Mongolia is a landlocked country whose more than 3 million people are spread unevenly across its landmass. It is very susceptible to climate change that exacerbates already significant natural hazards. It has experienced warming temperatures at almost three times the rate of the global average in the last 70 years. Hazards include drought, flooding, dust and sandstorms, wildfires, earthquakes, and dzuds – a hazard unique to Mongolia wherein severe winter conditions follow a summer drought and cause massive livestock mortality. This devastates the livelihoods of herders, and the proportion of Mongolians whose primary livelihood is herding has plummeted from 50% to 25% in the last three decades. Moreover, disastrous dzuds have driven an alarming increase in rural-urban internal migration, as former herders move to informal settlements on the outskirts of the capital. Thus, climate change, migration, urbanization, and environmental degradation, are linked issues.
The successive, severe dzuds experienced in 1999-2001 were a catalyst for Mongolia to reform its disaster management approach. The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) was established in 2004 by combining other agencies. During a disaster, NEMA provides administration, coordination, and direct assistance. Mongolia has also emphasized early warning, preparedness, and mitigation efforts. Increasingly, early action is taken to reduce disaster risk. A key part of this is utilizing risk maps produced by the National Agency for Meteorology and Environmental Monitoring in coordination with partners. A good example is dzud risk maps, which are used to determine when to release forecast-based financing to the people most at risk in order to stave off the most devastating disaster effects.
Mongolia is also increasing community-based disaster reduction efforts. In 2015, the government passed the National Program for Community-based Disaster Reduction to create a legislative framework. It included targeting efforts for vulnerable populations, including persons with disabilities, children, elderly citizens, and low-income persons. All Mongolian cities have a local disaster risk reduction strategy, and the country has fulfilled the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction goals. In 2020, Mongolia received praised for its disaster risk reduction progress. Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for Disaster Risk Reduction Mizutori Mami stated, “Mongolia’s efforts for strengthening coherence between national and local administrations, increasing awareness of all local authorities on having disaster risk reduction strategy by the end of 2020 as well as developing national program on making settled areas resilient are a great example of world’s best practices.”
The U.S. considers Mongolia an important partner and is pleased to be one of the “third neighbors” it cultivates relations with beyond its land borders. Moreover, Mongolia’s NEMA and armed forces alongside units of the U.S. armed forces undertake an annual disaster management-related exercise, the GOBI WOLF series, to rehearse disaster responses and implement new best practices as the fields of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) evolve.
Mongolia’s Third Neighbor Policy is the cornerstone for relationships with countries other than Russia or China, both of which have historically had a large influence on the country. It started the Policy shortly after transitioning to a market-based economy in the 1990s. The country has since achieved significant economic development due largely to the increase in mining, the principal component of national revenue. However, the Third Neighbor policy is critical for more than just economic growth as it allows Mongolia to build diverse, global partnerships in security, including disaster management.