Following the successful launching of the Environmental Performance Review (EPR) programme by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development for its members in 1991, European Environment Ministers requested UNECE at the Second Ministerial Conference "Environment for Europe" (Lucerne, Switzerland, 1993) to undertake EPRs in UNECE countries that are not members of OECD.
An Environmental Performance Review (EPR) is an assessment of the progress a country has made in reconciling its environmental and economic targets and in meeting its international environmental commitments. The EPR Programme assists countries to improve their environmental management and performance; promotes information exchange among countries on policies and experiences; helps integrating environmental policies into economic sectors; promotes greater accountability to the public and strengthens cooperation with the international community. As a voluntary exercise, the EPR is undertaken at the request of the country under review.
First-cycle EPRs established baseline conditions regarding trends, policy commitments, institutional arrangements and routine capabilities for carrying out national evaluations. From 1994, the first cycle of reviews was performed in 20 countries of the UNECE region: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Yugoslavia, Slovenia, Tajikistan, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.
Second-cycle EPRs assess progress and help stimulate greater accountability. Emphasis is placed on implementation and financing of the environment policy, integration of environmental concerns into economic sectors, and promotion of sustainable development. Since 2000, UNECE has carried out 18 second EPRs.
At the Seventh Ministerial Conference “Environment for Europe” (Astana, Kazakhstan, 2011), Ministers reaffirmed their support to EPR Programme and encouraged UNECE to pursue with the third cycle. Third-cycle EPRs will include environmental governance and financing in a green economy context, countries’ cooperation with the international community and environmental mainstreaming in priority sectors.
The efficiency and effectiveness of the methodology deployed by the EPR programme have attracted the attention of other bodies inside and outside UNECE, leading to requests for a transfer of know-how from UNECE to other UN regional commissions. At the request of Morocco, UNECE has launched in 2012 the EPR of the country in cooperation with the UN Economic Commission for Africa (Read futher The Environmental Performance Review, a powerful tool for achieving Sustainable Development).