Mr. Josef Vavrousek, Environment Minister of what was then Czechoslovakia, initiated the “Environment for Europe” process. The first Ministerial Conference took place near Prague, at Dobris Castle, on 21-23 June 1991. Six more conferences have taken place since then: the Lucerne (Switzerland) Conference, on 28-30 April 1993; the Sofia (Bulgaria) Conference, on 23-25 October 1995; the Aarhus (Denmark) Conference, on 23-25 June 1998; the Kiev (Ukraine) Conference, on 21-23 May 2003; the Belgrade (Serbia) Conference, on 10-12 October 2007; and the Astana (Kazakhstan) Conference, on 21-23 September 2011.
The “Environment for Europe” process is a unique partnership of member States within the UNECE region, organizations of the United Nations system represented in the region, other intergovernmental organizations, regional environmental centres, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and other major groups. The “Environment for Europe” process and its Ministerial Conferences provide a high-level platform for stakeholders to discuss, decide and join efforts in addressing environmental priorities across the 56 countries of the UNECE region, and is a regional pillar of sustainable development.
At the same time, the process focuses on helping countries of Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia and of South-Eastern Europe to improve their environmental standards. The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, which has been closely associated with the “Environment for Europe” process since the beginning, serves as secretariat.
At the Sixth "Environment for Europe" Ministerial Conference (Belgrade, Serbia) ministers agreed to undertake a reform of the “Environment for Europe” process in order to ensure that it remains relevant and valuable, and to strengthen its effectiveness as a mechanism for improving environmental quality and the lives of people across the region. Following the reform, the convening body for the preparatory process is the UNECE Committee on Environmental Policy.
The Seventh Ministerial Conference took place in Astana (Kazakhstan) from 21 to 23 September 2011. The Conference focussed on two main themes: Sustainable management of water and water-related ecosystems; and Greening the economy: mainstreaming the environment into economic development. More information on the Astana Ministerial Conference is available here.