The forum - co-organised by the Parliament's Standing Committee on State Structure, the Parliament Secretariat, the Cabinet Secretariat and the UNDP, with support from SDC - was the first national-level dialogue platform on the legislative reform and brought together stakeholders from all government tiers, from the national level to baghs and khoroos.
The revision of the LATUG (1992) - the key legislation regulating local governance - was the focus of the forum. While the LATUG played an important role in the shift from a centralised state structure following Mongolia's democratic transition, broad consensus prevails on the need for a fundamental revision. A comprehensive study on the implementation of the current LATUG was undertaken in 2018 by the SDC-funded Strengthening Representative Bodies in Mongolia Project. The study's recommendations formed the foundation of the revised law draft, which was presented for the first time to forum participants.
Keynote presentations, group discussions and plenary sessions enabled views to be gathered from national, regional and local-level institutions on how the law should be framed. The forum provided a greater understanding of the challenges within the current framework and the range of solutions available. Establishing a hierarchy between the LATUG and sectoral laws to avoid duplications and contradictions is central among the many issues to be addressed by the new law. Other issues include the clear allocation of functions to different levels of government and improved provisions for budget allocation and local revenue generation.
A recurrent issue raised during the forum involved the principles and status of administrative and territorial units, which is linked to the current asymmetries between rural and urban units. Participants also brought up the need for better separation of powers and accountability lines between Citizens’ Representative Khurals (sub-national councils) and governors, as well as for a thorough review of the sub-national electoral system (appointment vs. election, independents vs. party candidates, and eligibility criteria) and the internal organisation of local government institutions.
The joint recommendations generated during the forum are a milestone in building consensus and mapping the way forward for upcoming consultations on the draft law at national and local levels. The objective is for the law to be passed by the Parliament in the current legislature, before elections in summer 2020.
The revision of the law that is envisioned will have significant and long-lasting effects. By setting the ground for better clarity in functional allocation and improved accountability, it should enable more effective governance and public service delivery at the local level throughout the country.