UK Ambassador Philip Malone Mongolia has a very bright future with well-educated and young generation

Gogo Mongolia is introducing the honorable Philip Malone, Ambassador of United Kingdom to Mongolia.


You have been working in Mongolia almost a year. What was your first impression?
I’ve spent lot of time in Southeast Asia. I have completed three overseas postings in Singapore and Brunei and I was Ambassador to Laos. So, a lot of experience in Southeast Asia.

The biggest surprise for me was that Mongolia was less Asian than I was expecting and has more of an Eastern European feel to it, if that makes sense.

Given Mongolian geography and history, I was expecting it to be more Asian. But what I like is that mixture of European culture and Asian culture which I find makes working here quite straightforward, because I find Mongolians very easy to work with, to engage with and very straight forward. I think that makes doing our work much easier.

Then another wonderful thing is the amount of sunshine here. I really appreciate it. Obviously everyone knows that Mongolia is very cold in the winter time. But not many people actually say well there is lots of sunshine and in the summer it's beautiful. So that was a really nice surprise.

You mentioned that Mongolia is a kind of mixture between European culture and Asian culture. Is it bad or good for us? Mongolians are blamed about losing their nomadic lifestyle year by year. Please share your opinion?
I think it's a good thing that Mongolia has this sort of dual heritage. If you look at the long-term history of Mongolia going back to the days of Chinggis Khan when the Mongol empire stretched right across Asia and Eurasia, it makes sense there is that mixture. I think it is also means that Mongolians tend to be outward looking, they're very familiar, very curious or interested in what's happening around the world. I'm always struck that even when travelling through the countryside, how much people know about the UK and Europe and what's happening in the world.

So I think it's a good thing. It means it helps Mongolia to be outward looking. Especially given Mongolia sits between two very large neighbours and Mongolia continues to develop its relationships with the so-called third neighbours.

Last year you celebrated 55 years of relations between our two countries. What were the significant events during the last year?
It was really significant, as the United Kingdom was the first western country to establish diplomatic relations with Mongolia back in 1963. Even today, that is still remembered and it is an important element in our relationship. Because of that we wanted to celebrate as much as we could the 55th anniversary. There was a number of things we did.

First of all, we had large scale events here in Ulaanbaatar. Just before I arrived, my predecessor hosted a large reception in the State Opera House to launch the 55th anniversary year. We had an ice sculpture of the famous ‘’Beatles’’ band on Sukhbaatar Square. At the end of the year we made the ‘’Great Train Journey’’ where we rented one of the Mongolian Railway trains and decorated two the carriages in both Mongolian and UK flags. Then we took the train up to the north of the country to visit Darkhan, Erdenet and Selenge province and then right down to the south to Zamyn-Uud. Along the way we did various things to highlight the relationship between the UK and Mongolia.

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For example, in Erdenet I took a trade delegation to the copper mine. My consular colleagues went to Zamyn-Uud and met the authorities there who support British nationals travelling in Mongolia. Also, other colleagues visited one of our ‘’Illegal Wildlife Trade’’ projects. So, we had those big events at either end of the anniversary year. During the year, we had a number of senior level visits too. Our Minister for Asia. Mr Mark Field, visited Mongolia last summer. We also appointed a new trade envoy to Mongolia who visited twice last year.

We also had visitors from Mongolia to London such as the Foreign Minister and Mining and Energy Ministers. The UK and Mongolia parliamentary friendship group led by former Prime Minister Mr. Su. Batbold had an official visit too. Last year, we announced the UK would be putting in place export financing for UK exporters to finance their exports to Mongolia. The financing can be in Mongolian tugrug as well as other currencies. That was an important development in having UK export financing for Mongolia.

We also had some discussions with the Mongolian government regarding Brexit and how we would replicate the EU’s GSP+ trade preference arrangements. So when the UK leaves the EU, we will continue with a similar scheme from which Mongolia benefits already to enable continued trade preference access to the UK market for Mongolian products. So, there has been a range of things that we have done in the last year.

The Embassy has celebrated Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II Birthday on June 7th. How is this tradition celebrated around the world?
In pretty similar ways as we did here. Her Majesty The Queen’s real birthday is on the 21st of April. But mainly for reasons of climate, in the UK it is celebrated normally in the first weekend in June. On that day, we have a very large parade in central London called ‘’Trooping the Colour”.  In order to celebrate overseas at our embassies around the world we normally do it either side of that weekend in June. The format is similar as we did here. It's a celebratory networking reception with a guest of honour and it is designed to celebrate Her Majesty's long reign and to celebrate the relations we have with in this case Mongolia. My ambassadorial colleagues around the world are doing the same in their countries.

What are the advantages of having a constitutional monarchy, over presidential or parliament governments?
Well, I do not like to think of it in a way that you could really say there are advantages or disadvantages. It all depends on the context of each individual country. Obviously, for the UK we have had a monarch for a very long time. Once upon a time, we had an absolute monarch but that has now changed into a parliamentary system with Her Majesty as Head of State with less governing powers than was the case in the past. So, our system of governance is very much focused around parliamentary governance.

What I would say is that having a parliamentary democracy works very well in terms of ensuring that the people's concerns and people’s needs are brought up to the highest levels of parliament and government. So that parliament can understand what the people need or want and therefore they can respond to that.

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Green development, climate change, wild life protection is one of the targeted issues by the embassy and the UK. For Mongolia these are also one of the bases of the economic and environmental development. Please share your thoughts on this matter.
For the UK, working on environmental issues particularly climate change is extremely important. You may have seen that recently the British government announced that it set itself a target of becoming a zero emission economy by 2050 and the first developed country to do so. That is because we really understand the challenge and the risks the world faces from climate change.

We're already seeing the impact of it in many countries around the world including here in Mongolia. So for that reason in many countries around the world we give a particular focus to climate change, protecting the environment and indeed protecting endangered species. That's primarily because we know that we need to work now to protect our environment and to do things to mitigate the effects of climate change. If things continue as they are, the future of the world could be quite serious and if global warming continues we already know what the impact will be. So we have to work together to reduce those impacts over the next decades to preserve the environment in a positive state for everyone's benefits. That’s why we are keen to ensure we focus on it here.

The UK contributes to a number of multilateral funds to support Mongolia, particularly the Green Climate Fund to which the UK contributes around 12 percent globally and Mongolia benefits from a number of programs under that scheme. We've also had a number of other large funds which are operating here in Mongolia to work in other areas of environmental protection and conservation of wildlife species. As you know, the Zoological Society of London which runs the London Zoo, the oldest zoo in the world, have an operation here in Mongolia. They are working in a number areas to help protect those very iconic endangered species of Mongolia.

One of the projects of the UK is SIBELIUs, funded by the UK Space Agency, which is organising a workshop for local partner government agencies at the National Agency for Meterology and Environmental Monitoring. What are the benefits of this project?
Yes, this is a good example of how high tech can be utilised to assist in the fight against environmental degradation in particular. So using satellite technology the UK Space Agency are able to map out the whole of Mongolia and to share the changes over time in land use where there are areas that have been degraded environmentally or where there are impacts of climate and so on. Assembling that real time data enables the policy makers to see what's actually happening. Then as a result they can think through the policy responses they can introduce. I think it's a really interesting way to use very advanced technology to find solutions to very important basic issues on the ground.

This project is still relatively new, it has just recently started. But we're hoping in time the data it produces will help Mongolian policy makers take decisions to address some of the challenges around land use and environmental degradation.

British educational programs are very popular throughout the world. Are there other colleges or programs planning to expand into the Mongolian market? For example Dulwich College.
There are a number of British colleges such as Dulwich and Wellington that have established premises in Asia for instance in China and Malaysia. I think there is interest here in trying to bring some other British schools into Mongolia. At the moment nothing specific is planned. But I know there is interest here in doing that and obviously we will support that from the British Embassy. Aside from that, we have Cambridge Assessment International Education who have been running a program here to help develop the Mongolian school curriculum in line with the Cambridge system.

There are schools in Mongolia which deliver the Cambridge curriculum in English including GCSEs and A levels. Cambridge are now looking to go to the second phase of that project to support even further the development of the Mongolian education sector. So I'm very hopeful that with our colleagues at the Ministry of Education in Mongolia we can take that forward within the coming months and years.


Where does the British Embassy stand in view of the controversies around the British School of Mongolia?
First of all, as I understand those issues are now being resolved which is very positive. As I said publicly at the time, I was very concerned about the incidents that took place at the school and I visited the school just after the incidents. So I'm pleased to see that the governance disputes which were the root of the problems now seem to have been resolved and the school is back on track.

The British School runs the British curriculum including GCSEs and A levels which is very positive. We don't have any formal institutional links with the British school but it's very good that they are running the British curriculum and I think there are a number of parents who want to have access to that. From my perspective, I think it's really good the dispute is being resolved now and the school can go ahead and do what it is best at which is delivering a quality education for all the children who attend. 

The Chevening Scholarship is one of the most prestigious scholarships among the Mongolians. Will there be an increase in the quota for Mongolians?
Currently we have around 200 alumni who received the scholarship. At the moment we send between 12 and 15 students each year and that is to do a one year master's level course in the UK. Obviously, I would very much like to see the numbers increase in future years but it depends on availability of funding. We're very fortunate here in Mongolia that the Ministry of Education co-funds the Chevening scholarship scheme in Mongolia. So that enables us to have more students going to the UK and I know that the Ministry of Education wishes to provide support in the future. I’m very hopeful that there will be more opportunities for further expansion of the scheme. It's a really important scheme.

Every year we have a huge number of applications with very high quality applicants. We could offer far more scholarships than we have available given the talent in Mongolia.  I'm really hoping that we'll be able to do that further in the future. But for the time being we are able to send a reasonable number each year and I think it is making a difference to education skills and development here in Mongolia. 

The UK is Mongolia's second largest export market, but mainly for gold. What other markets can be open to Mongolia in terms of export?
That depends entirely on the kind of export products Mongolia has. At the moment most exports go to China. Given the majority of Mongolia’s exports are in the mineral resources sector and obviously there is a very big market in China for coal, copper and so on, so it's a relatively easy market to access. But I think as Mongolia looks to expand its economy by bringing different kinds of products into market, there are great opportunities particularly from agricultural products and textile products which derive from animals such as cashmere and leather. There is great potential to have very high quality products from Mongolia.

I know certainly in the case of the UK we have a number of British companies who are very keen to collaborate with Mongolia in the cashmere sector, because they recognize that the quality of cashmere is very high here. I think if Mongolia starts to refine more of the cashmere itself i.e producing the thread etc. rather than just exporting raw wool into China it will create more opportunities for Mongolia to export into developed markets where there's a big demand for quality cashmere products.

Obviously, in the United States they're looking at a specific trade act to help with imports of cashmere into the United States. This is another good example of helping Mongolia move up the value chain and export its products to markets that are readily available. 

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How many British companies are operating in Mongolia?
We have a few companies which are operating here. The most significant is Rio Tinto which is a joint UK and Australian company, headquartered in London. Around 40 percent of their capital comes from British investors. That's our most significant commercial operation in Mongolia running the Oyu Tolgoi mine. I've spent quite a lot of my time in supporting that investment in Mongolia which is very important for the economic development of Mongolia. 

Also, we have other companies such as Cummins, a company which produces very large generator engines which are used particularly in the mining sector in Mongolia. For example in the very large trucks that you see at the mines, the generator engines which run those trucks are produced by Cummins, based in the UK. In Ulaanbaatar, they have a large workshop where they do engine overhaul and also provide facilities at various mine sites such as Oyu Tolgoi and Erdenet to service the engines on site.

Aside from these we have accounting companies here. For example, KPMG and PWC have offices in Mongolia. The London Stock Exchange has an important partnership with the Mongolian Stock Exchange which will expand in due time. As Mongolia starts to list more and more Mongolian companies on the Mongolian Stock Exchange, there are opportunities for dual listing companies both in London and in Mongolia. So it is a big opportunity to help develop the capital market sector in Mongolia. Given the expertise we have in London as one of the primary financial centers of the world, this is a lot of advantage Mongolia can have from that relationship. 

We also have some companies in the retail sector such as Jaguar Land Rover. They are best known for their motor vehicle products which sell very well in Mongolia. There are some other retail brands like Portmeirion, Mothercare and Karen Millen too.

I think as the Mongolian economy expands and as consumer spending increases, there will be opportunities for some of those luxury brands like Burberry which are operating here in Mongolia.

I'm particularly interested in developing more market here for British food and beverage products. We have for example Diageo PLC which produces alcoholic products such as whisky. So I hope these will expand over time.

Are there any joint projects with the Government of Mongolia?
There's a number of things to highlight. We don't have a bilateral development program in Mongolia but, as I mentioned earlier, we contribute to a number of global multilateral funds from which Mongolia benefits such as the Green Climate Fund. At the embassy level we have a fund that enables us to do some smaller projects. For example, this year once again we are sending a group of government officials to an English interpreting course at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland. 

This is now the third year we've done that. This is helping government officials who are responsible for English interpretation for ministers and senior officials and enables them to develop their skills to a higher level. So far in the last couple of years we have sent around 22 officials and we are sending another group later this year.  At the moment, we are working on sending a group of officials to London to do some workshops on anti-money laundering and implementation of UN sanctions because this is a priority area for Mongolia. This is particularly important this year as Mongolia is working through the recommendations from the international financial action task force in order to avoid the “grey listing” process which would have an impact on the Mongolian financial sector. So we're providing some support to that through sending a group of relevant officials from the Foreign Ministry, the Financial Regulatory Commission, the Mongolian Central Bank and others to look at how we manage the processes of preventing money laundering in the UK.


The UK has made awareness for safety and protection of journalists’ rights. How are journalists protected in Britain?
On 10-11 July, the UK government is hosting, along with Canada, a media freedom conference which is an initiative of our Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt. The reason for that is in recent years we've seen journalists around the world coming under a lot of pressure and in some cases murdered simply for doing their work as journalists. As a very open country where freedom of speech is a very important fundamental issue, the UK government wanted to showcase the importance of ensuring that journalists around the world should be able to do their job without any kind of hindrance or threat of violence or even death.

So that is a very important principle. Fundamentally, the UK is a very open and free society and our journalists have the full protection of the law to do their work without hindrance. Of course we do have privacy laws as well which journalists must respect. But other than that journalists are completely free to do their work and, as you'll see from our media, it is very open and they can be very critical of government and of different sectors of our society.  But that doesn't result in any kind of consequence for them because they're simply doing their job. So it has been a long held tradition of media freedom in the UK and that is something we're very proud of.  In Mongolia by and large it has an open and free media. International organisations like ‘’Reporters Without Borders’’ say that Mongolia essentially has a free press. There are some issues around political connections of media organisations, although that could also be said for many countries around the world.

The most important thing here is that journalists are by and large free to do their business. I know that sometimes there are issues of defamation suits being brought against journalists. But at least from a personal protection point of view, I think journalists are reasonably well respected in Mongolia. 

Recently you attended the annual Ambassadors conference in London. How important is this event?
Yes, it's a very important event and many countries have similar events like ours. Some of my ambassadorial colleagues here in Mongolia are also attending their annual conferences at this time of year. When you are posted overseas as a diplomat or as an Ambassador, you become immersed in the environment in which you are working, in my case here in Mongolia. Over time, even though you keep in contact with your home country through various communication channels, you can lose a little bit of perspective on how things are being viewed from your home country. 

So the idea of these events is to bring all the ambassadors together, to have the opportunity to hear from the senior leadership of both the foreign ministry and wider government, so that we can fully understand the current trends and issues from the UK perspective. We are then better able to do our work promoting and protecting the UK's interests when we return to our countries. So it's really important to continue to understand what the perspectives are in the UK, then to work on delivering those once you go back to the country to which you’re posted.  In our case as well as the global ambassadors’ conference, we have separately a regional conference for ambassadors in the Asia Pacific region where we can discuss more specific things related to this region. So we have the opportunity both to get the latest trends around our concerns globally as well as specifically for this region. 

Where do you frequent in Ulaanbaatar when off from work? Have you travelled around the countryside of Mongolia?
Yes, I have travelled a bit up to the north. As I mentioned we did the train journey earlier in the year. So I took part in that and went to Darkhan and Erdenet. I've also separately traveled up into Selenge province and went to Gobi a few times primarily to visit the Oyu Tolgoi Mine. I've  done some traveling to nearby aimags to Ulaanbaatar. I enjoy going to Terelj which is a really beautiful place and very easy to access from the city. In the winter time I enjoy skiing at the Sky Resort.  In the summertime, I like to try play a bit of golf if I can. But unfortunately I don't have a lot of time to do that. Otherwise I love the old temples. I live very close to Choijin Lama and also not far from the Bogd Khan Temple. It's nice to see those especially in the summertime.

How did you celebrate Naadam this year?
This is my second Naadam. So I’m a little bit more accustomed to what happens. I did all of the traditional ceremonies on Sukhbaatar square. I enjoyed the music concerts in Sukhbaatar square and in the night of Naadam because of the range of musical talents Mongolia has from traditional culture through classical music to pop culture as well. I went to the stadium for the big event there and attended the President’s reception at Ikh Tenger.  Then to the horse racing areas in Hui Doloon Hudag and I visited some of the traditional gers that are offered by various organisations such as the Business Council of Mongolia.

During your time here, what really impressed you?
I have been so impressed by the young people in Mongolia. I think Mongolia has a really big future to look forward to because young people here are very well-educated and open minded. Many of them have studied around the world in different countries such as the UK, US, Australia and Europe. Also, there is a great energy among the young people here. They want to bring positive change to Mongolia and really make the most of the potential that Mongolia has given its natural resources, geography and talented young people. I think that’s really impressed me and I enjoy spending time with young people here and involving them in different aspects of our work. For me, that is probably one of the most uplifting things about Mongolia knowing that looking ahead, Mongolia has a very bright future.

Mongolia has come a long way in the last 30 years from being an authoritarian state and centrally planned economy, part of the old Soviet bloc, to a very vibrant democracy today. These changes take time and don't happen overnight. But I think the attitude and mentality of younger people will help to drive that even further with positive progress in the future. 

Thank you for accepting our interview invitation.
Thank you. I appreciate it.

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