Press Releases

    5 December 2005

    United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Adopts Its Reform

    (Reissued as received.)

    GENEVA, 2 December (UNECE) -- The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) adopted formally a bold reform that innovates its governance structure, redefines priorities, and improves cost-effectiveness and transparency.

    The UNECE reform process was initiated along the line drawn by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, namely, that "if the United Nations is to be a useful instrument for its Member States and for the world's people ... it must be fully adapted to the needs and circumstances of the twenty-first century".  The reform has been pursued by UNECE member countries in the spirit of the broader UN-wide reform effort that is now under way.

    As mentioned by Ambassador François Roux, Permanent Representative of Belgium and Chairman of the Economic Commission for Europe, "the main reason for this reform is the fact that following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the 2004 enlargement of the European Union, the UNECE has to re-adapt to the new reality in Europe.

    In addition, there was a need to look at the governance issue, as well as the interaction between the membership and the secretariat, in order to better respond to the needs of the member States, and in particular the countries in transition.

    The UNECE mandate is still the same as when it was founded in 1947, we are therefore really talking about an adjustment of its work ..."

    After six months of intense consultations and negotiations under the leadership of Ambassador Roux and Michele Coduri (Switzerland), Chairman of the Group of Experts, member States agreed on a renewed mission statement, governance structure and set of priorities for the UNECE, as well as a change in the structure of its secretariat aimed at more efficiency and accountability.  Moreover, the reform promotes closer collaboration between UNECE and other organizations active in the region so that duplications are avoided and synergies fully exploited.

    In areas where the UNECE was not felt to have a comparative advantage vis-à-vis other international institutions, member States decided to discontinue a number of activities.  It is the case, for example, of macroeconomic analysis, where numerous international and regional entities provide similar services as the UNECE did.

    A new programme is being launched to address the specific development problems of countries with economies in transition and emerging market economies.  This programme will focus on such issues as promoting effective public investment and regulatory policies; strengthening the competitiveness of the economy through innovative development; the development of public-private partnerships, financial services and the promotion of the rule of law and effective public policies. 

    Two programmes are being given a high priority:  environment and transport.  As far as the latter is concerned, the European Union, to make life easier for citizens and enterprises, has decided to replace in the car sector European Union directives by UNECE regulations.  The choice of UNECE regulations over European Union legislation will be done in all those areas where the European Commission has acceded to a UNECE regulation for which in parallel a European Commission directive exists, and where the latter does not provide a higher level of safety or environmental protection.  In such cases, the UNECE regulation will replace the corresponding European Union directive.  This concrete example heralds a new phase and spirit of cooperation between UNECE and the European Commission.

    For further information, please contact:  UNECE Information Service, Palais des Nations, office 356, CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland; tel: +41 (0)22 917 44 44; fax: +41 (0)22 917 05 05; e-mail: .

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