Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Honorable guests, delegates,
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,
Dear envoys and messengers of freedom and democracy,

Welcome to Mongolia, the land of free, and the land of great history.

What a beautiful day it is today!

On the cold morning of December 10 of 1989, Mongolia’s first democratic movement – the Mongolian Democratic Union – was announced established. And the first democratic demonstration took place in this city. At that time, I wouldn’t have even dreamt that after 24 years, with so many of my friends of freedom and democracy from all over the world, I would be opening this Conference. On behalf of the people and the State of Mongolia, once again, allow me to extent my heartfelt greetings and gratitude to all of you for coming all together to Mongolia.

Dear friends,

With us today here we enjoy the presence of many esteemed and honourable guests. Let me name some of these great people.

The distinguished guest of our Conference, Her Excellency Madame Yingluck Shinawatra, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand. Our people know you as the first woman-Prime Minister, and the youngest Prime Minister of Thailand in 60 years. Mongolia takes profound pride in many of her glorious daughters and mothers, political and social women-leaders. I am sure, seeing you in Mongolia, our young generation, our girls and women find in you an infinite source of inspiration and confidence. I congratulate you. Welcome to Mongolia.

Also with us, we enjoy the presence of His Excellency Mr. Alvio Piva Mesen, First Vice President of Costa Rica, His Excellency Mr. Namadi Sambo, Vice President of Nigeria, Her Excellency Baroness Catherine Ashton, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union and Vice President of the European Commission, His Excellency Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Undersecretary General of the United Nations, as well as Deputy Prime Ministers, Ministers of Foreign Affairs and other dignitaries.

I recall, two years ago, at the Ministerial Conference of the Community of Democracies, held in Vilnius of Lithuania, the Nobel Prize Laureate Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi greeted the audience in a video message. We are profoundly delighted that today Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, the modern day role model of a fighter for freedom and democracy, is present in person at this meeting in Ulaanbaatar. It is an immense rejoice and pleasure for everyone who holds freedom and democracy dear to see you at this Conference. You are an amazing woman of unfettered civil courage, who has fought years-long for freedom and human rights in Asia with, as firm and bold as steel, perseverance.

I am also profoundly delighted to have with us today the “Mother of Revolution” in Arab world. This honourable lady is the first Arab woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Ms. Tawakkol Karman is indeed the soul and mind of the Arab Spring. A journalist and politician, a passionate fighter for human rights, Ms. Karman along with her 7 peer women journalists established a “Women Journalists Without Chains” group and has been the front-runner for freedom of thought and expression not only in Yemen, but also in the whole region. These astounding ladies, the Nobel Laureates have proven that a word and a pen are stronger than swords and violence in changing the social order. We are indeed very proud of you. I am deeply grateful to you, the honourable ladies – the symbols of fight for freedom not in your region only, but also in the world at large, the Nobel Prize Laureates, for accepting my invitation to visit my country.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Mongolia does not have an intention to teach others about democracy and freedom. Yet we have lessons to share. Mongolia’s road to democracy was not easy. And it is not easy today as well. Democracy is not a destination, it is a way to go. Both freedom and democracy do not aim to implant happiness by force. It is just an opportunity for the people to live by their choices and enjoy their rights. In a human society, especially, in an open society issues to be solved never end. A solution after solution invites more room for more issues to be addressed and solved. The process of learning this very inherent feature of democracy is still on in Mongolia.

Mongolians are indeed proud of achievements of our democracy and freedom. Human rights and freedom are not special rights to which the citizens of only developed countries are entitled; they are to be enjoyed by all men and women equally. Democratization does not mean westernization. Under socialism, our herders would seek a permission from the director of the collective farm to consume a sheep for food, but today Mongolians are the genuine owners of their properties. And this is what Mongolia’s democracy and freedom are about. Our elders and seniors are not scared any longer to pray to God and chant for happiness. This is what Mongolia’s freedom is about. Mongolians no longer seek for official’s permission to travel within and outside the country, and this is their right. Mongolians openly discuss our goods and bads, our success and failures; we no longer hide our shadows, and this is our achievement.

Our revolution in the spring of 1990 did not break a single window. Not one drop of blood was shed. Also, we dismissed the stereotyped presumption that conducting dual or twin reforms – political and economic – simultaneously for a poor country, is not a way to go, is not an Asian way. But we broke that stereotype by our new choice, and have proven that freedom can be enjoyed everywhere in the world. Since 1990 Mongolia has been the most vibrant and stable democracy in the region which has been conducting reforms at all fronts – political, economic and social – concurrently. Taking this opportunity, I extend my deep gratitude to all countries, international organizations and good-willed people who shouldered and supported us in realizing our choice and have been partners in development to date.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Mongolians possess a long and rich history of statehood and polity. Our fathers and forefathers had upheld rule of law, statehood order and discipline on the vastest lands ever in the history. “Ikh Zasag” (“The Great Order”), the Constitution of the Great Mongol Empire, was written and upheld since more than 800 years ago. Since millennia ago Mongols have respected individual beliefs and convictions, skills and talents, faith and religion, and have honored order, freedom of trade, of information. Yet still, no perfect solutions have been found to-date to all of these basic human needs.

Our forefather, Chinggis Khaan famously noted:”It was easier to conquer the world on horseback than to dismount and govern”. Any order - be that military, communist, commanding – will eventually change. It is easy to tear down the walls. But it is hard to build a free life. We all see how hard it is to craft and establish democratic order and institutions. In the modern state of affairs, problems will not be solved by replacing a group of officials with another set of ones. A social revolution is defined by the transfer of power. There cannot be a civil society where citizens are deprived of rights. There cannot be human rights that are not enjoyed by humans.

Eventually, without real transfer of power to the citizens, without empowering people with the rights to solve their day-to-day issues, without citizen participation and decision-making, nothing will change. It will be all in vain to expect the politicians with great intentions to make good decisions. Not always good intentions lead to good outcomes. It’s as rare as a day-time star that politicians produce good results, consistent with public interests. We should never forget - many misfortunes people had to endure were brought by futile and unrealistic efforts of splendid promisors, how ever good their intentions might be. If the people have no rights to enjoy, then even raining with gold will not do any good to people. As we Mongolians say, your right is not my right.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The trials and miseries of most of the countries which failed or are being unsuccessful to build democracy stem often times not from the people, but from bad governance. Democratic orders in many cases are threatened and shattered not by external factors, but by internal, from inside. The losers of corruption are the people, and winners are the corrupt officials. Corruption, bad money and their dirty networks are powerful. Corruption destroys people’s confidence in democracy. Everyone knows that corruption and bad governance are the mortal enemies of freedom and democracy.

Fighting corruption is the toughest test for officials in office. Transition from rule of man to the rule of law is one of the hardest challenges for any developing and aspiring state. The state must serve not the power, but the people. The same is true about the law. Judicial and public sector reforms, the changes in the mindset of people do require time, patience and persistence. It’s been over 20 years since Mongolia began her strides to democracy, yet there remain many issues pending solution.

Add to that those specific to Mongolia’s circumstances and features challenges. It is good to be endowed with national resources. Yet, it’s not easy to dispose, use them. Resources do not always bring good investor, good intentions, good culture. In a society with a fragile political system and lacking justice, more money invites more evil than good.

For a state, freedom is an order secured by law. Yet we still have many politicians who mistake their private intentions for public policy; who confuse that their emotions are public wish. The greatest risk today in my country is irresponsible and egocentric politicians. Also we have many complicated issues and problems in environment, infrastructure, economy, finance, investment and other areas of our life. I hope that during your stay in Mongolia you will get some flavour of the opportunities and challenges the Conference Host – Mongolia has.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Democracy is a learning process. In a free society, a man or a woman can move ahead even if he or she makes a mistake but learns from it. The beauty of my country is our freedom. Our greatest confidence is our people, our youth. Those who were little schoolchildren at the time when the democratic revolution unfolded in Mongolia, are now grown-ups in their mid-30s. They are capable enough to shoulder the burden of development of Mongolia.

Citizen participation and direct democracy are gaining momentum in Mongolia these days. Power is being shifted to local communities, local governments, to citizens. Rule of law is being established. In 2012 Transparency International named Mongolia as the country with the fastest decrease in corruption. Within just one year Mongolia advanced her ranking in reducing corruption index bypassing 26 countries. We are advancing the quality of our democracy and democratic institutions based on our lessons learnt, people’s support and improving our laws.

Mongolia stands ready to share her democratic lessons, achievements and success. We stand open to discuss our mistakes, the ways to correct them and to be studied by others. We are ready for action and engagement. Look at us as a center of democracy education, a life model for challenges and opportunities of freedom. We are planning to establish in Ulaanbaatar a center to train election observers and share our lessons and success stories. Speaking of the election, Mongolia has adopted a fully automated ballot casting and counting system. The only “shortcoming” (“shortcoming” in brackets!) of this system is that it doesn’t obey the wills of officials and doesn’t receive bribes. Automated casting of a voter’s ballot without any fraud is consistent with the interests of justice.

Honoring human rights, human life and dignity is our sacred mission. Mongolia has abolished capital punishment. Capital punishment must be abolished if we want justice and immunity from the abuse of state power. He or she must be punished not by killing, but by establishing the true guilt by law. Here the State has no right to fail. A State created by the people has no right to kill the people. There are difficult decisions requiring leadership. If we retreat from making such decisions, there is no sense in starting a democratic revolution at all.

There is one feature of us I find auspicious and I am truly happy about. Mongolia is a country with good neighbours. We neighbour with a country with the largest in the world population, and a country with the largest in the world territory. And these countries carry substantial weight of influence on world affairs, while maintaining their own agendas. We are grateful to our neighbours and to many countries of the world for respecting the choice of the Mongolian people and cooperating with us.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Mongolia was able to become from one of the world’s closest countries to one that is most open. Mongolia is happy to have chaired the reputable global democratic movement, the Community of Democracies. During our presidency, the CD Governing Council and Executive Committee were established. A full time Secretary General has been appointed. The work of the Group of Democratic Countries at the UN has been regularized. A CD group at the UN in Geneva has started operation. A network of New Democratic Leaders has been established and commenced operations.

When chairing the Community of Democracies, Mongolia accorded concerted attention to education for democracy. An initiative Group on Education for Democracy has been established at the state- and government- head levels of Member States. Thanks to the fruitful efforts of the Member-States, the United Nations unilaterally adopted the historic resolution on Education for Democracy at its 67th General Assembly.

For the first time within the CD, Mongolia set forth a Zero-Tolerance to Corruption Initiative, thus making the issue top the agenda of this organization. I am glad that our current 7th Ministerial Conference is specifically addressing corruption. The Asian Partnership for Democracy Initiative has started operating. The Asian Democracy Network was launched and our region agreed to draw assessment on the status of democracy in our region every two years. We have indeed been able to effectively cooperate to strengthen civil society and share experiences and lessons learned.

Ladies and gentlemen,

With the aim to help the emerging young democracies, Mongolia has established our first aid fund, ICF – International Cooperation Fund. We have started implementing projects and programs with other countries, funded by ICF. Mongolia received generous assistance from many countries and organizations when we started our uneasy transition to an open society. Now it is our turn to help others. This is our moral, ethical duty.

We are actively working with the Republic of Kyrgyz to share the lessons of parliamentary democracy and legal reform. We are conducting training for diplomats and public servants of Afghanistan. Also we are discussing the opportunities of cooperation with Myanmar and other emerging democracies.

Recently Mongolia proposed “Ulaanbaatar Dialogue on Northeast Asian Security” Initiative. Mongolian people are hospitable and have always sought to find a collective solution to difficult issues. Mongolia wants to assist and facilitate to peaceful solution of the confrontation on the Korean peninsula. Mongolia is willing to open up new gateways for the issues at standstill. We invite the stakeholders to hold meetings and dialogue in Ulaanbaatar.

It pains us to see the citizens, families, children of North Korea who desperately and urgently need food aid. Our two countries are discussing opportunities of conducting meetings and trainings in economic and security issues, opportunities of cooperation in sports, education and humanitarian spheres. We are also discussing the possibility of exchanging high-level visits. We do believe that there are chances, ways to resolve the problems, including the nuclear issues, through peaceful means.

I do believe in the power of freedom. Every man and woman is destined to be free. Sometimes, the freedom can be crushed, yet the freedom stands up and rises again. A man with freedom is creative. Therefore, freedom leads to prosperity. I am indeed very proud to serve, by the free choice of my people, to the common interests of the people of Mongolia. Mongolia is a country where one can hear good news every morning. Free people create miracles.

I am delighted to host so many dear friends in the capital of my country and discuss the successes and achievements, challenges and lessons, and also our plans and aspirations on our path of freedom and democracy. What would have a Mongolian warrior, who left home on his horseback some 8 centuries ago, thought of upon returning home today? For sure, he would have been happy. He would have thought, “My country remains the centre of the world”. Speaking of which, Mongolia is one of the most active participants in the world’s peacekeeping operations.

Mongolia shall spare no efforts to further contribute to consolidating democracy, freedom and world peace. It is indeed possible for every man and woman on earth to live a free and peaceful life. He or she, every human being does have such a right. One day everyone will be free. And I am sure, this auspicious goal of ours shall triumph.

I wish success in the work of the Conference. And thank you for attention.