EPRs have their genesis in the work of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In 1991, the Environment Ministers of OECD launched a programme for environmental performance reviews to help OECD Member countries improve their individual and collective performances in environmental management.
After the Dobris Assessment had drawn a first overall picture of the state of the environment in Europe in 1993, the Environment Ministers decided that countries would be reviewed individually in much more detail. The aim was to examine not only these countries' environmental conditions, but also the strategies, policies and tools that they used to manage the environment.
At the second Ministerial Conference "Environment for Europe", held in Luzern, Switzerland, in April 1993, the Ministers decided that the Performance Review Programme would be gradually extended to the whole region of Europe and mandated UNECE to carry out this extended programme. In 1996, at its third session, the Committee on Environmental Policy decided to make the Environmental Performance Reviews a part of the regular programme of the ECE. Report of the 3rd session ( ENG, FRA, RUS).
Extract of the Luzern Declaration: "The OECD Country Environmental Performance Review Programme will be developed and gradually extended, in cooperation with the UN/ECE, to Central and Eastern Europe, initially through three pilot reviews of Poland, Bulgaria and Belarus."
Since 1996, Central, Southeastern and Eastern Europe and Central Asia countries have been reviewed by UNECE, in addition to a few countries that were reviewed in cooperation with OECD (Poland (1995), Bulgaria (1996), Belarus (1997) and the Russian Federation (1999).
At the seventh Ministerial Conference "Environment for Europe", held in Astana, Kazakhstan, in September 2011, the Ministers decided that building upon the success of the UNECE Environmental Performance Review (EPR) Programme, UNECE has to conduct its third cycle of EPRs, which may include environmental governance and financing in a green economy context, countries’ cooperation with the international community and environmental mainstreaming in priority sectors.