2 May 2016, Ulaanbaatar - The United Nations Youth Advisory Panel and Mongolian Youth Council, in collaboration with and supported by UN- Habitat, held two workshops around the theme “Urban Equity and Youth Development” on the 27th and 28th of April 2016 in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Around 150 participants aged from 18-32, representing a very diverse group with people from ethnic minorities, the LGBT community, differently-abled persons, students, the uneducated, the unemployed, members of youth civil society organizations and migrants. Participants were selected from a wide area: 60 of them living in ger areas and 90 residing in more privileged areas, which ensured a representation of both disadvantaged and privileged segments. They were contacted through UNFPA Mongolia Youth Development Centers, the Mongolian Youth Council and UN YAP’s network, 30 participants also applied via Facebook.
Of the 1,314,500 people living in Ulaanbaatar, a majority 63.6% are aged below 35 years (Statistics Department of Mongolia), illustrating how Mongolian youth should be an essential player in the urban development process. The urban youth represents a potential major force for development and positive social change. Young people aspire to attain fully productive lives as they move from education to work, marriage and the establishment of households. How well they can achieve this transition depends upon whether and how well they are integrated in the country’s development process.
With a per capita GNI of USD 2,320, Mongolia has been recently classified as an upper-middle income country. However, there remain persistent poverty and growing income inequality. Within this context, the country’s youth face numerous challenges such as limited employment opportunities and access to housing, a lack of social support mechanisms and an unsupportive environment for citizen participation.
Urban Equity and Youth in Mongolia
In a recently urbanized country such as Mongolia, the concept of urban equity was relatively new to the youth and not all the participants were aware of the concept. Therefore, the main objectives of the sessions were to create an open space to debate the issues of equity, and gain a deeper understanding, and to explore how it could address the major problems in Mongolia with youth contributing to the process. Some of the key discussions that arose where around affordability of housing, access to water, sanitation and heating systems in ger areas, pollution, transport, citizen participation and internal migration.
Structure of Workshop
The workshops were divided in 6 sessions as follows. Mr. D. Otgonbaatar from the Municipality of Ulaanbaatar (MUB) delivered opening remarks and emphasized the importance of Youth engagement in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and Habitat III objectives. Secondly, Mr. B. Bayarbaatar presented the 2015/16’s Global State of Urban Youth Report objectives as well as statistics about Ulaanbaatar youth. UN-Habitat then invited Mr. B. Bolorsaikhan, vice-coordinator for “All for Education” Civil society National Coalition, to explain the concepts of equity and equality based on participants’ interpretation of urban equity which had been written up prior to the workshop
The final and central activity of the workshop revolved around the group sessions. Participants were divided into 5 groups covering Cultural issues and Urban Equity; Social issues and Urban Equity; Economic issues and urban equity; Migration and Urban equity; and Political participation and Urban Equity. Discussions focused around top problems in Ulaanbaatar and possible solutions to address these which were finally presented in the findings. Subsequently, the participants completed the survey questionnaires the results of which will be published in the 2015-16’s Global State of Urban Youth Report of UN-Habitat. The workshop was closed with comments from Ms. Zolzaya and Ms. Tsogzolmaa from UN-Habitat Mongolia country office and a photo session.