Enkhjargal Damia and Charlotte Hicks of the UN-REDD Programme sat down with three members of Mongolia’s National Technical Working Group on Safeguards and Safeguard Information System. These three individuals come from diverse sectors – government, NGO and media – but have all played an integral role in the development of Mongolia’s safeguards approach.
Officer of the Sectoral Development Coordination Division in the National Development Agency
Member of the Mongolia Environmental Civil Council’s monitoring committee and an environmental journalist.
Head of the River and Water Conservation, a non-government organisation, and member of the Mongolia Environmental Civil Council.
The Technical Working Group was set up in 2017 to guide the development of a national safeguards approach and to help design a safeguards information system (SIS). Can you tell me more about what this group actually does?
Munkhsaikhan: During Working Group meetings, a safeguards approach for Mongolia was identified. We evaluated REDD+ policies and measures in terms of their risks and benefits and proposed ways to reduce risks and increase benefits. We also analysed the required data sources and systems for the establishment of the SIS. This included identifying the SIS structure, design and roles and responsibilities of the different actors.
In what way have you been personally involved in the safeguards approach in Mongolia?
Oyunchimeg: I’m happy to be a member of the Technical Working Group. A boreal forest country like Mongolia is making important steps towards an integrated forest management policy, thanks to REDD+. The safeguards are about preventing negative impacts, but also about the benefits of REDD+. Because REDD+ covers the whole country – from forests to the steppes to the semi-desert area - it will be diverse.
Tumurmunkh: As an environmental journalist, I am interested in how environmental activities affect people in Mongolia. We can already see the impacts of climate change. Awareness about REDD+ should be raised among communities and society, and mass media is key for this.
What are some opportunities and challenges you experienced through this multi-stakeholder working group?
Oyunchimeg: I think the main challenge is to get people mobilised. But we had good participation from different sectors. We had people from many different backgrounds join us, including farmers, lawyers, herders, and urban people. People from rural areas were curious and didn’t know much about REDD+, but they became more aware through our activities. And now they are eagerly awaiting our next training!
How has the safeguards work been useful for you?
Oyunchimeg: What we did in the Working Group taught me about how to minimise risks in my own work and life. Looking at the benefits and risks of each option, and seeing the perspectives of different sectors and backgrounds was an interesting and a systematic approach - it could assist the development of other policies and plans too. I also have a better understanding of the need for the participation of all affected stakeholders. I see now that those living in forested areas are not the only ones affected by changes in the forest; these changes can also affect those living further away and in towns.
Munkhsaikhan: The National Development Agency’s main responsibility is to prepare and help implement development plans, and to conduct research on development policy. Being a Working Group member was very enriching and useful in understanding different aspects of sustainable development. I will use the experience in my future work on sectoral development policies and improving coordination between different sectors.
Tumurmunkh: I learned more about how the media and journalists can be part of REDD+. There’s a role for the media in passing information to the public, using social media, as well as official media. It’s not just the government’s responsibility; people need to be involved too, and the media can help build awareness for REDD+. I am planning to write some articles for my own organisation’s website.
Mongolia’s National Technical Working Group on Safeguards and Safeguard Information System in action. Credit: UNEP-WCMC
What do you think remains the most challenging safeguards issue for Mongolia?
Munkhsaikhan: I was involved in clarifying the safeguards. I find Safeguard D on ensuring the engagement of stakeholders, especially ensuring the full and active involvement of local communities, very challenging in Mongolia. Most likely, it will require some financial incentives and this in turn will require a corresponding legal framework.
Oyunchimeg: The safeguards clarification covers broad areas – environmental; social and governance; land and forest issues; forest user groups and pasture users. These present a set of complicated and sometimes conflicting issues. The question is, as a country, how can Mongolia manage these potentially conflicting issues, through its policies and laws?
What is your advice to other countries that are starting to work on safeguards?
Oyunchimeg: For countries starting to clarify the safeguards and work on SIS, you need to first hold a training session for your working groups. Training was vital for me at the beginning, and it made it easier for me to be part of the process. We brought colleagues in from different NGOs so that they could learn too.
Tumurmunkh: Before introducing the safeguards work, you need to know your forests very well. Forest types affect the safeguards work. For example, Mongolia’s boreal forests are not as dense as tropical forests. So the impacts from REDD+ can be different, ranging from forest to forest.
What’s next for REDD+ in Mongolia? Where do you think efforts need to be focused going forth?
Tumurmunkh: Mongolia has many laws, numbering more than 600. REDD+ implementation needs to be strengthened and civil society participation is vital in monitoring these numerous laws and regulations.
Oyunchimeg: When REDD+ is being implemented, the local people – herders, foresters, and communities – should all be considered. The safeguards work asks us to think about the impacts on everyone. This is the central democratic principle: the equal participation of all our stakeholders.
Horseback riding through Mongolia's boreal forests. Credit: Gantulga Tumurtulga
For more information on safeguards work in Mongolia please visit:
Learn more about REDD+ in Mongolia at:
About the authors
National Safeguards Officer, Mongolia National UN-REDD Programme
Senior Technical Officer, UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC)