‘A democracy needs mature citizens informed about political processes’

‘A democracy needs mature citizens informed about political processes’

  • By Dulguun   -   Apr 30,2021
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Johann Fuhrmann has been heading the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) Mongolia office since July 2018. Before coming to Mongolia, Fuhrmann was head of innovation for the CDU Economic Council. As a scholarship holder of the German National Academic Foundation, he completed his master’s degree in international relations at the London School of Economics (LSE).

Good day, your time as head of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung in Mongolia will end soon. How many years have you worked in Mongolia?

For three years I was allowed to live and work in your beautiful country. For the numerous projects of the KAS, I have traveled 20 of the 21 provinces of Mongolia during this time. In a few months I will take over the management of our office in Beijing. I will take many fond memories of Mongolia with me.

How did you feel when you started your work in Mongolia? What are your impressions of Mongolia now?

Everyone in my home country knows the song “Genghis Khan”, but in fact I knew very little about this beautiful country and its traditions before I started working in Mongolia. In Mongolia, of course, there are many challenges in the economy, in politics and in the state apparatus. Nevertheless, democracy has prevailed in Mongolia.

I think Mongolians can also look at this with pride 30 years after the peaceful revolution. There are problems, but much has also been achieved. Many young, well-educated women in particular will certainly play an even more important role in politics and society in the future. In any case, I have fallen in love with this country and am enthusiastic about the great openness of the Mongolians.

I know that with the initiative and support of your foundation, many discussions and scientific conferences have been held and books, brochures and research papers have been published. From your point of view, what are the mai  problems or challenges of Mongolia?

Like any country, Mongolia has specific challenges. For example, there have been very many changes of government in the past 30 years. This is certainly also a special challenge for the state apparatus. The political parties are often very unstable. For the economy, Mongolia’s geographic location is also a major challenge. Corruption unfortunately plays a major role. I think the biggest challenge is political education. Nevertheless, Mongolia is a very vibrant democracy.

The Konrad Adenauer Foundation is a political foundation financed by German taxpayers. There are no comparable institutions in Mongolia to disseminate political education. It is not an exaggeration to say that few foreign organizations like your foundation do this work. Would you like to share your views on the importance of improving the political education of voters and citizens, and who, and which organizations should play this role?

A democracy needs mature citizens who are informed about political processes and can actively participate in politics. This can only succeed if there is a basic understanding of political institutions and processes in society. In Germany, we have political education in schools, which plays a major role in this. In addition to political foundations, there are a large number of governmental and non-governmental organizations that also play a major role in the political decision-making process. In addition, of course, the media play an important role because it is their job to critically accompany the political processes. I would also like to see political education in schools in Mongolia, and more should be done to promote quality journalism.

During your time, in order to develop quality journalism, KAS launched a master’s program titled “Politics and Journalism” in cooperation with the National University of Mongolia. The goal is to provide young people with an opportunity to develop in the field of journalism. Could you share your thoughts about this program?

In order to report on politics, it is important to understand the political context and institutions. That’s why the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the National State University have decided to establish an interdisciplinary program that focuses on journalism and politics. Such a program is unique in Mongolia. I hope that we can thus make a small contribution to quality journalism in Mongolia. We have received a lot of applications and have been able to attract talented young people to this course of study. I am very happy about that. 

The Konrad Adenauer Foundation implements projects and programs through its representative offices in more than 100 countries worldwide. Can you briefly outline the main directions of activities and values common to all these countries?

Compared to countries like China or India, we in Germany have only a small population. To play an important role in the future, we need friends and allies. That is why we as the Konrad Adenauer Foundation offer our support. We want to be a partner for the dialogue between Germany and other countries. In Mongolia, we can work very freely. For example, we support the government in the training of civil servants, we have founded a course of study in “Politics and Journalism” with the state university, we carry out political education measures, organize special programs, for example, for the advancement of women or for the inclusion of people with disabilities. We also publish studies and books, for example on current politics or on issues of environmental or economic policy. The list of our activities is very long.

What are the characteristics of the projects and programs implemented in Mongolia? What areas in particular have you focused on as resident representative and how do you see the results?

As I said, we work in very many areas. In addition to scientific studies, we particularly encourage young people to get involved in society and politics. We have therefore implemented measures in almost all provinces to increase the political education of young people. To this end, we have also built an information platform with texts and videos on the website www.kas.edu.mn so that young people can find out more about politics.

Finally, we would like to thank you for taking the time for the interview. Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

I would like to thank you very much for the wonderful and adventurous time in Mongolia, for the great hospitality and openness. Mongolia will forever have a special place in my heart.

Dulguun Bayarsaikhan