Trans-Altai Sustainability Dialogue Brings Together Scholars and Policymakers to Promote Gender Equality and Sustainable Development

The Trans-Altai Sustainability Dialogue, part of a joint initiative by the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center and the Ban Ki-moon Foundation For a Better Future, convened at the State Palace in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, to stimulate cooperative action to expedite the implementation of gender equality and women’s empowerment, the fifth of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals underlying the United Nations-adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Participants of the Trans-Altai Sustainability Dialogue Participants of the Trans-Altai Sustainability Dialogue

As Sustainable Development Goal 5 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), gender equality is an essential foundation for a prosperous and sustainable world and a core theme that drives the United Nations-adopted 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. The world, however, is not on track to achieve gender equality by 2030, as the latest Sustainable Development Goals Report indicates. To accelerate progress, we must “recognize that achieving gender equality is not a distant dream but a tangible goal that requires our collective efforts,” said APARC Director Gi-Wook Shin at the opening of the Trans-Altai Sustainability Dialogue (TASD).

Held from June 12-14, 2023 at the State Palace in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, the TASD gathered government officials, scholars, and practitioners from across the United States, Asia, and the Altai region to expedite action on gender equality and sustainable development. The event, organized by the State Great Hural (Parliament) of Mongolia along with APARC, the Ban Ki-moon Foundation For a Better Future, and Ewha Womans University as co-hosts, is a sub-regional convening of the annual Trans-Pacific Sustainability Dialogue, a joint effort of APARC and the Ban Ki-moon Foundation.

APARC initiated the Trans-Pacific Sustainability Dialogue to create a platform for spurring meaningful discussions, research collaborations, and policy partnerships between experts from the United States and Asia to accelerate progress on realizing the SDGs. The TASD built upon the momentum and enthusiasm generated at the inaugural 2022 Dialogue and was held with an eye on the future, as APARC and its partners are preparing for the second annual Dialogue that will be held this coming September, again in Seoul, South Korea.

The TASD provided an opportunity for a new network of partners to explore the intersection of gender equality and economic growth, social inclusion, and environmental protection — the three core elements of the 2030 Agenda. TASD participants examined issues including policy solutions for promoting women's leadership; gender equality in the labor market and education; gender-based violence and human rights in Mongolia and the region; and Altai studies. Throughout the event, participants proposed actionable strategies to advance progress in gender equality and women empowerment. 

Shin lauded Mongolia’s progress in advancing SDG5, noting that its Parliament's “commitment to becoming a gender-sensitive and human rights-focused institution is genuinely inspiring.” He challenged participants to drive tangible action and address crucial questions, such as: “How can we effectively and holistically measure and evaluate women's and girls’ empowerment? Which interventions work at different levels and contexts? And how can we effectively implement the outcomes of this Dialogue?”

Chairman of the State Great Hural of Mongolia, Gombojav Zandanshatar, a driving force behind the TASD, emphasized the necessity of achieving women’s empowerment. “Men alone cannot solve the global challenges facing the world,” he said. “A new era is dawning where women's voices are becoming more important.” Chairman Zandanshatar, a long-time friend of APARC and the Freeman Spogli Institute of International Studies, is a former visiting scholar at the Center for Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL). While at CDDRL, Mr. Zandanshatar connected with the Deliberative Democracy Lab and ardently supported its Deliberative Polling® method. In 2017, Mongolia became the first country to legislate Deliberative Polling for constitutional amendments.

On the first day of the TASD plenary, keynote speakers and panelists discussed barriers to gender equality and policies to facilitate a more rapid shift toward empowering all women and girls. Speakers included, among others, Ban Ki-moon, the eighth secretary-general of the UN and the chairman of the Ban Ki-moon Foundation For a Better Future, Kim Youngjoo, deputy speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea, and Khurelbaatar Bulgantuya, member of the State Great Hural of Mongolia,  chair of the Sub-Committee on Sustainable Development, and minister for Labour and Social Protection.

In addition to Shin, the Stanford delegation to the TASD included APARC deputy director and Japan Program director Kiyoteru Tsutsui, associate professor of education Christine Min Wotipka, APARC associate director for program and policy Cheryll Alipio, APARC executive assistant Kristen Lee, and APARC incoming predoctoral fellow Marie Wako, a JSD candidate at Stanford Law School.

Wotipka and Ankhbayar Begz, coordinator for the Gender Equality Research Program at the Mitchell Foundation for Arts and Sciences and a former visiting scholar at APARC, presented their research on the gender equality index for universities, a tool to measure and evaluate the effectiveness of gender equality. They discussed why gender equality at universities is especially important, as youth gather and “obtain proper knowledge about gender equality before entering the job market and society, where they will spread the right ideology about gender equality.”

Highlighting the role of youth in driving action to achieve the SDGs, the TASD included young student leaders from Stanford University and Ewha Womans University, who shared their work on women’s agency, voice, and victimization in South Korea’s digital realm, Sri Lanka’s domestic and care labor regime, and Japan’s courtrooms. At the student panel, Marie Wako presented her findings on the effects of female judges in Japanese criminal cases. The impact of a judge’s gender, she said, is most notable in sentencing outcomes in which she found that sentencing for sexual offenses were heavier when female judges are part of the panel of three judges.

To further ties among the TASD participants and showcase sustainable development and tourism initiatives through the promotion and conservation of natural and cultural heritage, the second day of the official event included a visit to Gorkhi Terelj National Park for an introduction to nomadic culture and tradition with folk songs and dances as well as a mini Naadam festival, featuring Mongolian wrestling, horse racing, and archery.  “Let these experiences remind us of the interconnectedness of our planet, the importance of preserving our cultural diversity, and the urgency to act in the face of global challenges,” said Shin at the closing ceremony.

The complete TASD livestream is available via the Mongolian Parliament’s Facebook channel. Additional conference coverage: 

Stay tuned for news about the second annual Trans-Pacific Sustainability Dialogue, to be held in Seoul, Republic of Korea on September 13-14, 2023, focusing on energy security — Sustainable Development Goal 7.

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