Everybody stands to gain when countries adopt common international legal instruments and standards and harmonize their technical regulations. Consumers can be confident that they are buying products that live up to guaranteed quality standards. Citizens can more easily trade and travel across borders. Companies can more efficiently innovate, invest and streamline their production and sales when they no longer have to adapt to a multitude of national rules and regulations. International trade is facilitated when sellers and buyers use common classifications, documents and trade procedures.
International legally binding conventions can help to protect common goods such as water resources or to avoid air pollution. National legislative and regulatory work is simplified and accelerated when reference can be made to internationally agreed documents. Indeed, when countries develop and share common norms, standards and conventions, it facilitates their cooperation and connectivity, and this can pave the way for progress and peaceful coexistence.
Member countries of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) realized this from the outset. Their common efforts, now for nearly seventy years, have resulted in a wealth of conventions, harmonized technical regulations, norms and standards. Virtually all of the Commission’s subsidiary bodies have contributed in one way or another to their elaboration. I thank all Government officials and experts who have participated in the work on developing and updating these instruments for their dedication and commitment through the years.
Studies have shown that many of UNECE’s agreements on technical and/or procedural harmonization are being effectively implemented. The attached list of conventions, norms and standards, which have been negotiated under the auspices of the UNECE, has been compiled in order to facilitate wider access to this valuable body of information.
A more recent UNECE-OECD publication showcases examples of successful tools of international regulatory cooperation developed by the UNECE. This joint study reviews the formal and informal processes of developing soft and hard law instruments within our organization. It also highlights the impact that our toolbox has had, challenges that we face and the factors that have led to our success: a demand-driven approach supported by solid analytical and technical expertise, cooperation with external partners, and continuous engagement with stakeholders.
Christian Friis Bach
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe
The compendium of Legal Instruments, Norms and Standards is available in English, French and Russian at: