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Experts review the environmental performance of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Mongolia in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals

How can improved environmental performance promote economic growth while ensuring environmental protection and sustainable management of natural resources, supporting countries’ progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?

These are among the key objectives of UNECE Environmental Performance Reviews (EPRs). As part of the reviews being carried out in 2017, delegations from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Mongolia met last week with expert representatives from 10 UNECE countries in Geneva to discuss and fine-tune the recommendations arising from their reviews. These three EPRs for the first time include advice to the countries under review on the priority issues to be tackled in order to achieve the relevant goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In mid-November 2017, the Committee on Environmental Policy is to undertake a peer review of the final recommendations.

Exploring countries’ environmental performance

During a discussion on the third EPR of Albania, the Expert Group on EPRs refined a number of recommendations in the draft report. The experts emphasized the need to substantially increase financial resources for environmental monitoring to enable the country to comply with European Union requirements. Albania was recommended to strengthen efforts to close and rehabilitate dumpsites and construct new sanitary landfills. There is also an urgent need to clean up and remediate existing industrial and mining hotspots. The Government was urged to put this last issue high on its agenda and to encourage good practices in the use of abandoned industrial sites, while ensuring their environmental rehabilitation.

The primary subject of the discussion on the third EPR of Bosnia and Herzegovina was the institutional set-up for environmental protection in the country. It was recommended that the country adopt a law to formalize the framework for implementation of international agreements and other international obligations of Bosnia and Herzegovina related to the environment. It was recommended that the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations of Bosnia and Herzegovina should also strengthen its role in the overall coordination and harmonization of environmental policy and management. Importantly, for the first time, the current review includes a dedicated chapter on the protection of the Adriatic Sea.

The EPR of Mongolia was the country’s first review. Among other themes, the discussion focused on the implementation of international agreements and commitments, access to environmental information and public participation in environmental matters. In cooperation with the delegation of Mongolia, the Expert Group revised the recommendations of the draft report on the country’s legal and policymaking framework, environmental monitoring, water and waste management and the participation of the country in international agreements to which it is not Party.

Strengthening the role of EPRs in supporting the achievement of SDGs

In an open meeting held back to back with the meeting of the Expert Group, participants welcomed the results of the first experience of integrating the SDGs in the framework of the three EPRs undertaken in 2017. These three EPRs address the overall policy and institutional framework for SDG implementation and review, cover the relevant targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the thematic chapters of EPR reports and link EPR recommendations to the relevant SDG targets.

This first experience enabled the experts to explore how to improve the incorporation of relevant SDGs into reviews in order to better respond to the needs of the reviewed countries. In particular, they emphasized the need to strengthen the link between the national process for implementation and review of the 2030 Agenda and the outcomes of the EPR process, which integrates the review of selected targets. They highly appreciated the opportunity to learn from the experiences presented by Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Mongolia and emphasized the importance of continuing the learning exchange on the basis of future EPRs.

In addition to members of the Expert Group on EPRs (Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Montenegro, Republic of Moldova, Romania and Switzerland) and representatives of the three countries reviewed in 2017, participants in the open meeting included representatives of countries that are soon to undergo third-cycle EPRs (i.e., Kazakhstan, Romania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Ukraine).

All EPRs in 2017 are supported financially by the German Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety and the German Federal Environment Agency with funds from the Advisory Assistance Programme. Expert support for the third EPR of Albania was provided by Hungary, Italy, Portugal and UNEP; for the third EPR of Bosnia and Herzegovina by France, Hungary, Italy, Portugal and UNEP; and for the EPR of Mongolia by France, Germany, Portugal and UNEP.