Remarks by Ambassador Jennifer Zimdahl Galt at MASA Panel Discussion on Air Pollution and Environmental Protection

AMBASSADOR GALT: Good evening, MASA members, panelists, and distinguished guests. I’m a MASA fan and pleased to be here.

Thank you, Ider, for that kind introduction. And thank you to all those who organized tonight’s discussion.

My view is that people-to-people exchanges are key to building strong ties of friendship and cooperation between the United States and Mongolia, and the Mongolian Association of State Alumni is a wonderful example of the fruitful partnerships that come from such exchanges. MASA is truly a group of “Ambassadors for Development” working to bring about positive change across Mongolia.

I am delighted to participate in tonight’s inaugural session of the “Let’s Discuss it Together” series, which seems to me a great way to celebrate MASA’s 10th anniversary and the 30th anniversary of the establishment of U.S.-Mongolia diplomatic relations. On that note, I am very much looking forward to our commemoration next week of the January 27, 1987, signing of the document that established the United States’ formal ties with Mongolia.

The U.S. Embassy is proud to support this new discussion series and the skill-building workshops that will follow. These activities highlight the importance of bringing people together to discuss timely, critical issues in Mongolia, in hopes of developing innovative solutions and empowering people to take action.

I am especially happy to see air pollution as the first topic, as the United States has been and will continue to be engaged in public awareness and in helping in us combat air pollution and its negative health effects. Since 2015, for example, the Embassy has been making air quality data available to the Mongolian public. And through the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s first compact with Mongolia, the United States promoted and subsidized the purchase of energy-efficient, clean-burning stoves for ger district residents, which contributed to the reduction of particulate matter (PM) 2.5 in Ulaanbaatar. Our hope is that further reductions in PM 2.5 will help decrease air pollution-related illnesses.

Reducing air pollution anywhere is a difficult, complex task in the U.S. and Mongolia. I have been pleased to see the Mongolian government pay increased attention to this challenge, and I am hopeful that the government’s efforts to develop and implement creative solutions will bear fruit.

My Embassy team and I recognize that funding is often a hurdle, which is why we seek to connect promising projects to U.S. and international sources of financial support. As one example, we provided funding for the participation of two Mongolian government officials in an October 2017 study tour to the United States to learn about air pollution monitoring, mitigation, and policy making. I am hopeful that they will return to Mongolia with new ideas that they will be able to utilize in the fight against air pollution.

The U.S. Embassy also supports the efforts of international organizations and local NGOs to raise awareness of air pollution and its harmful effects. The recently published UNICEF report on the effects of air pollution on children’s health in Mongolia documented pollution’s devastating consequences and served as a wake-up call for us all.

The Los Angeles Children’s Hospital has been doing collaborative research on the health effects of air pollution in UB. Their latest project is to promote pregnant women to wear masks. We also have a U.S. Fullbright scholar – Laura Goodman – who is also a returning Peace Corps volunteer here conducting research.

I firmly believe that grassroots activities—some involving MASA alumni like Onon—are an essential part of the fight against air pollution. I was inspired by the recent Parents against Air Pollution demonstration and the “100 Air Purifiers” crowdfunding campaign to raise money to buy air filters for hospitals. Initiatives like these make clear that we can all play a role in fighting air pollution, and I hope that those of you here tonight will join existing efforts to lower air pollution or introduce your own creative initiatives.

In this spirit, I was very happy that emerging leaders in the environment and air quality field were prominently featured in the first cohort of participants in our recently launched Leaders Advancing Democracy (LEAD) program. That cohort is right now in the United States participating in leadership and skills-building activities that will, among other things, help them establish “civic action plans” to address challenges like air pollution.

The U.S. Embassy has a stake in the fight against air pollution. And we would like to do more. I look forward to learning from the distinguished panelists today and discussing with you how we can cooperate together.

Thank you very much again.