United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN ECE)

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN ECE) was set up in 1947 to assist the economic reconstruction of Europe. The current UN ECE serves as a forum for mutual economic cooperation among Europe, North America and Central Asia. The main areas of the UN ECE’s activities include economic cooperation and integration, energy, environment, housing and land management, population, statistics, timber, trade and transport. It is also an important framework for providing technical assistance to the countries of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA) and of South-eastern Europe. This assistance takes the form of advisory services, training seminars and workshops where countries in transition can share their experience and receive support from other countries in the region.

The Commission has 56 Member States. The Czech Republic has been a member of the UN ECE since 1993 and is actively involved in activities of the UN ECE bodies, in particular, of the Committee on Environmental Policy. It also contributes to strengthening implementation of the UN ECE Conventions as a priority of the ECE’s further work with the aim to support environmental protection and sustainable development in the UN ECE region. Furthermore, the Czech Republic provides its support to the Environmental Performance Reviews Programme, that is an important tool for developing and improving the implementation of the environmental policies in countries that are not members of the OECD. Their tailor-made recommendations significantly contribute to enhancing the convergence of environmental standards within the region. The Czech Republic has been actively involved in the EPR Programme both financially and by professional staff. In 2006 and 2007 Czech experts participated in the EPRs of Serbia and Montenegro.

The Environment for Europe process is a unique forum that brings together Ministers of the Environment and other major groups throughout the Pan-European region. The main goal of the process is to strengthen the cooperation in environmental matters and to support sustainable development in the region. It should promote the achievement of policy objectives and implementation of determined obligations through regional and sub-regional cooperation. Josef Vavroušek, the Czechoslovak Environment Minister, initiated the EfE process in 1991 at Dobříš castle, where the first Ministerial Conference was held. Since then five Ministerial Conferences have taken place (Luzern 1993, Sofia 1995, Aarhus 1998, Kiev 2003, Belgrade 2007) and have significantly contributed to the environmental protection in the UN ECE region by adopting a wide range of international legal and soft instruments to support the implementation of environmental policies throughout the UN ECE region (e.g., Protocol on Persistent Organic Pollutants, Protocol on Heavy Metals, Aarhus Convention, Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment, Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers, EECCA Environment Strategy, etc.). The process supported the introduction of Environmental Performance Reviews and set up a tradition of Pan–European assessment reports on the state of the environment. It established an EAP Task Force and Project Preparation Committee.

The Sixth Ministerial Conference, which was held in Belgrade from 10 to 12 October 2007, evaluated the progress achieved in the implementation of environmental policies since the 2003 Kiev Conference and discussed capacity building, partnerships as well as the future of the EfE process. In Belgrade the ministers decided to undertake a reform of the EfE process in order to ensure that the process remains relevant and valuable, and to strengthen its effectiveness as a mechanism for improving environmental quality and the lives of people across the region. The Committee on Environmental Policy was given a mandate to develop, in consultation with EfE partners, a reform plan that would be endorsed at the political level by the annual session of the Economic Commission for Europe. During the Czech EU Presidency, the Czech Republic will coordinate the EU position at the special session of the Committee on Environmental Policy (Geneva, 27 – 29 January 2009) in order to contribute to a successful conclusion of the EfE reform plan. The updated draft of the EfE Reform Pla was finalized and adopted at the special session of the CEP that took place in Geneva in January 2009.

Currently, the Czech Ministry of the Environment is involved in the preparatory activities connected to the Seventh Ministerial Conference of the process „Environment for Europe“ which is scheduled for September 2011 in Astana (Kazakhstan).

Contact point for the UN ECE in the Czech Republic
Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic
Department of Multilateral Relations
Vršovická 65
100 00 Prague 10

Mr Lukáš Pokorný
Phone: +420 267 122 201
Fax: +420 267 310 015
E-mail: Lukas.Pokorny@mzp.cz

Czech contact person/office abroad
Permanent Mission of the Czech Republic in Geneva
17, chemin Louis Dunant, Case Postale 109
CH – 1211 Geneva
Switzerland

Mr Tomáš Husák
Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the United Nations in Geneva
Phone: +41 22 910 38 10, +41 22 910 37 80
Fax: +41 22 740 36 62
E-mail: mission.geneva@embassy.mzv.cz