UNESCO gives voices to minorities in Mongolia

Live programme on the second channel of Mongolian Public Broadcaster - © UNESCO

Launching a second channel of the Mongolian Public Broadcaster (MNB) targeting minorities, enhancing the capacity of printing facilities for publications in minority languages, and supporting the establishment of ten community radio stations in remote areas are some of the major achievements related to communication and information that have been presented during an experience-sharing workshop recently held in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

Besides the component to increase “access to information among rural populations, especially ethnic and linguistic minorities,” the UNESCO-led interagency project, Comprehensive community services to improve human security for the rural disadvantaged populations in Mongolia, included components on health, education and livelihood. Targeting twenty remote Mongolian districts (soums) in five provinces (aimags), it was implemented by the UNESCO Beijing Office, working in collaboration with UNDP, UNICEF and WHO. It was funded by Japan under the UN Trust Fund for Human Security.

“An interesting feature of this project is its recognition of the intrinsic value of cultural resources that we find in rural Mongolia, should they be those embraced by certain ethnic groups or those preserved by nomadic herders,” said Abhimanyu Singh, Director of UNESCO’s Beijing Office, opening the workshop. The manager of the community radio Uushigtyn Tsuurai, K. Nurlybek, said that thanks to programmes and talk-shows aired on the station, the community has decided to collectively mobilize to clean ravines and build small dams.

“Establishing the second channel of the Mongolian National Public Radio and Television within the project now allows us to pass on our traditions to next generations and to nurture national pride among young people,” said Mr Enkhbold, the Deputy Prime Minister and Chair of the Project’s Management Committee. The UN Resident Coordinator S. Sinanoglu acknowledged this project as a successful example of the UN “Delivering as one”.

Establishment of the public broadcaster for minorities

Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, cutting the ribbon for MNB2 on 11 July 2011 - © UNESCO

The second channel of the Mongolian Public Broadcaster (MNB2) was launched by the UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, in July 2011, on the occasion of the National Naadam Festival of Mongolia. Since its launch, MNB2 has been airing originally produced content relevant to ethnic minorities. Currently MNB2 has 29 presenters and airs fifteen hours of programmes daily, which includes evening news in minority languages, as well as interviews, talk shows and educational programmes specifically tailored to the needs of national minorities. Cultural programmes in the Kazakh and Tuvaa languages and in Buryat dialect have prominence and are each aired once a week.

MNB2 is transmitting nationwide through the most popular satellite provider in Mongolia, DDish, which has more than 100,000 households as subscribers to its services, mostly in rural areas, including nomadic households. Their traditional gears (yurts) usually have a TV set powered by a solar-panel (see picture). MNB2 is also available on six cable networks in Ulaanbaatar and 18 cable networks in rural areas.

Pioneering community radio in rural Mongolia

On the way to Uvs - © UNESCO

The community radio stations have been established to ensure that the residents in ten minority-populated soums in four aimags - Bayan-Olgii, Uvs, Khovd and Khuvsgul - have access to locally-generated radio content in their own language (read reportage). The radio stations are located either in the community learning centers (CLC) or in public buildings, and are working with the population at large in a participatory way, with an elected board, a manager as well as producers and volunteers.

The remote soums were introduced to the concept of community radio and of local ownership, and community participation. Each radio station is supervised by a Board consisting of 10-15 members elected by the community and representatives of the local civil society. A total of 70 people from the involved soums were trained on radio management, journalism, programming and technical operations and maintenance. In all, twelve training workshops were conducted, and each station’s staff was provided with legal and professional handbooks, manuals, copyright-free music, audio programmes and educational audios. A total of 536 citizens and 178 board members, staff and volunteers were directly involved.

The community radios are now broadcasting news, live programmes and talk shows. Stations are taking initiative to achieve sustainability with income generation activities. A strategy to further support the community through the creation of a Community Radio Network has been developed by the partner NGO, Globe International, to ensure the medium term sustainability of the radio stations.

Supporting local printing capacity

A needs assessment on the capability of local printing houses was conducted. Based on the findings, a ten-day training was provided in partnership with the Mongolian Press Association to 30 participants from printing organizations, including ten managers and directors, ten designers, ten typesetters. In the framework of the project, the printing houses availed of opportunities to learn from and exchange experiences with five printing houses in Ulaanbaatar, through which a collaboration network was established. As an immediate outcome of this capacity building, eight books in minority languages with improved layout and printing were produced. A shop selling books produced by the local printing houses was established in Bayan-Ulgii. The improved production and marketing ability should ensure the sustainability of these printing houses in the future.

This project was funded with a total amount of 2.9 million USD, and the communication and information component accounted for half a million USD. It was implemented by the Beijing Office with the local coordination in Mongolia by B. Tserensodnom and C. Munkhzul, under the supervision of the Project Management Committee (PMC) composed by member of the Government, national technical agencies, and civil society organizations. The PMC Sub-committee for Communication and Information was chaired by O. Battogtokh, Vice-Chairman of the Communications Regulatory Commission, with the support of media-development veteran experts from the civil society such as K. Naranjargal, founder and Director of Globe International. The communication and information component was implemented by the following national actors: Mongolian Press Association, Mongolian National Broadcaster (MNB), Communication Regulations Commission, Radio and Television Network, Globe International NGO and local governments and NGOs at aimag and soum levels.

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