Our two nations have a shared history that goes back at least 100 years, beginning with an expedition by Roy Chapman Andrews, a naturalist and explorer. In 1923 he captured the world’s imagination by discovering in the Gobi Desert the largest mammal to ever walk this earth. That said, although we do go back at least 100 years, we’ve grown much closer ever since the Mongolian people began to embrace democracy 22 years ago.
In the last 20 years, Mongolia has once again captured the imagination of the world by its remarkable transition to democracy: five presidential elections and five democratically conducted parliamentary elections. It is truly remarkable the progress that this country has made since 1991.
Today Mongolia is not just a shining example for other nations in transition but is also an emerging leader in the worldwide democratic movement, a responsible actor on the world stage, and a close friend and partner of the US. This journey towards democracy started with a small demonstration on Human Rights Day in 1989, one which eventually blossomed into a movement inspiring thousands of Mongolians and leading to the country’s first free elections, which in turn ended decades of one party rule. In July of 2011, Mongolia assumed the chairmanship of the Community of Democracies, a coalition of democratic countries dedicated to promoting democracy around the world. Mongolia’s term as chairman will culminate with a democratic summit held in 2013 in the capital of Ulaanbaatar.
Americans admire and appreciate Mongolia’s contributions to international peace and security. In the past decade alone, Mongolia’s army, one with a proud martial tradition dating back to the days of Ghengis Khan, has been deployed with US peacekeepers and observers in Sierra Leone, Chad, Darfur, Kosovo, Western Sahara and many other countries. Mongolian soldiers have served with distinction alongside forces under the banner of the international coalition in Iraq and are now serving in Afghanistan, where Mongolian troop contributions will soon increase to nearly 400 military personnel. The US and Mongolia are also developing closer economic relations. To further enhance these economic ties, we are mutually working towards a transparency agreement that would make Mongolia an even more attractive destination for American and foreign investment activities. I would like to reiterate that the US remains strongly committed to helping the Mongolian people build a better future. That is why over the last 20 years the US Agency for International Development (USAID) has provided more than $200m in grant assistance to Mongolia, with programmes that seek to bolster democracy and economic growth.
In addition to the aid through USAID, we have committed $285m through the Millennium Challenge Corporation. That assistance is focused on a critical set of issues including combating corruption through training programmes at all levels of government, improving the rule of law by developing checks and balances at all levels of government, vocational training to prepare Mongolians for better jobs and improving the infrastructure to make the critical north-south corridor more accessible.
President Ts. Elbegdorj’s June 2011 visit to the US and President Barack Obama’s meeting with him at the White House are both tangible signs of how impressed we are by the progress Mongolia has already made. Our high-level political visits are also signs of how very important this relationship is to the US. We are very proud to be considered a “third neighbour” of Mongolia. And, like any good neighbour should, we will continue to make sure we do our part to support Mongolia’s political and economic development and we greatly look forward to creating closer ties in the months and years to come.
Excerpted from remarks made by Vice-President Biden at the Government Building in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia on August 22, 2011, and edited for publication.
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