In August 2010, the government of Mongolia strongly reaffirmed its commitment to obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), further stating that 'protecting the rights of national minorities stand[s] as a priority'. Yet, in the past year, the Legatum Prosperity Index ranked Mongolia in the lower half of the list on the variable of welcoming ethnic minorities. For despite Mongolia's commitment to democratic principles and constitutional guarantees of equality and non-discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, in the absence of a designated institution to enforce anti-discrimination legal provisions, ethnic and linguistic minorities continue to be penalized by discriminatory policies. This means that in 2010, minorities were unable to realize their rights in accessing information, education and effective participation in public life.

Minorities make up 18.2 per cent of the population and include Barga, Bayad, Buryat, Chantuu, Durbet, Kazakhs and Tsaatan mainly concentrated in the aimags of Bayan-Ölgii, Dornod, Hentiy, Khovd and Uvsnd. In 2010, Mongolia's ethnic minority groups faced a number of challenges, as did the majority ethnic group, Khalks. Structural inequalities, environmental crisis, poverty and development divides between urban and rural areas tested the capacity and willingness of a government already struggling to address the needs of the third of the population that lives in poverty. Mongolian herders, mostly minorities and indigenous peoples, were confronted with severe drought and a harsh winter, forcing thousands of them to abandon their nomadic life. Meanwhile, an Asian Development Bank (ADB) programme implemented policy measures in the social welfare, health and education sectors to ensure the provision of essential basic services to the poorest and most vulnerable. This included provision of early childhood education to nomadic and ethnic minority children.

Civil society groups continued to play an important role in tackling social issues and helping to strengthen political institutions. In April, protests in the capital Ulaan Baator called for the dissolution of the parliament and a fairer distribution of the country's natural wealth. In December the Mongolian parliament reportedly agreed to discuss the new Constitution Amendment Procedures of the 1992 Constitution of Mongolia. It is unclear whether any public consultative process will take place in regard to the constitutional amendments, and if so, to what extent minorities will be encouraged to participate.

Mongolia's women's rights activists played a key role in advocating for human rights, public participation, fostering social change and a more gender-balanced society through increased efforts in tackling domestic violence and child trafficking, and promoting minority rights protection. Mongolia's Women Fund (MONES), for example, concentrated its policy work on national mechanisms to strengthen the voices of ethnic minorities and herder women, and on raising public awareness of the need for a more comprehensive legal framework and a stronger protection regime for minorities and other vulnerable groups in society.

In the effort to strengthen women's rights and reduce violence against women, the Law on Fighting against Domestic Violence (2004) and the National Programme on Fighting against Domestic Violence (effective as of 2008) represent a considerable achievement. Yet domestic violence remains a critical but taboo issue in Mongolia, in the absence of laws prohibiting marital rape. Facilities are limited for victims of sexual and gender-based violence in remote areas, where most minority groups reside. In spite of the government's efforts, poor implementation of existing legislation still reflects the lack of political will to tackle these issues, while women continue to face social, economic and procedural barriers in accessing state protection, according to the Common Country Assessment conducted by the UN in Mongolia in 2010. This is even more the case for minority women. Young women from rural areas (where most minority communities live) remained most vulnerable to trafficking and abduction for commercial sexual exploitation.

Concerns over shortcomings in the implementation of existing human rights legislation and failure to incorporate Mongolia's international human rights obligations into national legislation have surfaced during the year. In an official submission to the ninth round of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a national working group argued that ethnic Kazakhs and Dukha (or Tsaatan) face 'widespread societal and institutional discrimination within Mongolian society'. The document reported lack of basic freedoms, on-going systematic discriminatory practices and attitudes, and human rights violations. It exposed a lack of institutional and legislative measures coupled with the absence or inaccessibility of redress mechanisms. The working group recommended that, 'Mongolia enact an anti-hate crime law to protect minorities from hate crimes, ensure privacy and confidentiality of information, emphasize education and conciliation, and provide for speedy and effective criminal, administrative and civil remedies'.

The draft report of the 9th Session of the UPR Working Group of the UN Human Rights Council on Mongolia reported concerns about discrimination against women and girls, and stressed the need for women's greater participation at the highest levels of decision-making. In the reporting year, women and ethnic minorities remained under-represented in political decision-making at all levels, or 'in the case of the Dukha, were entirely absent from the policy-making sphere' (according to local NGOs). In 2010, out of 76 seats in parliament there were only three women MPs (3.9 per cent), as well as two female vice-ministers in a cabinet of 15. Of these, none are believed to be from ethnic minorities, although there are three male ethnic Kazakh MPs.

In a positive sign, a female MP interviewed by the website News English Mongolia stated that, by year's end, the government had submitted a draft law on gender, which includes a 30 per cent quota for women in parliament. In 2010, the National Human Rights Commission of Mongolia (NHRCM) encouraged the government of Mongolia to promote greater representation of women and national minorities in decision-making by setting quotas for minority groups as well as women, including in local legislatures. This proposal was also made in the draft UPR report. However, women and members of minority groups find entering the political realm particularly difficult, since party politics is deeply influenced by money and corruption, making it difficult for those without connections to gain a foothold.

The draft UPR report also raised concerns regarding the continued difficulties faced by minority religious groups in officially registering and building places of worship. The report stated that these problems could be eradicated by establishing clear national guidelines to allow all faith groups equal access to registration.

Finally, the UPR process also recorded that ethnic minority children do not fully enjoy their right to education, noting that '[the] Kazakh minority province of Bayan-Ölgii registered the highest rate of education dropouts and the lowest pre-school participation rate in the country with illiteracy rates of 6.8 per cent (compared to the national average of 4.6 per cent)'. In northern Mongolia, Tuva minority children's access to any level of education also remained limited. During the year, the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) expressed concern about lack of awareness among herder families in the western regions of the importance of birth registration. Almost 10 per cent of births in remote areas remained unregistered.

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