so we work and will work to further
consolidate them. In reference to foreign policy I commended his work in harmonising and consolidating the nations, promoting multilateral ties and international collaborations. 
I think economic cooperation is very important, especially in this day and age, security is always a key topic of participation, Mongolia is not a small country, it is also not a big country, but in terms of its principals, there is never a small or big country. Mongolia can contribute globally in terms of rule of law, in terms of the good governance, in terms of human rights, in terms of its continual pursuit of inclusiveness.
Mongolia can play a more active role globally, that is really important and I usually say to my American friends you have to pay attention to your enemies but you also have to pay attention to your friends. Mongolia is located very strategically and not only should you pay attention to us, we also need your attention. We have two neighbours that have very different agendas. We need American expertise and investment to maximise our potential and increase our capacity. 
The transparency agreement was important for us and for the inward investment reaching here. Americans are coming to Mongolia. This is an open country, this is a transparent country, people are very aware about their rights, their wealth. People are constantly demanding Mongolia to change for the better. Doing business in Mongolia is also changing; there should be more changes in the mining sector and a clearer more transparent framework for companies choosing to invest here. Some people say that information is everything, knowledge becomes the global demand, not only knowledge, but transparent and accountable information, that is what we are striving for.
Mongolia is a very young democracy that is still learning by doing and learning from others, if you could evaluate Mongolia in three concepts, what would they be?

We would keep our openness, we have to be more inclusive, and I repeat we have to be more open, that is the most important thing for Mongolia, there are no other solutions. In Mongolia if a government official spends more than one millions tugrik, $700, it has to be posted on the relevant ministry website. People are interested in the way the government is spending their money. Everywhere in the world, you have to be careful in this regard, we are pushing for that openness and transparency in the rule of law. Regardless of who is President we must continue to strive for a global standard of rule of law.