Developing Community-Driven Ger Area Upgrading Process in Mongolia

|Mongolia

Before the revolution of 1921, the total population of Mongolia was about 600 thousand whereas in 2010 it reached more than 2.7 million.The urban population was only about 50 thousand in 1950, whereas in the year of 2010 it reached more than one million or roughly 45 percent of the total population. The urban population in 2010 was 20 times higher than what it was in the 1950. With this rapid expansion due to population growth and high rate of urbanization, some 70 percent of the total urban population is facing a lack of infrastructure and social services in particular in Ger areas where unplanned settlements are dominant.

Ger housing areas have been a major feature of Mongolia’s urban landscape for many years. Nevertheless efforts to upgrade ger areas have been undertaken in only a limited and piecemeal manner, with little interest in generating more broad based or longer term improvements. This is now changing, with a recognition that the ger areas need to receive infrastructure improvements and urban services similar to the more formal areas of cities and towns.

Having a adequate house and healthy living conditions are one of the most important aspects of our life, specially where there are 4 seasons including harsh winter. Mongolia has been developed under socialist or top down regime for over the 70 years. Under this system housing supply was government responsibility and people get a fully serviced apartment through their organizations which caused long queue for housing among employees. Because of limited supply of serviced apartments many household live in Ger area. That time government policy was focused on removing Ger area settlements out of the city, but only a few such attempts were made. Lately, a number of projects are being implemented with a significant amount of financing for the improvement of the living environment. The results are insufficient due to the lack of active involvement of the community.

Nowadays it is important to introduce people driven development approach especially in Ger area where people need to improve their living conditions. Although the Government and citizen responsibilities have grown in order to achieve the sustainable integration of social and environmental sectors, a lack of information exchange and community involvement continue to exist.

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In order to improve and develop ger areas, it will be fundamental to utilize the state budget and investment of international and donor agencies on the basis of the real needs of the communities. However, a question can be asked. Who will determine the actual need, whether it will be local governments, or will it be the communities who are realistically independent on political and economic reforms? The answer is communities. Then how can we make them to be able to link residents within communities. A number of successful experiences affirmed that savings activities are a major tool to motivate communities to be initiators not only receivers and beneficiaries in improving living conditions and development activities. In turn, it will significantly help to reduce poverty in ger areas.

Community savings is a daily-based activity to draw people together on regular, continuous, and volunteered basis. Working together, communities can find out how to handle and manage simple basic needs with their own resource base. In other words, the process is learning to shift from community based savings and loan activities into a complex financial mechanisms and physical development activities. It also is a gradual process that provides the community with the capacity and confidence needed for a true and comprehensive self-development process. It creates ongoing learning within the community about each other’s lives, about how to manage together.

Hence, it was envisaged that in order to establish independent Community-Based Organizations (CBO), it will be perceptive to form community based savings to train communities psychologically and financially in advance. Although, there are some experiences in establishment of savings groups mostly among workers of business entities to fulfill their personal financial needs such as purchasing TV or school fee, etc. But there are not any cases for establishing savings among residents of ger areas for their community development activities.

Therefore, the significance of establishing community based savings is to put together and link ger area residents to improve and develop living areas including road, water supply, air and soil issues communally. During the centrally planned economy, community organizations named Neighborhood Organizations which are now transformed as Condominium Associations which are responsible for common areas of apartments. Since, the objectives and purpose of establishing such community organizations is the same, it is crucial to place background of collaborating of communities on volunteer basis efficiently from the beginning.

Under the framework of improving the living conditions of Ger Areas with the active involvement of community participation, Urban Development Resource Center (UDRC) is helping communities who live geopgraphically close to each other to learn and change their understanding for the improvement of their living conditions. UDRC has been working with about 200 communities to assist them to establish saving groups with aims of solving their problems together, finding solutions and most important part is building trust and self confidence among ger area residents towards their common development.

[Translated by ERINA]