Viewpoint: David Johnston
Though separated by vast physical distance, Canadians and Mongolians are united by common bonds that transcend geography. This happy state of affairs was evident during my state visit to Mongolia in 2013, undertaken on the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between our two countries and the fifth anniversary of the opening of the Canadian Embassy in Ulaanbaatar.
One of the highlights of my visit came when I was invited to address the State Great Khural, the supreme legislative body in Mongolia’s unicameral parliament. It was an honour to be the first-ever governor general of Canada to speak to its members, who were elected according to a mixed-member proportional system adopted in 2011 as part of Mongolia’s extraordinary evolution towards a modern, democratic state.
It is an evolution in which Canada is proud to play a role, and which underlines how much has changed in our relationship. Today, our two countries enjoy a partnership that has grown beyond commerce to include a broad spectrum of interests and initiatives related to peace, security and good governance. For example, we are working together for improvements in public service management, policing, legal and judicial reform, and enhanced local government capacity. We are also working together to develop the administrative and legal strengths of the State Great Khural, and to increase gender equality in that critical institution.
Canada is partnering with Mongolia in these endeavours because we believe that building strong, transparent, and efficient judicial and legislative institutions is both the “smart” thing to do and the “right” thing to do. It is right and smart because good governance reinforces democracy, human rights and the rule of law. It is also important because we believe that well-functioning institutions are fundamental to the economic development to which Mongolia’s citizens overwhelmingly aspire and in which Canada hopes to participate.
I am therefore pleased to note that our two countries are examining possible longer-term support to develop a more professional, non-partisan, accountable, transparent and citizen-centred Mongolian public service. This work promises to strengthen democracy and the rule of law while promoting a predictable, supportive environment for economic development. Already, Canada is a significant investor in Mongolia and its third-largest trading partner. We have great potential to expand and diversify our economic ties, with education and building technologies being two specific areas of potential growth.
On the international stage, our two countries are joint members of no fewer than 35 international organisations. Canada strongly and consistently supported Mongolia’s successful efforts to join the Organisation for Security Cooperation in Europe, and we are also partners in NATO and the Community of Democracies. It is worth noting that Mongolia recently completed its term as chair of the Community of Democracies – an opportunity Mongolians seized in order to strengthen civil society. As chair of the community’s Working Group on Civil Society, Canada was delighted with Mongolia’s leadership. I should also highlight our joint efforts to develop an educational curriculum related to democracy, which is to be deployed in Mongolian schools as well as other Community member states.
Canadians and Mongolians understand that we derive great benefit from engagement with each other and with the wider world. We also know that, with engagement, there comes a responsibility to act in the defence of international governance and peace. Canada, through its military training programmes, is contributing to the development of Mongolia’s international peacekeeping capacities and efforts, such as that being led by the UN in Sudan. Working together, we believe we can make a contribution to regional and global security, and help bring about a more just and peaceful world. I am pleased by the growing range and depth of ties between Canada and Mongolia. It signals to me that our relationship is evolving into the truly sophisticated partnership that our two peoples deserve and that is needed to meet the challenges of a complex and changing world.
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