Humboldtians in Focus

A Green Vision for Ulan Bator

By Katja Winckler

Mongolian political scientist and climate protection fellow Saruul Agvaandorjiin wants to enhance awareness of global responsibility amongst mining companies, citizens and politicians. In Berlin, she is establishing contacts to promote environmental protection in her home country and encountering the German love of discussion.

Mongolian climate protection fellow Saruul Agvaandorjiin is establishing contacts in Berlin to promote environmental protection in her home country.
Mongolian climate protection
fellow Saruul Agvaandorjiin is
establishing contacts in Berlin to
promote environmental protection
in her home country.

Photo: Stefan Maria Rother

Saruul Agvaandorjiin has a vision: she wants to make mining in her home country more environmentally friendly and people-oriented, and ensure a supply of clean air. To achieve this vision, she packed her suitcase in her threeroom apartment in the centre of Ulan Bator and flew to Berlin with her laptop under her arm. Her 19-year-old daughter accompanied her on the journey. For one year, Agvaandorjiin will live a modest life in a two-room apartment in Berlin while regularly enduring the more than 6,000 kilometres, almost nine hour flight to commute between Mongolia and Germany. A woman with few requirements, she certainly has high ideals.

The 46-year-old is spending the next few months in the German capital as the guest of politician Andrea Schwarzkopf of the Alliance 90/The Greens parliamentary group in the Bundestag. The doctor of political science and Germanist is in Berlin as a Humboldt Foundation Climate Protection Fellow. Launched this year, the fellowship programme for prospective leaders is supporting Agvaandorjiin in her project, the aims of which include incorporating the idea of “responsibility” into the 34 Mongolian environmental laws and introducing an environmental standard. “For the most part, the laws no longer keep pace with the current conditions in Mongolia, which have been caused, in particular, by the intensive mining boom. I want to use legal changes to help make mining companies, citizens and decision-makers more aware of their responsibilities,” says the Mongolian national who joined the Mongolian Green Movement six years ago and has been its Chair since 2006. She believes that there can only be one future – and that future is green.

The fellowship is based on knowledge transfer between German and international experts. 15 fellows from China, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, the Philippines, and, of course, Mongolia are involved. They are working in areas such as foreign policy and international relations, biotechnological processes, forestry, economics, public law, wastewater chemistry, ecology and climatology. The projects are being conducted at universities as well as in political organisations and other institutions.

More say on environmental issues

If it were up to Agvaandorjiin, the international mining companies that are enjoying great business success in Mongolia, especially in the gold mining field, would have to use the latest environmentally friendly technologies, such as renewable energies, and reduce their immense water consumption. The researcher also wants to investigate the possibilities of giving citizens more of a say and developing environmental education. She hopes to use her fellowship year to establish collaborations between the relevant institutions in Germany and Mongolia. Within the scope of the fellowship, Agvaandorjiin is therefore visiting universities such as the TU Bergakademie Freiberg and the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems in Freiburg in the Black Forest. She has already been to the Öko-Institut (Institute for Applied Ecology) and the photovoltaic plants in Freiburg. “One of my other aims is to lay the foundations for green business in my country,” she says. She is currently establishing contacts with scientists and other fellows, and hopes that in doing so, she will expand her knowledge of mining, law, licensing, renewable energies, environmental education and strengthening NGOs.

Agvaandorjiin’s affinity to Germany is deeply rooted in her family. Her grandfather, Erdene Batukhan, Mongolia’s first Minister of Education, sent the first Mongolian students to study in Germany in the 1920s – and accompanied them himself. Her parents were also greatly taken with the German language and the idea of receiving an education in Germany. Agvaandorjiin therefore studied philosophy in Jena during the GDR era, took a doctorate in Marburg supported by a fellowship from the German Academic Exchange Service and focused on the topic of “Democratisation opportunities in Mongolia” as a visiting scholar in Vienna.

“There can only be one future – and that future is green.”

In Germany, Agvaandorjiin has been particularly enthused by the love of discussion and hopes to establish this culture of dialogue in her home country. She laid the foundations for this three years ago when she established the, as yet not officially registered, Academic Transfer Centre in Mongolia. In cooperation with the Mongolian Democratic Union, the Mongolian University of Science and Technology and the University of Marburg, she organised three summer schools on the “Evaluation of Mongolian Democracy”; after the fall of the Iron Curtain and the dissolution of the “big brother” Soviet Union, a great deal had changed in Mongolia: the search for a national identity became very widespread. Furthermore, companies interested in Mongolia’s natural resources such as gold, copper, coal and crude oil suddenly showed up from all over the world.

Agvaandorjiin’s two main focus areas are the development of a civil society and more sustainable gold mining. She believes it is important that not all politics students go into politics, but that some should also be interested in the field of research. “We need to expand the focus areas of the courses on offer and drive forward empirical research. I want to spark discussions and keep them burning.” She recently attended an assembly of citizens in the Berlin suburb of Kleinmachnow. “The lively discussions on real issues – from bicycle paths via photovoltaic systems through to aircraft noise – were truly refreshing.” She will soon be able to adopt a similar approach at the Mongolian University of Science and Technology: a Master’s in Politics, and further education in the field of political sciences for teachers will both be introduced. This should mean that at least a small part of her vision will have become reality.


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Katja Winckler Katja Winckler
Photo: private

KATJA WINCKLER is a freelance journalist who lives in Berlin. She writes portraits and reports for magazines, newspapers and companies. © .de – Magazin Deutschland: www.magazin-deutschland.de.

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