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The UNECE Reform

On 2 December 2005, the UNECE adopted in formal session a bold reform that innovates its governance structure, redefines priorities and improves cost-effectiveness and transparency. The reform has been pursued by UNECE member countries in the spirit of the broader UN-wide reform effort that is now under way.

After six months of intense consultations and negotiations under the leadership of Ambassador Roux (Belgium), Chairman of the Commission, and Michele Coduri (Switzerland), Chairman of the Group of Experts on the Programme of Work, member States agreed on a renewed mission statement, governance structure and set of priorities for the UNECE. Moreover, the reform promotes closer collaboration between UNECE and other organizations active in the region so that duplications are avoided and synergies fully exploited.

As far as its mission statement is concerned, member States agreed that the UNECE should remain a multilateral platform that facilitates greater economic integration and cooperation among its fifty-five members and promotes sustainable development and economic prosperity through, among others, policy dialogue, negotiation of international legal instruments, development of regulations and norms, exchange and application of best practices as well as economic and technical expertise, and technical cooperation for countries with economies in transition. It should also contribute to enhancing the effectiveness of the UN through the regional implementation of outcomes of global UN Conferences and Summits.

In order to enhance accountability, transparency and the horizontal coherence of UNECE’s activities with a view to enabling it to better respond to the needs of its member States, the governance structure has also been reformed. The Commission remains the highest decision-making body of the organization, responsible for taking strategic decisions on the UNECE programme of work and the allocation of resources. It also provides a forum for a policy dialogue at high level on economic development for the region. The implementation of the overall guidance set by the Commission is entrusted to a new body, the Executive Committee, which will in particular review, evaluate and approve in due time the Programmes of work of the sectoral committees, including intersectoral activities and relations with other international organizations, based on the criteria which the Executive Committee will define and which will include the coherence with the overall objective of the UNECE, coordination with other subprogrammes and resource implications. The Executive Committee will also approve the set-up, renewal, discontinuance, terms of reference and work plans of groups under the Sectoral Committees, based on the criteria of their relevance to the subprogramme, resource implications, avoidance of duplication and overlap in UNECE activities. It will ensure coherence between subprogrammes, inter alia by encouraging horizontal communication within the organization. Finally it will deal with all matters related to programme planning, administrative and budget issues, including extrabudgetary funding, and discuss with Executive Secretary initiatives taken by the secretariat and the work undertaken by the Office of the Executive Secretary.

Each subprogramme of the Programme of Work is attributed to a sectoral committee which is responsible for its preparation and implementation. They will jointly prepare and submit proposals to the Executive Committee on issues and activities of common interest. The Sectoral Committees are:

  • Committee on Environmental Policy
  • Committee on Inland Transport
  • Conference of European Statisticians
  • Committee on Sustainable Energy
  • Committee on Trade
  • Committee on Timber
  • Committee on Housing and Land Management
  • Committee on Economic Cooperation and Integration

In areas where the UNECE was not felt to have a comparative advantage vis-à-vis other international institutions, member States decided to discontinue a number of activities. This is the case for example of macro-economic analysis, where numerous international and regional entities provide similar services.

A new programme is being launched to address the specific development problems of countries with economies in transition and emerging market economies. This programme will focus on such issues as promoting effective public investment and regulatory policies; strengthening the competitiveness of the economy through innovative development; the development of public-private partnerships, financial services and the promotion of the rule of law and effective public policies.

The reform will be implemented within existing budgetary resources (for a complete version of the Work Plan on UNECE Reform see document E/ECE/1434/Rev.1).