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Peter Henner

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In 1992, after the fall of the Communist regime, Mongolia established itself as an independent country, with a multiparty democracy and an independent judiciary.  In the last 20 years, this very poor country has undergone some very dramatic changes.  The majority of Mongolians now live in urban areas, particularly the capital, Ulaanbaatar, which is home to almost one half of the country's estimated 2.8 million people.  Although the historic nomadic pastoral lifestyle is ending, the country has tremendous mineral wealth, which is and will be exploited by many international mining companies.

As the country develops, it is very important that mining activities will be conducted responsibly and that the Mongolian people will benefit from the development of these resources, rather than have the mines developed solely for the profit of multinational corporations.  The Center for Human Rights and Development, a Mongolian NGO, was established to advocate for the public interest, particularly with respect to issues pertaining to environmental protection and fighting human trafficking.  CHRD has been engaging in public interest litigation in Mongolia, and has been able to establish itself as a credible advocate for the public interest in the country.

Peter was fortunate enough to go to Mongolia to work for CHRD as a legal advisor from May 23 to July 8, 2011.  He helped to establish the first legal clinic in Mongolia for law students to work on public interest litigation, and conducted a training program for Mongolian lawyers in public interest litigation.  In addition, he acted as a de facto advisor to the group on a variety of issues, particularly pertaining to environmental litigation.  His blog,, contains a contemporaneous description of his activities. (The photograph was taken during a presentation made with Dan Werner (on the right), a lawyer sent by the ABA to conduct a conference on combatting human trafficking - Dan and Peter reenacted the trial testimony of a psychologist regarding the proof of damages)

It was a fascinating experience; the Mongolian legal system is a civil law system but Peter was amazed at the similarities between the legal issues that Mongolians face and the legal issues in the United States.  Mongolia, which is just beginning to develop its legal systems, has an opportunity to do many things right from the beginning, particularly with respect to certain environmental and civil rights issues.  On the other hand, there are certain limitations in the Mongolian system, such as the lack of clearly established norms pertaining to principles of common law tort, which are very frustrating for an American lawyer.

Peter hopes to continue to work with the new friends and colleagues he met with Mongolia, and to be able to make a meaningful contribution to the continuing efforts of Mongolian public interest lawyers. 

© 2011 Law office of Peter Henner