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“Don’t give us aid, give us a chance!”

Mongolia, April 22, 2010

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Mercy Corps Mongolia  </span>
    Mandal Urtnasan (Civil Society Director) and Oidov Vaanchig (FIELD Project Officer) hold the approved “National Standards for Accessible Construction and Walkways,” which Mercy Corps helped a task force write for the government of Mongolia. Photo: Mercy Corps Mongolia

Congratulations to the Mercy Corps Mongolia team for winning the 2010 Disability inclusion Award given by InterAction!

Their work is living proof of how major strides for disability inclusion can happen rapidly with focused interventions and strong public-private-civil society partnerships. People With Disabilities (PWDs) are among the most marginalized groups in the rural areas of Mongolia where Mercy Corps’ programs are implemented. In only 15 months since our programming with PWDs began in Mongolia, the team has had nationwide impact through major policy change and fostering a culture of inclusion.

As an initial step, Mercy Corps established a diverse multi-agency task force of leading Mongolian organizations and government and private sector representatives to deliver advocacy campaigns designed to improve the accessibility of public buildings and walkways for PWDs. Insufficient access to basic infrastructure prevents PWDs accessing basic public services such as education, health and social welfare, as well as limiting their ability to seek and find employment.

By consequence, most PWDs in Mongolia are housebound and isolated from community life. The task force also studied the legal environment and worked with engineers to design accessibility guidelines that were then presented to the Mongolian government.

In February 2010, the "National Standards for Accessible Construction and Walkways" became enforceable under Mongolian law. Although approval of the standards will alone not automatically result in greater access for PWDs, they do create the needed legal foundation and provide specific engineering regulations for all current and future buildings in the entire country.

This policy victory has also motivated disabled people’s organizations to strive for the full achievement of accessibility for PWDs in all aspects of life. As a result of the Mercy Corps campaign, 23 accessibility ramps have already been built by government and private sector agencies at their own cost and several agencies have also modified their facilities to accommodate the needs of PWDs (including Mercy Corps ourselves!).

The Mercy Corps Mongolia team has shown that successful public education, advocacy campaigns, collaboration with policy-makers and other activities supporting PWDs can be designed and delivered by and for local people without significant external resources.

Approval and implementation of the new National Standards is only a first step in ending the exclusion of PWDs from social, economic and political life in Mongolia. Real change will only be complete when PWDs are accepted as equals with all people in all spheres of life. As one program participant said, “do not give us aid, give us a chance.” Mercy Corps is committed to continuing its work with all people in Mongolia to help realize that dream.

Again, congratulations to Country Director Dominic Graham, Civil Society Director Mandal Urtnasan, program team members Nasandelger Zandan, Oidov Vaanchig, Erdenesuvd Nyam, Dashzeveg Enkhtaivan, Chimeg Chuluun, Odkhuu Sanjaa, Saruul Orsoo and all partner organizations that made these efforts possible.