Managing Development and Infrastructure: Understanding State Engagements with Rural Communities in Mongolia

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Geography - SoGE

Abstract

The proposed research will to build upon my DPhil research in Mongolia by focusing on understanding how government administrators engage with rural households around infrastructure and development projects such as the World Bank's Sustainable Livelihoods Project and the Oyu Tolgoi gold and copper mega-mine. My work plan addresses the GCRF thematic priorities of "understanding the relationship between social institutions, physical infrastructure and the natural environment" and the theme of migration, mobility and development. I will draw upon the large amount of qualitative data that I collected over the course of my DPhil project as well as data from a socio-economic survey of rural households living near the Oyu Tolgoi mine, which I conducted since finishing my DPhil in February 2016. I am particularly interested in exploring ways to actively engage rural households in the development planning process in order to contribute to economic and social welfare on both national and local scales in Mongolia. My expertise as a social scientist working in the fields of economic geography and anthropology as well as my long-term engagement in the region of Inner Asia will enable me to effectively achieve these aims.
I have conducted independent long-term ethnographic research on rural livelihoods and the political economy of mobile pastoralism in Mongolia since 2004 and I speak, read and write Mongolian. My DPhil thesis, The Changing Meaning of Work, Herding and Social Relations in Rural Mongolia, is based on a year of ethnographic fieldwork involving extensive participant observation. It examines the role of mobile pastoralism and rural work as a medium of social reproduction for families in Mongolia. This work is reported in four academic articles, which examine herder household management, decision-making, and the spatial aspects of household social and economic production. Rural work practices are used as a lens to examine wider processes of social change around gender, labour, finance and mobility. As standalone pieces and as a united work, the articles show that herding work practices are an important reference point in political subjectivities, concepts of citizenship and administrative practices that idealize the state. The policies and practices of government institutions, including non-state agencies, play powerful roles in the particular forms through which relations are spatialized. By taking this approach and prioritizing herder critical reflections on their own lives, I show how herder efforts to access resources, such as formal schooling for children, spatially transform the labour, finance, and mobility systems of households.
My work presents three key arguments with reference to these concepts. The first is that patron-client relations continue to play a strong role in family hierarchies and wider social alliances used to gain access to needed resources and services. Secondly, I argue that pastoralist work is an integral part of governance and the moral authority of the state. Finally, attention to the spatial organisation of household economies, including household splitting and new types of mobility, reiterates the significance of place in human agency. These findings specifically identify themes around household decision making and public administration, which provide a basis to address the GCRF challenge areas around sustainable livelihoods and inclusive growth and building effective institutions. The actions I plan to take to address these challenge areas are to resubmit academic articles which I wrote as part of my DPhil, write new academic articles and collaborate with colleagues on interdisciplinary co-authorships, conduct short-term follow-up field work, consolidate and continue to build networks of academic and non-academics working on issues related to understanding social and environmental change and governance, and participate in a work exchange focused on social and environmental safeguard policies.
 
Description The most significant achievements from the award have been publishing journal articles and an edited book, organizing the multiple knowledge exchange events and the Oxford Desert Conference, co-editing a special issue for the journal called Land, and building an interdisciplinary working group around pastoralism and risk in Mongolian rural livelihoods. The award allowed for a strong and vibrant network to be consolidated over the course of the events, conference panels, planning for the edited special issue, and preparing grant applications for the GRCF. It was a significant achievement to return to Mongolia and distribute research findings from my PhD to the many stakeholders of the project, and continue to engage with the local community, local leaders, NGOs, University faculty and other stakeholders. In addition, I have been able to act as a volunteer adviser/consultant for the British Red Cross/Mongolian Red Cross programmes in Mongolia which I continue to do.
The award objectives were met and in many ways exceeded my expectations. I was able to accomplish everything in my work plan, with the exception of doing a work placement for the World Bank's Environmental and Social Safegaurding team. As a replacement for this planned work placement, I did a placement as an advisor for the British Red Cross/Mongolian Red Cross programmes in Mongolia, which I continue to do as a volunteer. As a result of this work placement, I have been a leader in creating a consortium for NGOS and academics working in Mongolian on disaster relief programming.
Exploitation Route If the application is successful, the findings of this project will be taken forward in the form of an ESRC-GCRF grant on inclusive development. I have submitted an application with my colleages at Oxford and research partners in Mongolia. The findings will also be brought forward through the consortium formed in Mongolia. I am building a website to host the consortum at Oxford. The goal of the website is to be a knowledge-sharing platform for groups working on rural livelihoods, risk and pastoralism in Mongolia. The findings will be taken forward further through a planned Oxford Desert Conference in 2019, the development of more grant applications in collaboration with Mongolian partners, and through the organization of more events to evaluate how our knowledge exchange findings impacted on programming for the 2017-2018 year in Mongolia.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice

 
Description The findings have been disseminated through a number of conference panel sessions, knowledge exchanges and workshops. The events included: Knowledge Exchange on Pastoralism and Risk in Drylands; 2018 International Desert Conference; Knowledge Exchange on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor; Knowledge Exchange on Dzud Risk in Mongolia. Participation in conferences included presentations at: Central Asian Studies Society 2017 Conference in Bishkek; International Union of Ethnographic and Anthropological Sciences, Ottawa; Royal Geographical Society Conference 2017 in London. The knowledge exchange events brought together NGO stakeholders working on rural economy and risk in Mongolia. During our events, we were able to exchange valuable information and co-analyze problems faced by NGOs during the implementation phases of their work. The Knowledge Exchange on Dzud Risk in Mongolia faciliated the uptake of a newly developed Dzud Risk Map by the British and Mongolian Red Cross. These events allowed me to build a formal partnership with the British/Mongolian Red Cross and the NGO, People in Need based in Ulaanbaatar. I have worked with these organizations to help design programmes to address Mongolian rural livelihoods. Our growing network of non-academic partners have been included in recent grant applications to the ESCR-GCRF and the ERC.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Televised Knowledge Exchange on Mongolian climatic disasters
Geographic Reach Asia 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
Impact Our knowledge exchange conference event in Mongolia included participation from international NGOs such as the British Red Cross, the Mongolian Red Cross, the FAO, Save the Children, People in Need as well as the National Agency for Meterological and Environmental Monitoring, the National University of Mongolia and Nagoya University in Japan. This event influenced the theory of change model utilized by the Mongolian Red Cross for its forcast-based finance initative in rural Mongolia.
URL http://www.ifrc.org/en/what-we-do/where-we-work/asia-pacific/mongolian-red-cross-society/
 
Description Partnerships with Mongolian NGOs on Dzud Natural Disaster Programming 
Organisation British Red Cross
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The partnerships grew out of two knowledge exchanges held during the grant period. The first knowledge exchange occured in Oxford, UK and the second in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Both knowledge exchanges were focused on natural diasters and risk in pastoralist livelihoods. I developed a partnership with the organizations: People in Need and Mongolian/British Red Cross. As part of this partnership, I contributed multiple assessments of the organizations' strategies and programmes for addressing risks faced by Mongolian herders during periods of dzud (winter diaster). I also facilitated the organizations' connections with other scholars and networks working in on related issues.
Collaborator Contribution The partners contributed up-to-date knowledge of policy-making processes in Mongolia and contributed to the organization of the knowledge exchange event in Mongolia.
Impact The collaboration is multi-disciplinary and involves non-academics. Outcomes have included the development of a stronger network in Mongolia engaged in understanding livelihood risks to pastoral livelihoods from a physical and social sciences perspective. An important outcome is the ongoing development of the British Red Cross's fiance based forecasting programme in Mongolia, which draws on expertise formed during this grant period.
Start Year 2017
 
Description 4th Oxford Interdisciplinary Desert Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The 4th Oxford Interdisciplinary Desert Conference, from 8-9 June 2017, provided a forum for researchers and those interested in desert and dryland environments and societies to present, discuss and debate dryland themes and research. The Oxford Desert Conference brought together academics and non-academics who research, work and live across the world's desert and semi-desert regions for two days of vibrant talks, presentations, panels and networking opportunities.
For 2017, we encouraged presentations on issues related to health, mobility and forced displacement, and environmental governance. We also encouraged participants from the Humanities to join us. The combination of research presentations, open engagement and working group panels encouraged debate, conversation and exchange of ideas. I am now co-editing a special issue of the journal called Land based on the conference proceedings.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.geog.ox.ac.uk/events/deserts/
 
Description American Center for Mongolian Studies Speaker Series - (Dis)integrations? Mega Projects and Narratives of State Legitimacy in the Gobi Desert 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This presentation was hosted by the American Centre for Mongolian Studies and reached an international audience with 30 people attending in person and others via Facebook Live. A dynamic question and answer session followed with individuals also contributing questions via Facebook Live.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.mongoliacenter.org/acmsevent/speaker-series-ariell-ahearn/
 
Description China's Frontier- Institutions, Infrastructure and Landscapes in Pakistan's CPEC 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The activity consisted of a one day conference bringing together interested reserachers and stakeholders around a number of themes related to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. These include the themes of: institutions and governance; livelihoods; infrastructure; landscape; and economics and investment. Seven scholars from across the UK attended along with members of the NGO, UNPO (Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Knowledge Exchange Event: Contextualising risk in deserts: disasters, marginality and policy¬† 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact In bringing together diverse experts this Knowledge Exchange focused on contextualising multiple risks in desert regions where natural disasters, conflict, water scarcity, poverty and community well-being issues are framed by aridity. The seminar's interdisciplinary perspectives provided a chance to exchange thoughts and praxis among international researchers and stakeholders in addressing risk in global drylands. Attendees included a director of NGO based in Mongolia, the British Red Cross, academics from Nagoya University in Japan, international consultants and PhD students and researchers from across the UK
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Knowledge Exchange: Pastoralism, Governance and Dzud Risk in Mongolia 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Pastoralism supports nearly a third of the Mongolian population, contributes to GDP and food security, and is a reservoir of Mongolian traditional culture. One of the most significant risks to pastoralism today is the natural hazard called dzud, which can result in significant damage to the national herd and livelihoods in all regions of Mongolia. This knowledge exchange explored the social and environmental elements of dzud risk in rural Mongolia. It brought together international academics, practioners and policy makers to interrogate the varying definitions of dzud and to develop a common understanding of this phenomenon in order to develop policies to reduce risks faced by pastoralists and support a more sustainable and robust agricultural sector. This knowledge exchange was two days long and included more than 8 speakers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017