Switzerland - a loyal friend to Mongolians in times of dzuds
For more than a decade, Switzerland has been a loyal friend to Mongolia in times of natural disaster. For three consecutive years from 1999 to 2001, Mongolia was subject to an extreme winter phenomenon known as a dzud. Faced with widespread losses of livestock and economic ruin for many, Switzerland was among the first countries to respond to the joint 2001 UN and Mongolian Government appeal for assistance for dzud-affected herders.
Initially, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) - Switzerland’s international cooperation agency under the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs - provided immediate aid for dzud victims through the implementation of a range of humanitarian assistance programmes. In addition to such traditional aid as the provision of fodder, medicine and clothing, SDC undertook Mongolia’s first cash assistance for herders’ initiative for those who had lost all their livestock - the cornerstone of their survival. The "Cash for Herders" programme proved so successful that it subsequently became a model system for such future assistance.
In the wake of the dzuds, SDC remained in Mongolia as a development partner to help the country in its transition to market-oriented economic and social development, and its activities gradually shifted from humanitarian aid to long-term development cooperation programmes that have sought to address the root causes of poverty and improve the livelihoods of Mongolia’s rural population.
In the past decade, Mongolia has been consistently hailed for its post-transition economic and political successes and is now recognised as one of the world’s most vibrant young democracies. Favourable economic, political and environmental conditions have resulted in significant economic growth. Mongolia is a resource-rich country on the verge of a boom in the minerals sector, with economic growth rates predicted to rise to 8-10 percent in the coming 10 years.
However, while Mongolia has grown economically, it has struggled with a rising level of poverty and in securing better and more secure livelihoods for its people. Almost one in two rural households is now considered poor, and rural/urban inequality is dramatically increasing. Inequality has led to income disparities, gender inequity, and a lack of access to such basic social services as health care, education and social security. Corruption is also widespread and is likely to increase as minerals revenues flow into the country, leading many to fear Mongolia will become a victim of the “resource curse”.
Mongolia is also facing many challenges environmentally. The effects of global warming and overgrazing are being felt throughout the country and are threatening the livelihoods of many Mongolians, particularly herders and ex-herders who are dependent on the nation’s natural resources, notably pastureland, farmland and water in the agricultural sector and minerals in the artisanal mining sector.
SDC sees its role in Mongolia as supporting the nation in its endeavours to translate its enormous economic potential from the mining boom into demonstrable development gains. In this regard, SDC is primarily focused on improving the livelihoods of herders and marginalised populations in the western region of Mongolia, where the level of poverty is highest.
Swiss financial commitment to Mongolia