The UNECE World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations (WP.29) is a unique worldwide regulatory forum within the institutional framework of the UNECE Inland Transport Committee.
Three UN Agreements, adopted in 1958, 1997 and 1998, provide the legal framework allowing Contracting Parties (member countries) attending the WP.29 sessions to establish regulatory instruments concerning motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment:
- UN Regulations, annexed to the 1958 Agreement;
- United Nations Global Technical Regulations (UN GTRs), associated with the 1998 Agreement; and
- UN Rules, annexed to the 1997 Agreement.
UN Regulations contain provisions (for vehicles, their systems, parts and equipment) related to safety and environmental aspects. They include performance-oriented test requirements, as well as administrative procedures. The latter address the type approval (of vehicle systems, parts and equipment), the conformity of production (i.e. the means to prove the ability, for manufacturers, to produce a series of products that exactly match the type approval specifications) and the mutual recognition of the type approvals granted by Contracting Parties.
UN GTRs contain globally harmonized performance-related requirements and test procedures. They provide a predictable regulatory framework for the global automotive industry, consumers and their associations. They do not contain administrative provisions for type approvals and their mutual recognition.
UN Rules concern periodical technical inspections of vehicles in use. Contracting Parties reciprocally recognize (with certain conditions) the international inspection certificates granted according to the UN Rules.
Overall, the regulatory framework developed by the World Forum WP.29 allows the market introduction of innovative vehicle technologies, while continuously improving global vehicle safety. The framework enables decreasing environmental pollution and energy consumption, as well as the improvement of anti-theft capabilities.
The same regulatory framework is also instrumental for fostering and facilitating cross-border trade, since provisions established under the 1958 Agreement include the reciprocal acceptance of approvals of vehicle systems, parts and equipment issued by other Contracting Parties (the reciprocal recognition of the entire vehicle is not yet possible under the 1958 Agreement, even if procedures for the whole vehicle type approval of vehicles have been established in EU Member States. In order to address this issue, WP.29 launched the International Whole Vehicle Type Approval (IWVTA) project in March 2010).
WP.29 established six permanent Working Parties (GRs), i.e. subsidiary bodies that consider specialized tasks, consisting of people with a specific expertise:
- Noise (GRB)
- Lighting and Light-Signalling (GRE)
- Pollution and Energy (GRPE)
- Brakes and Running Gear (GRRF)
- General Safety Provisions (GRSG)
- Passive Safety (GRSP).
The World Forum WP.29 also established (and continues to establish) a number of Informal Working Groups (IWGs) with a time-limited mandate to deal with certain technical issues. Depending on the case and the terms of reference under which they are conceived, such groups report their work to one of the GRs or directly to WP.29. Informal Working Groups can be structured in subgroups, performing detailed tasks within the primary mandate.
Meetings (or "sessions")
WP.29 meets three times a year (WP.29 sessions are usually held in March, June and November). Each of the WP.29 Working Parties holds two sessions per year, while meetings of the informal working groups are scheduled according to rules that are set up in each of them, depending on their particular needs.
In general, proposals to WP.29 for new regulatory instruments, such as UN Regulations, UN GTRs and UN Rules (or the amendment of existing ones), are elaborated by the Contracting Parties to one of the UN Agreements administered by WP.29 in the informal working groups (and their subgroups), then discussed by the bodies they report to (typically by the GRs during one of their sessions, and sometimes by WP.29 directly). Finally, the proposals are considered during WP.29 sessions (by the relevant Committee, depending on the UN Agreement concerned) for their final approval.
Documents related to the regulatory process
In general, regulatory proposals are first discussed with the help of documents circulated within the informal groups, then submitted as informal documents to the relevant body (the GRs or WP.29 directly). Following this step, the proposals are considered as official working documents (sometimes called official documents or working documents) by the same body, and finally submitted, again as official working documents, to WP.29 for consideration and adoption.
An agenda is distributed roughly three months before each of the WP.29 sessions and those of its Working Parties. It lists all the official documents that are going to be discussed, as well as other relevant items that are going to be considered. Similarly, a report containing a record, also accounting for updates in the agenda, of the decisions and the events taking place during the session is compiled by the UNECE secretariat and distributed after the conclusion of the session.
Other informal documents
Additional informal documents, such as presentations and brochures containing information relevant to discussions held during the sessions, as well as information on meetings of informal groups held in conjunction with the main sessions may be submitted to WP.29 and its Working Parties.
All the documents related to the regulatory process, as well as other informal documents, are available on the Vehicle Regulation page of the UNECE website: www.unece.org/trans/main/welcwp29.html
Agreements, UN Regulations, UN GTRs, UN Rules
Other reference materials
Other reference materials available on the Vehicle Regulation page of the UNECE website, include:
- a Consolidated Resolution on the Construction of Vehicles (R.E.3) and a Special Resolution (No. 1) concerning the common definitions of vehicle categories, masses and dimensions;
- Guidelines for UN regulatory procedures;
- Guidelines on transitional provisions in UN Regulations (when proposing a new Regulation, experts from Contracting Parties who are planning to apply it as a mandatory basis in their national legislation have to be aware that the approvals to this new Regulation can be granted only after the date of entry into force, and that lead time will be necessary for manufacturers to provide conforming vehicles. The new Regulation can therefore entail transitional provisions);
- Guidelines on the preparation of Working Party documents;
- The WP.29 Terms of Reference and Rules of Procedures.
A comprehensive overview of WP.29, beginning with a brief history from its inception as a regional forum through its recent transformation into a world forum, is available in the following publication: www.unece.org/trans/main/wp29/wp29wgs/wp29gen/wp29pub.html
This document includes a presentation of the organizational structure and operational process of WP.29 and its subsidiary bodies, as well as their relationship to specific multinational Agreements under the United Nations. A description of the three above mentioned UNECE Agreements concerning vehicle regulations and rules is also included in it.