Last week I took my friend from overseas, who wanted travel in Mongolia for 10 days, to the Night Light Street in Ulaanbaatar, which is open from Friday 10:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. on Monday, and also on public holidays. His reaction was like he was seeing something “old but new”. It reminded him of the times under the former Soviet Union when everyone looked and seemed happy on the streets. It is true that everyone on that street looked happy and was smiling with their friends or families. Young people were dancing around and singing, skating and there were some BMX shows as well.
However, if you think about the families which live nearby, just 50 meters from the street, it is not as fun for them. Imagine all that loud music and noise from the street when you are trying to put your baby to bed.
I saw some posts on Facebook from people who live in the neighborhood complaining about the noise. I also talked to them on the phone and in person. They said that they did not realize that the street was going to become like this. In other words, the city administration did not consult with the residents in of the area, and the failure to do so could potentially have broken laws.
The reason for this is, according to the new General Administration Law of Mongolia which came into force on 1 July 2016, when making a decision, all administration agencies and authorities have to follow certain steps to make sure that they are not violating anyone’s rights, otherwise the decision can be made invalid.
The law provides legal protection to the actions and decisions of administration agencies and authorities that may be adverse to ordinary citizens. The purpose of the law is to provide a basic legal framework for the executive branch of the government. Some people misunderstand that the government (executive branch) is the only administrative organization. But that is not true.
The steps that administration organizations must follow to make decisions are as follows:
- Evaluate the current situation, Article 24;
- Collect proof or evidence, Article 25; and
- Hold a consultation with citizens about the proposed decision, Article 27.
Of course, there are many other provisions, but these three are the most important ones, especially in relation to the Night Light Street in Ulaanbaatar.
The decision to turn part of Seoul Street into the Night Light Street was made by Mayor S.Batbold under Mayoral Order No. A/302 on 12 May 2017.
Part of the order to launch the Night Light Street project states, “In accordance with the goal to make the capital city of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar, the tourism, cultural and financial center of Northeast Asia, a working group shall be established to formulate a plan to operate the Night Light Street by June 10, 2017 to create a friendly and safe area for tourists.”
Whilst we can see the order at www.ulaanbaatar.mn, we cannot locate any document detailing the decision-making process. What I am trying to say is, for a decision for a big project like this, which can influence citizens’ everyday lives and the right to a healthy and safe environment, the administration must make sure that the above mentioned three steps must be adhered to.
Since the materials for the decision making process are not published publicly, what we can do is to talk to the people who should have taken part in the decision-making process, and the residents living in the area that I talked to were not aware that there would be a street like this in their neighborhood. Although a representative of the local residents can be consulted instead of the actual residents, the order doesn’t say when and who was consulted before the street was launched. Which some residents see as a violation of the third step in the process of making an administrative decision.
Citizens can act against an illegal decision by reporting it to a superior authority, in this case, the administration organization superior to the Capital City Administration is the government, and to submit a petition to the court against the decision within 30 days after the administration organization notified the decision. But there is an exception whereby the time period for citizens to complain about the decision can be extended for up to three months to allow citizens to check if the decision has violated their rights.
To get back to my point, on a positive note, it is nice to have a street like this in Ulaanbaatar where families and friends can happily spend time. But on the other hand, for some it will be disturbing to have such a noisy street for a long period of time. I would say that although the residents of that neighborhood still have the right to oppose the mayoral order, the likelihood that the whole project will be shut down is very small in reality.
To support the city’s development, it would be better to establish a street like this in a suburban area to reduce the overcrowding downtown. If the street were to be set up in a suburban area, the problems of those who pass the street on a regular basis just to get somewhere will no longer exist, and only those who made it a point to visit the street will be able to enjoy its scenery. It would have also been a better idea to spread the city’s attractions throughout rather than centralizing them.
At the very least what we can learn from this case is we have to pay attention to the web sites and official announcements from the administration organizations in order to fully protect our rights.