2021 Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in Mongolia

1. Overview of the human rights and democracy situation

Mongolia can look back at three decades of substantial progress since it set out on the path to democracy, human rights and rule of law in the 1990s. However, a number of challenges persist today.

According to a 2021 survey, the trust of the population in the independence of the judiciary system and in the Independent Agency Against Corruption is rather low. Judiciary reform remains a key priority. Only a limited number of OSCE recommendations were taken on board in the reform of the Law on Presidential elections (December 2020), but the 2021 Presidential Election was deemed compliant with OSCE commitments and other international standards by OSCE observers (although limitations to candidate eligibility and restrictive campaign and media rules were criticised). A Law on Prevention, Combat and Mitigation of Social and Economic impacts of the COVID-19 (the “COVID law”) – which allows passing laws under a simplified procedure – has been extended to mid-2022. It has to be noted that legal acts adopted under this simplified procedure are neither limited in their duration nor will they be subject to a review once the emergency is over.

As regards civil and political rights, a Commissioner in charge of national preventive measures against torture will be appointed in 2022. Mongolian authorities strive to counter gender-based violence, gender inequality and discrimination based on sexual orientation. The Government is also working on revising the Law on Child Protection and addressing the problem of human trafficking.

A new Labour Law has entered into force on 1 January 2022, which addresses not only labour conditions in a strict sense, but also regulates non-discrimination and provides protection against harassment and violence at the workplace.

Worrying developments in 2021 include the introduction of a law prohibiting foreign grants to civil society organisations (domestic funding for CSOs is shrinking as well). The draft laws on Associations and Foundations submitted to Parliament in November 2021 would imply a limitation on the civic space and independent NGO operations in Mongolia.

2. EU action - key focus areas

The EU continued to focus on the support of vulnerable groups and the empowerment of civil society. The fight against child labour and other forms of exploitation of children continued to figure prominently among the EU’s priorities. Other priorities included gender equality, non-discrimination, the Rule of law, as well as building resilient, inclusive and democratic societies as well as the promotion of human rights and democracy.

3. EU bilateral political engagement

The last annual EU-Mongolia Human Rights Dialogue was held on 25 November 2020 and it was followed on 3 December by the EU-Mongolia Joint Committee (both in virtual format). Due to the COVID pandemic, the Human Rights Dialogue and Joint Committee initially foreseen for 2021 will be scheduled in the spring of 2022.

The EU engaged in a number of public diplomacy activities in 2021, such as the “16 days campaign against gender-based violence”, the European Film festival, the National Human Rights Day and the EU Human Rights Award Ceremony.

4. EU financial engagement

In 2020, the EU launched its first budget support programme in Mongolia to boost employment and improve transparency in public finances, with an upfront disbursement aiming to address the social and economic consequences of COVID-19. Included in the grant is a technical assistance project with UNDP, FAO and ILO, focusing on transparency and oversight of the budget; employment creation in the non-mining sectors for youth and for persons with disabilities as well as compliance with international labour standards. In 2021, three new projects related to human rights were launched: Mongolia is party to the EU-financed Business and Human Rights in Asia (B+HR) programme implemented by the UNDP (1M€ 2021-2024); a project (2021-2022) on increasing access to justice for children is being implemented by the International Development Law Organisation (IDLO) focusing on increasing protection for children victims of violence. The EU also continued to support human rights and democracy through several ongoing projects, carried out with Member States or other partners. The focus included support to the empowerment of herders; the fight against child labour and trafficking for labour or sexual exploitation; support to civil society, including youth civic engagement and participation in local economy and mitigating the impact of COVID-19 with a rights-based approach.

5. Multilateral context

Mongolia’s third Universal Periodic Review took place in November 2020. Mongolia received 190 recommendations out of which 170 were accepted and 20 were noted (March 2021). A Plan of Action on the implementation of the accepted recommendations is developed.

The UN Special Representative on violence against women, its causes and consequences visited Mongolia in 2021. The UNSR’s key findings include the conclusion that Mongolia has adopted a solid legal framework to address gender-based violence, but that the existing services for victims must take a gender sensitive approach. Existing measures against gender-based violence also fail to support vulnerable groups (victims of trafficking, members of the LGBTQI+ community). The UNSR’s final report is to be presented in June 2022.

The UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances issued a report on Mongolia in May 2021. It recommended bringing the definition of “enforced disappearance” in line with the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and for specific training to all law enforcement and security personnel.