• English

(Geneva, 20-22 October 2003)

Statement by Mrs. Brigita Schmögnerová,
Executive Secretary

Chairperson, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure for me to open the 10th session of the Committee on Environmental Policy. The issues on your agenda for the session are important, comprehensive and forward looking. During the next three days, you will discuss the strategic directions that the Committee should take in its future work for the environment, taking into account the new challenging tasks emanating from the Kiev Ministerial Conference and the World Summit on Sustainable Development – as well as the ongoing economic and political changes in the UNECE region.

I look forward to a very stimulating round-table discussion on the opportunities and challenges of the EU’s enlargement for the environmental activities of the UNECE. For the past decades, much work has been carried out under the UNECE framework for preventing and reversing the environmental degradation in the region, through promoting legal and policy instruments as well as cooperation and dialogue between the relevant actors. However it must be understood that with the limited resources available, it will be particularly difficult for several countries to manage the competing economic, social and environmental priorities in a sustainable manner. In view of the challenges ahead and in order to optimise the impact of the work to be carried out in the region, it is therefore necessary and timely to redefine the role and the tasks of all the relevant actors and to reinforce the coordination and cooperation of the efforts at the international and regional level.

Owing to its inclusiveness and transparency, the “Environment for Europe” Ministerial process constitutes a unique forum for fostering such cooperation. The involvement of a large range of relevant experts from national administrations, intergovernmental organisations, NGOs and the business community guarantees a good coverage of the regional issues and interests involving environment and sustainable development. I wish to congratulate the Committee for its contribution to the successful outcome of the Fifth Ministerial Conference and fully agree with the Environment Ministers and heads of delegation of the UNECE member countries present in Kiev on the importance of continuing the process to promote environmental protection and sustainable development in the region, and to contribute thereby to wider peace and security.

The Environment for Europe process, the work of this Committee and the other environmental activities carried out within the UNECE merit to be more widely known by all the stakeholders and the general public. I therefore warmly welcome the mandate that the Ministers in Kiev gave you for the development of a communication strategy to raise awareness of the environmental problems in the UNECE region as well as of the progress achieved in tackling them.

The adoption and signature of three new Protocols to four UNECE environmental Conventions are among the very tangible achievements obtained in Kiev, which filled in important gaps in the existing legal architecture for the benefit of the environment and human health in the region.

I understand that you will undertake a new initiative, following the mandate given by the Ministers in Kiev, namely to draw up a strategy for education for sustainable development. Education is without doubt one of the most powerful tools for developing human thinking and influencing behaviour. It is of utmost importance for promoting sustainability in the region for the generations to come and therefore requires much attention and resources in the next few years.

The environmental concerns of the countries in transition in the region have rightfully always been one of the particular focuses of your work, notably within the Environmental Performance Review programme. As we all know, the first round of reviews is almost completed and you will be starting the second round. The second round of reviews will focus more on implementation and devote their attention to the performance in implementation of national policy targets, national legislation and international commitments such as conventions and regional strategies. This is also a valuable contribution to the further development of international instruments.

The Environment Strategy for Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia as well as the preparation of the Environment, water and security partnership in Central Asia, launched at the Kiev Conference, contribute to further defining the key environmental priorities in this sub-region, and call for additional joint efforts at the national, regional and international levels for solving them. Furthermore strengthening the environmental information and observation capacity in the EECCA countries will help these countries to integrate in major international networks. To that end further efforts and resources for supporting the important work of the UNECE Ad Hoc Working Group on Environmental Monitoring are required.

As you are aware, the Ad Hoc Informal Meeting of the Commission agreed to organize a Regional Implementation Forum in January 2004 as a follow up to the WSSD. The focus of the Forum, which is a review forum, is on water, sanitation and human settlements. I hope that the Committee on Environmental Policy will contribute to the preparation and success of the Forum. This you will discuss under item 4 of your Agenda.

Taking into account the challenging agenda that you are faced with, allow me to end by wishing all of you a productive meeting and success in your deliberations.

Thank you.