UNECE Environment Ministers have been continuously highlighting the importance of environmental information for policymaking and public awareness. They called for improving monitoring capacities in the region, especially in countries in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia, and for the use by all countries of indicator-based mechanisms for periodic environmental assessments and the evaluation of the effectiveness of environmental policies and decision-making.
In 2000, the UNECE Committee on Environmental Policy established a Working Group on Environmental Monitoring and Assessment (WGEMA). The Working Group contributed to the preparation by the European Environment Agency (EEA) of pan-European assessment reports on the environment for “Environment for Europe” (EFE) Ministerial Conferences and developed a series of recommendations and guidelines on strengthening national environmental monitoring and information systems, and improving the preparation of indicator-based assessment reports in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia.
The Belgrade EfE Conference of 2007 invited UNECE to continue its efforts, in cooperation with EEA and other partners, to make monitoring an effective instrument in environmental policymaking in countries of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia and South-Eastern Europe.
In compliance with the Belgrade Ministerial Declaration, WGEMA focuses on capacity-building activities, including those on the modernization and upgrading of national monitoring networks and information systems, in countries of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia and South-Eastern Europe. Its members include officials responsible in their countries for environmental monitoring and assessment. It involves in its activities experts from statistical agencies and representatives of major groups, including business and industry, the scientific community and environmental citizens’ organizations.
WGEMA cooperates with other international forums and networks, such as the EEA, UNEP, UNDP, UNSD, the WHO European Centre for Environment and Health, relevant multilateral environmental agreements, especially those of UNECE, and the OECD.
It helps the European Environment Agency to prepare pan-European assessment reports for Ministerial Conferences “Environment for Europe”. It also helps countries of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia to build their environmental observation capacities and harmonize their approaches with those applied in EEA.
A grant agreement was concluded in 2002 between the European Commission and the European Environment Agency (EEA) on strengthening environmental information and observation capacity in EECCA. To implement a part of this agreement, UNECE and EEA set up a project "Support to the activities of the UNECE Working Group on Environmental Monitoring and Assessment (WGEMA)". See Workshop on the project results.
A follow-up project "Preparation of EECCA indicator guide and support to UNECE/WGEMA activity within the framework of the preparation of the fourth assessment Belgrade report" was implemented in 2006-2007. It was a part of a larger European Commission TACIS project “Support to the European Environment Agency data collection in Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia countries”.
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