Mendee Jargalsaikhan is putting the finishing touches on his doctoral dissertation in the Department of Political Science at the University of British Columbia before he returns home to Mongolia. Mendee won CIRDI’s first research internship and worked as a Project Coordinator on the IMAGinE Mongolia project that wrapped up in 2017. He considers his work with CIRDI as one of the highlights of this time at UBC.
IMAGinE Mongolia aimed to improve natural resource governance and management through a trio of international workshops that Mendee played a key role in organizing and facilitating. The workshops featured knowledge mobilization through peer-to-peer learning. The last of these workshops, held in June 2017 in Mongolia, brought together 32 young professionals who work on mining related issues in government, industry or civil society. Mendee felt that the workshop would have more impact if CIRDI targeted people who are at the beginning of their careers.
“In the course of doing my internship research I spoke with many senior people in government ministries who pointed me to talk with their assistants, the ones who prepare their presentations, the people in the entry positions,” Mendee says. “Many of the young professionals don’t have proper training and also they really long to be part of the team. They are just out of school and they have to learn for themselves. They aren’t coached properly.”
The participants came from Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan, all countries with extensive mineral deposits. For resource rich developing nations, effective natural resource governance is crucial for the economic development required to combat poverty. Mongolia peacefully transitioned to a free market economy after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, yet there have been hard times in the years since as the government fine tunes its mining policy to increase efficiency and improve environmental protection.
Mendee’s research focuses on Mongolia’s transition to democracy, with a focus on contemporary political developments. He points out, “you have to talk about mining if you want to talk about Mongolian foreign policy and domestic politics.” The Asian nation is rich in deposits of copper, coal and gold; mining accounts for about one third of its GDP.
Mendee acknowledges that he would not have been able to do the fieldwork for his research without CIRDI’s support, particularly the opportunity to access policy-makers and civil society organizations as well as visit and do interviews at mine sites. He will use the knowledge and data he gathered during his internship for his dissertation, and for public and academic discussions concerning the complexities surrounding mining governance in Mongolia.