Speech by His Royal Highness the Prince of Orange

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, 17 June 2006

on the occasion of a dinner hosted by the President of Mongolia, His Excellency Nambar Enkhbayar.

Mr. President, Mrs. Tsolmon, Ladies and Gentlemen,

My wife and I are honoured to be present at this year's celebrations of the Great Mongolian State. After all, one rarely has the opportunity to attend the anniversary of a nation which existence dates back an impressive 800 years. The extensive and rich history of this nation is inextricably linked with Chinggis Khan. His name is connected to the founding of this great nation and the building of the largest empire in history.

History has proven the Mongolians to be resilient and resourceful. You have built a vast empire and you maintained your identity throughout foreign rule and you emerged as an independent state.

The development is even more impressive, if one realizes that Mongolia has shed off communism as to establish a democratic nation and a stable economy. This is a major achievement from both a historical and geopolitical perspective and it deserves our full recognition and support.

It is no secret that the path towards democratisation and economic liberalisation has not always been easy and many challenges remain.

I am aware of your efforts to purge Mongolia from corruption. Society has changed profoundly as a result of the rapid rate in which nomadic life is abandoned and is being replaced with urbanization. The economy has suffered blows from the transition to an open market system and the dependence on environmental factors. Despite all difficulties, remarkable progress in terms of improvement of the standards of living and freedom in general has been achieved.

Mr. President,

The Netherlands gladly supports your efforts to build a better place for all Mongolians. Our modest assistance in this respect is mainly directed at the preservation of the Mongolian unique natural habitats, one of the few remaining original ecosystems in the world. We feel especially privileged to contribute to the return of the Przewalski or Takhi horse to the plains of Mongolia. We were fortunate to be able to see it roaming again in its natural habitat. I imagine it a fitting symbol of your nation's resilience.

Not only the reintroduction of the Przewalski horse but also the protection of Mongolia's rich natural resources are important for future generations. The terrible zuds at the turn of the millennium and the gradual climate change, the water shortage and land degradation through excessive grazing have put Mongolia's economy under stress. One of the main preconditions for a prosperous Mongolia is preservation of the ecosystem. In this respect, the threat of desertification has become more acute than ever.

During this visit, I have seen the magnificence of the Mongolian steppe, but I am also well aware of the threat the expanding deserts poses to the Mongolian people and their prosperity.

Mr. President,

Today, the 17th of June, has been dubbed World Day to Combat Desertification and the year 2006 is the 10th anniversary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. It is therefore fitting to call for joint commitment as to raise our awareness and increase our efforts to counter the loss of vital and unique ecosystems. I share the common view that desertification can be effectively combatted through strengthened community participation and co-operation at all levels in society. However, let us not forget to preserve the fragile beauty and unique heritage of Mongolia's original deserts along with its varied ecosystems.

Next to the preservation of numerous precious ecosystems, one of your many endeavours is the preservation of your rich cultural heritage. We are delighted to have been shown the Buddhist monastery of Gandan, the museums of National History and Fine Arts. We have enjoyed the community Nadaam. We had inspiring discussions with politicians and youth alike. In sum, one can say that the Mongolian people are a prosperous people in terms of nature, culture and history. I am confident that economic prosperity will follow suit.

Prosperity also demands the unleashing of human potential. During our visit to the Xacbank, it was striking to hear how microfinance offers economic opportunities even to nomadic people in remote areas. Xacbank has set an excellent example of innovative and transparent banking in this regard. My wife was honoured to present the Consultative Group for Assistance to the Poor transparency and innovation awards to the Xacbank. Transparency is a key factor to a healthy economic development of a nation. Coupled with the determination and resilience the Mongolian people have proven to possess, one may conclude that economic prosperity is only a matter of time.

Mr. President, Mrs. Tsolmon, Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Dutch people I salute you and the Mongolian people for all the accomplishments the Great Mongolian State has achieved through its tumultuous history spanning 800 years. I am proud to confirm the Dutch commitment to assist your unrelenting efforts towards a prosperous, healthy and democratic Mongolia.