Summary of the session
The session was chaired by Mr. Libor Ambrozek (Czech Republic), Minister of Environment. Mr. Hugo von Meijenfeldt (Netherlands), Chair of the UNECE Committee on Environmental Policy, introduced the document on the Future of “Environment for Europe” process.
The Conference strongly supported the continuation of the “Environment for Europe” process and welcomed the document on its future as a basis for discussion. It identified the goals of the process and confirmed that efforts needed to be concentrated more on the East European, Caucasian and Central Asian countries. The process should seek to build a broad political platform for environmental initiatives and for regional and subregional cooperation.
The Conference agreed that there was a need to make cooperation with other ministerial processes in the region more effective and to limit the number of ministerial conferences. Therefore, it invited the two distinct regional processes, “Environment and Health”, and “Transport, Environment and Health”, to encourage communication to explore opportunities for strengthening joint action, as appropriate. In addition, it decided to develop cooperation with the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe and agreed to invite the Ministers from the above-mentioned processes to the future conferences and to involve them actively in the preparatory work, as appropriate.
The Conference decided that future “Environment for Europe” Ministerial Conferences should be held on a regular and predictable basis every four or five years, preferably in a host country. It confirmed that the process should continue as a broad framework bringing together a wide range of international organizations. It decided that an open-ended preparatory group should convene to coordinate the preparations not more than two years before the next conference, with UNECE serving as secretariat. The Conference strongly called upon the UNECE Committee on Environmental Policy and the “Environment for Europe” preparatory Group to hold joint meetings with a coordinated agenda to avoid duplication and to ensure more efficient decision-making, and to streamline their work. To limit the frequency of intervening UNECE-region meetings on the environment, it also invited UNECE to encourage the clustering of ministerial or high-level meetings in a back-to-back format, taking place not more than once a year.
The Conference invited UNECE, through its Committee on Environmental Policy and in consultation with its other principal subsidiary bodies, as appropriate, and in cooperation with other relevant organizations and institutions, to monitor the outcomes of the Kiev Declaration, to consider reflecting the relevant commitments of the Kiev Declaration in its work programme and to assist the Ministers in assessing progress in the implementation of environmental commitments of this region stemming from the Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development and the Plan of Implementation as well as the UNECE Regional Preparatory Meeting for the Johannesburg Summit.
The Conference invited the Environmental Action Programme (EAP) Task Force and Project Preparation Committee (PPC) to continue their work together, including through joint annual meetings and with a common bureau. It also invited the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to provide support for secretariats for the EAP Task Force and PPC respectively. It was decided to consider opportunities for relocating the secretariat functions to Eastern Europe, the Caucasus or Central Asia.
The EAP Task Force was asked to lead efforts to facilitate and support, in cooperation with other relevant international bodies and RECs, the achievement of the objectives of the Strategy for environmental partnerships (see chap. VII) and to keep the Committee on Environmental Policy informed of the progress. International organizations were invited to support the Strategy’s implementation, in accordance with their respective mandates. REC for Central and Eastern Europe should play a useful role in this respect, cooperating with the EAP Task Force and RECs operating in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia in support of the implementation of the Strategy.
The Conference stressed the need to develop a communication strategy to raise awareness of the “Environment for Europe” process among a wider audience of stakeholders and the general public based on its achievements. They invited UNECE, through its Committee on Environmental Policy, in consultation with its other principal subsidiary bodies, as appropriate, and in cooperation with the EAP Task Force and other relevant organizations and institutions, to develop this strategy without delay.
In order to determine the date and venue of the next Ministerial Conference “Environment for Europe”, it was decided that the Working Group of Senior Officials would hold a special session in autumn 2003, in Geneva.