UNUnited Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Introduction by the UNECE Executive Secretary

2010 was a year of contrasts for our region: many countries bounced back from recession while several others faced difficult economic and fiscal adjustments, which in some cases are still ongoing. The year also had its share of crises, including the violence that induced the change of Government and institutions in Kyrgyzstan, the public finance crisis in the euro area or the environmental catastrophe caused by the burst of a pond collecting toxic waste from aluminum production in Hungary.

2010 also presented some more optimistic notes. The Cancun Conference, for example, succeeded in re-establishing a good path for the international negotiations on climate change. For the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), two decisions of the General Assembly were of particular relevance: the resolutions of 2 March 2010, declaring 2011-2020 the Decade of Action for Road Safety, and of 28 July 2010, recognizing access to clean water and sanitation as a human right.

The first resolution formally recognizes the key role of the regional commissions in assisting low-income and middle-income countries in setting and achieving road traffic casualty reduction targets. It is a great encouragement for the work of the regional commissions and in particular of UNECE, as it recognizes our contribution over many years to improving road safety, not only through our technical and legal work, but also through our road safety campaigns and initiatives.

The second marks an important milestone in the international efforts aimed at improving the global situation in water supply and sanitation. In this domain, our region possesses a unique tool: the UNECE/WHO-EURO Protocol on Water and Health to the UNECE Water Convention. The Second Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol, held in November 2010 in Bucharest, reassessed the key role that the Protocol can play in supporting the actual implementation of this resolution in the region.

In 2010, UNECE continued to strengthen its cooperation with partners from the United Nations family in order to better “deliver as one”. A good illustration of this principle is the United Nations Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA), jointly supported by UNECE and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP).

The SPECA Economic Forum and Governing Council were held in Geneva on 18-20 October 2010. The Governing Council expressed satisfaction with the programme implementation of SPECA and its impact on regional economic cooperation. Following the Forum, which emphasized the important role of the United Nations in facilitating the efforts of the international community in promoting peace, stability and economic Introduction by the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe 10 cooperation in Afghanistan and Central Asia at large, SPECA was invited to join the Core Group of the Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA). In December, the Ministerial Conference on the Aid-for-Trade (AfT) Road Map for SPECA, held in Baku, adopted a Declaration calling for dynamic synergies between national and regional trade-related development initiatives. It also established a SPECA Regional Aidfor- Trade Implementation and Monitoring Council (SPECA AfT Council).

Another example of cooperation with other United Nations partners was the regional review of progress on the MDGs in Europe and Central Asia, which UNECE prepared in cooperation with 14 other United Nations agencies. This review was presented at an MDG regional Conference in Istanbul on 9-10 June 2010, organized in close cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Turkish Government, and then during the MDG Summit in New York. Many other examples can be provided, especially in technical cooperation activities, all of which aim to transfer UNECE’s expertise and implement its legal instruments at the country level.

Cooperation with the other United Nations regional commissions was also further enhanced last year, as joint projects such as Global Energy Efficiency 21, road safety or gender statistics made new progress. Furthermore, the Executive Secretaries of the five regional commissions have expressed their common willingness to engage in a strong partnership with UN Women, the newly established entity for promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Finally, the Regional Coordination Mechanism, revived in 2009 and bringing together all the Directors for Europe and Central Asia of the United Nations Funds, Programmes and Specialized Agencies, gained momentum with the creation of a thematic Working Group on climate change and the drawing of a compendium of capabilities available across the United Nations agencies at the regional level for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Outside the United Nations family, UNECE has worked on further strengthening ties with, among others, the European Union, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). It also signed Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) with the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea (IFAS) and the Eurasian Development Bank (EDB).

UNECE also cooperates with a broad range of stakeholders at national level, including from the private sector. One good example was the launch in 2010 of the first Innovation Performance Review for Belarus. Such Reviews are policy-oriented documents aimed at providing advice to policy-makers and other stakeholders on policy actions to stimulate innovation and improve the overall efficiency of the national innovation system. Kazakhstan has since already expressed its interest to be the next country to undergo such a review.

Looking forward to 2011, three highlights come to my mind:

• The sixty-fourth session of UNECE, which will be held from 29 to 31 March 2011. In our institutional setting, the Commission session, now held every second year, constitutes a privileged moment of dialogue among member States, and between member States and the secretariat. It is also a solemn occasion to reaffirm the direction of work for UNECE for the next two years. This year the high-level segment will discuss two topics of interest to all our member States: the new developments and challenges facing economic integration in our region in light of the economic crisis; and the role of regional integration and cooperation for promoting sustainable development in the region, which will look at two key components: the transport and trade infrastructure and energy cooperation.

• 2011 will be the International Year of Forests. UNECE will articulate most of its Timber and Forestry activities around that theme throughout the year, including the not-to-bemissed ‘Forest Gallery’ in the Palais des Nations (Salle des Pas Perdus) in February and the Regional Forest Information Week, coinciding with World’s Forest Day (21 March) and, of course, the UNECE Timber Committee Week in October.

• Finally, the seventh Environment for Europe Ministerial Conference, which will be held in Astana, Kazakhstan, from 21 to 23 September 2011. The Conference will address two main themes: sustainable management of water and water-related ecosystems; and greening the economy: mainstreaming the environment into economic development. These will naturally resonate with many of the projects that UNECE is currently developing in our region. The Astana Conference is also expected to contribute to the Rio +20 process, together with the Regional Preparatory Meeting which the UNECE will also convene in December 2011.

I look forward very much to these occasions of policy dialogue with our constituency. They will help me ensure that UNECE activities remain focused on the areas of highest priority to our member States.

Executive Secretary
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe