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Early in the discussions on the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution it was recognized that a good understanding of the harmful effects of air pollution was a prerequisite for reaching agreement on effective pollution control. To develop the necessary international cooperation in the research on and the monitoring of pollutant effects, the Working Group on Effects (WGE) was established under the Convention in 1980 and held its first meeting in 1981. The Convention involves countries in the UNECE region and has its secretariat with the UNECE.

The Working Group on Effects provides information on the degree and geographic extent of the impacts on human health and the environment of major air pollutants, such as sulphur and nitrogen oxides, ozone and heavy metals. Its six International Cooperative Programmes (ICPs) and the Task Force on Health identify the most endangered areas, ecosystems and other receptors by considering damage to human health, terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and materials. An important part of this work is long-term monitoring. The work is underpinned by scientific research on dose-response, critical loads and levels and damage evaluation.

The Working Group meets annually to discuss the results of the international programmes and the current and future needs of the Convention. It considers its future work and that of the programmes and prepares a workplan for the coming year for consideration by the Executive Body for the Convention. Important results are brought to the attention of the Executive Body; they are also published in the scientific literature and disseminated to the public through the publication of reports and through UNECE press releases. The Working Group also publishes substantive reports summarizing and assessing the most important results of the activities of the international programmes.

The Working Group has an elected Bureau which is responsible for the detailed planning, coordination and reporting of the activities in the workplan. The Bureau comprises a chair and five vice-chairs. It is served by a member of the UNECE secretariat.