Citizens' chamber is a place where local citizens meet to discuss local challenges and constraints and find solutions. For both government and public, it is a valuable tool to increase public participation, transparency and accountability in local government.
Bayan-Ulgii aimag never had a citizens' chamber before Mercy Corps came to this westernmost province of Mongolia. Most residents had a very vague idea about goals of citizens' chambers and how these places operate. In 2013, under USAID funded Active Partnerships and Public Engagement For Accountable Localities project (APPEAL), Mercy Corps started meeting with civil society organizations, government agencies, and local communities to raise their awareness about citizens' chambers and importance of such chambers in economic and social development of local communities. Capacity building trainings were organized for NGOs and printed publications were disseminated to the local community. As a result, the local NGOs developed Citizens' chamber procedures and plan of actions, submitted to the local Hural. Thus, the Hural established the first Citizens' Chamber by finalizing the rules and regulations and hiring full time staff to run this place. Between 2013 and 2014, the Chamber held its first round of discussions on transparency of government procurement, citizens' participation in decision making, results and findings of the survey of local development fund, development of Chamber plans for the next year.
Moreover, in early 2016, the Local Development Fund has invested MNT 25 million ($12,000) in renovation works. Now the Chamber has a new conference room for 50 people equipped with modern digital appliances.
"Increasing number of local people has shown interest and motivation in working with us, participating actively in discussions and visiting our webpage," says M. Merambek, coordinator for this Chamber, "I would like to thank Mercy Corps for its role and contribution to establishing our first Chamber where local people could meet and speak up about their problems".