The UNECE region covers more than 47 million square
kilometres. Its member States include the countries
of Europe, but also countries in North America (Canada
and United States), Central Asia (Kazakhstan,
Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan)
and Western Asia (Israel) (see map).
The UNECE had a membership of 34 States
in 1991; less than four years later membership had
risen significantly as
a result of the disintegration of the Soviet bloc (see dates
of membership). Today, UNECE has 56 member States.
The diverse nature of the Commissions
membership has its source in history. When it was set
up, UNECE included all participants in the reconstruction
of post-war Europe: all European countries, from east
and west, and North America. Israel was added to the
list in 1991, following an Economic and
Social Council (ECOSOC) decision.
The UNECE region is home to 20% of the world population.
It includes some of the worlds richest countries,
as well as countries with a relatively low level of
development. This diversity in the levels of development
represents a challenge to UNECE, as it must respond
to the expectations of its different members. However,
it is also an advantage, as it encourages the sharing
of experience and knowledge, as well as a guarantee
of financial and technical aid to countries in need.