Sending a clear signal of his commitment to the role of water in human development, President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj of Mongolia visited the Global Water Partnership (GWP) Global Secretariat on 10 October 2012, as part of his state visit to Sweden.
The President, who has taken a lead role in Mongolia on water and environmental issues, identified closely with GWP’s vision for water security. “Your organization is our organization”, the President said, stressing his country’s willingness to cooperate with GWP. As a member of the Water Resources Group, the President emphasized his commitment to the environment, particularly water. President Elbegdorj highlighted the threats facing Mongolia such as the fact that 40% of the country is already desert and that 25% of freshwater lakes and rivers are projected to run dry if nothing is done. He expressed an interest in GWP’s programmes on flood and drought management.
The President underlined that Mongolia is an open society and that pollution and water issues are often debated. The mining industry and the use of coal create pollution which is especially dangerous for the urban population and he noted that Ulan Bator is one of the world’s most polluted cities. The country, he said, needs to focus on alternative ways of processing mineral deposits. New pollution laws were recently introduced about which he said, “We know that our ambitions are high, but we aim for Ulan Bator to be a clean city in five years.”
The President’s delegation was greeted by GWP Chair Dr Letitia A Obeng who outlined the mission and work of the GWP network, emphasizing the importance of good leadership and good governance for better water resources management. Dr Obeng put a strong emphasis on the need for an integrated approach since so many development issues are linked to water.
In the exchange between President Elbegdorj and the GWP representatives, there was agreement on exploring the creation of a GWP Country Water Partnership and the President stated his intention for Mongolia to become a GWP Sponsoring Partner. The President also expressed interest in exploring collaboration with GWP on building his country’s resilience to climate change.
Dr Obeng presented the President with a Mongolian translation, done by the National University of Mongolia, of the GWP-INBO Handbook for Integrated Water Resources Management in Basins.
GWP’s strategic ally and close collaborator, the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), was represented by Executive Director Torgny Holmgren who briefly presented the work of SIWI including the World Water Week, the Water Prizes and the Water Governance Facility of UNDP.
The President declared his lifelong commitment to environmental issues, especially water and tree planting, and recalled, in his presentation of a gift to GWP, his upbringing in a herdsman’s family where the role of water was critical to one’s livelihood. He explained that harmony with nature and respect for nature are an essential part of their culture because water is the bloodstream of life. At Rio+20 in June 2012, President Elbegdorj was awarded the U.N. Environment Program’s “Champion of the Earth” award.