The UNECE region covers more than 47 million square kilometres. Its member States include the countries of Europe, but also countries in North America (Canada and United States), Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) and Western Asia (Israel) (see map).
The UNECE had a membership of 34 States in 1991; less than four years later membership had risen significantly as a result of the disintegration of the Soviet bloc (see dates of membership). Today, UNECE has 56 member States.
The diverse nature of the Commission’s membership has its source in history. When it was set up, UNECE included all participants in the reconstruction of post-war Europe: all European countries, from east and west, and North America. Israel was added to the list in 1991, following an Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) decision.
The UNECE region is home to 20% of the world population. It includes some of the world’s richest countries, as well as countries with a relatively low level of development. This diversity in the levels of development represents a challenge to UNECE, as it must respond to the expectations of its different members. However, it is also an advantage, as it encourages the sharing of experience and knowledge, as well as a guarantee of financial and technical aid to countries in need.