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  • Writer's pictureThe Gender Security Project


Updated: Jul 11

As of June 2023, Mongolia has indicated its intention to contribute toward promoting feminist and gender transformative approaches to multilateralism and foreign policy. This is a particularly interesting development given Mongolia’s geopolitical positioning.

The Mongolian Story

Mongolia is a landlocked state, nestled between Russia and China, without any access to the sea. As a function of both history and geopolitics, Mongolia is heavily dependent on Russia and China in several ways, especially when it come to the economy. Mongolia gets most of its power from Russia, and China buys most of its agricultural goods and minerals as exports. Susceptible to food scarcity, rapid currency fluctuations, the climate crisis, Mongolia is also in a tough spot when it comes to building its multilateral alliances without rubbing its immediate neighbours the wrong way.[1] Retaining its independence has been a tight-rope walk, as recent events in the form of the Russia-Ukraine war have shown.

Between 1921 and 1990, Mongolia was part of the Soviet bloc, but it was not part of the Soviet Union in itself.[2] It had a centralized command economy that depended heavily on Moscow for its survival. Territory that traditionally formed a significant part of Mongolia, namely Inner Mongolia,[3] now constitutes an “autonomous region” of China. This territory is also home to a population of ethnic Mongolians that is larger than that within Mongolia. This territory has been the site of persistent conflict with China, compounded by secessionist movements operating in the region.[4]

With the collapse of communism in the 1990s, Mongolia transitioned into a multiparty democracy in the early 1990s, and established a stable economy.[5] Following free and fair democratic elections in 1993, Mongolia also adopted a new constitution, installed a parliament, prime minister, and president as the apparatus in charge of governance. Mongolia’s geographical positioning between Russia and China has put the onus on it to constantly work toward balancing the influence of the two great powers in the region.

Originally, Mongolia pursues an approach of omni-enmeshment in crafting its foreign policy.[6] In the process, it worked hard to build as many partners as possible regionally and globally, including the US. However, in the early 2000s onward, Mongolia began to shift toward seeking an active balance of power to reduce its heavy reliance on any one power alone.[7] This led to collaborating with several states across Asia and the US, and restoring its military ties with Russia through both a strategic partnership and joint military exercises[8] – without compromising on its strong bond with China.

In recent times, with Russia and China growing closer, Mongolia’s independence has come under threat. In response, Mongolia has been working to build and maintain strong ties with its “third neighbours,”[9] which include states that also embrace democratic values while practicing market economics. A major strategic partnership to emerge from this has been with the US, through Strategic Partnerships in 2019 and 2022, undoubtedly with a finger on the pulse in relation to Ukraine. The US and other third-neighbour allies participate in Mongolia’s annual Khaan Quest military exercises.[10]

Mongolia’s nebulous position has been heightened by the Russia-Ukraine war. The sanctions on Russia have produced ripple effects on Mongolia, as Russia has not been able to pay for its imports from Mongolia. For its part, Mongolia has abstained from voting on any UN resolutions condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but at the same time, it has also refused to critique sanctions imposed on Russia by the west – while facing the impact of these very sanctions. Fighting to keep its democracy alive, Mongolia has been, as Elbegdorj Tsakhia, former PM and President of Mongolia mentioned, “fighting for its survival.”[11]

Mongolia’s Commitment to a Feminist Foreign Policy

Mongolia’s feminist foreign policy initiative appears to be characterised by three key features – supporting international initiatives for women, expanding the role of women in the foreign services, and continuing to ensure the active participation of women in peace-support operations. Mongolia’s support for women and girls at the international level is not new: In 1965, Mongolia hosted an international seminar on women as one of its early initiatives at the UN. Just about a decade later, in 1976, it sponsored a resolution on Improving the Situation of Women, which became a signature initiative at the UN – over time, this came to be known as the resolution on Improving the Situation of Women and Girls in Rural Areas.[12] In 1981, a Mongolian female diplomat was elected as the first Chairperson of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. With its transition to democracy, Mongolia began to underscore its diplomacy positions with a very clear stance of gender equality and women’s empowerment.

In 2022, the Mongolian Parliament appointed six female ambassadors, nominated by the President – marking a first with the largest number of female ambassadors to ever be appointed in a single year.[13] Foreign Minister Battsetseg Barmunkh hosted an international conference on the WPS Agenda, specifically focusing on strengthening the role of women in peacekeeping, in June 2022. Mongolia has deployed over 900 women as peacekeepers to the UN and other peacekeeping missions, and ranks highest among nations in the region for the number of women it contributes to peacekeeping troops.[14] Mongolia’s track record at the UN has also evidenced its dedication to supporting resolutions addressing women and children, supplemented by the strong presence and participation of women in its multilateral diplomatic engagements and in shaping its foreign policy. Subsequently, it has demonstrated a commitment to women and girls’ rights and participation in its engagements with the UN and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

On June 29 and 30, Mongolia hosted foreign ministers from France, Germany, Indonesia, Liechtenstein, and South Africa, and a host of representatives of international organizations in Ulaanbaatar to discuss gender equality, climate change, and food insecurity. This culminated in the Ulaanbaatar Declaration. This culminated in The Ulaanbaatar Declaration, which called for the need to implement the WPS Agenda, enhance the participation of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and peacebuilding, support survivors of sexual and gender-based violence in conflict and post-conflict situations, implement gender mainstreaming in training military, police, corrections and civilian personnel in peacekeeping missions, enhance capacity and strengthen ties with civil society, among other things.

Mongolia has joined the Feminist Foreign Policy Plus Group at the UN, which is an alliance of countries engaging in the topic. It has also indicated its intention to contribute toward promoting feminist and gender transformative approaches to multilateralism and foreign policy.

Given what we know of Mongolia’s position in the region’s geopolitics, the intention to adopt and pursue a Feminist Foreign Policy could be informed by one of two, if not both, factors. First, Mongolia has always committed to the advancement of women and girls rights. Given that contemporary state-led rhetoric on feminist foreign policy appears to centre the empowerment of women and girls, it isn’t particularly out of Mongolia’s course of action to adopt a similar policy. A second possibility could be to double down on furthering its partnerships with more of its third neighbours, this time, aligning with the commitment to further gender equality and enhance women’s empowerment. This could also be an attempt to deviate from the violent, heteropatriarchal foreign policies of its immediate leaders. It also remains to be seen whether Mongolia's agency in developing its feminist foreign policy is preserved and respected - rather than for it to become the site of proxy war or proxy diplomacy - a concern that does seem real given that France also recently supported a controversial Uranium deal. It also remains to be seen whether Mongolia's agency in developing its feminist foreign policy is preserved and respected - rather than for it to become the site of proxy war or proxy diplomacy - a concern that does seem real given that France also recently supported a controversial Uranium deal.[15]


[1] Montsame, "Female Foreign Ministers' Meeting Commences in Ulaanbaatar." [2] Sergey Radchenko, "New Documents on Mongolia and the Cold War." [3] The Wilson Center, "Inner Mongolia--Another Tibet or Xinjiang?."

[4] South Mongolian Human Rights Center. [5] World Bank, Mongolia. [6] Reeves, J. (2012). Mongolia's evolving security strategy: omni-enmeshment and balance of influence. The Pacific Review, 25(5), 589-612. [7] J. Mendee and N. Soyolgerel. MONGOLIA’S NEW FOREIGN POLICY STRATEGY: A BALANCING ACT WITH CENTRAL AND NORTHEAST ASIA. [8] Intellinews. "Mongolian ministers under fire for failing to quickly explain appearance of Russian armed forces on city streets." [9] Asia Society, "Mongolia's 'Third Neighbor' Foreign Policy." [10] Major Jamia Odom. "Khaan Quest 2022 Finishes Strong Reaffirming Multinational Spirit of Exercise." [11] Charlie Campbell, "'We Face Very Tough Challenges.' How Mongolia Typifies the Problems Posed to Small Countries by China's Rise". [12] “Mongolian Women Peacekeepers”, Mongolian Geopolitics, No. 17, 30 May 2022 (Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung), [13] "For the first time in the history of the diplomatic service of Mongolia, the largest number of women Ambassador to work", Ikon News, 19 January 2022, [14] “Mongolian Women Peacekeepers”, Mongolian Geopolitics # 17 (Fried- rich-Ebert-Stiftung) 30 May 2022,

[15] Mongolia: Emmanuel Macron supports controversial uranium mining during official visit

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