The United Nations founders, in the aftermath of the Second World War, established several regional economic commissions throughout the world. They believed that “maintaining international peace and security” in order to “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” could be accomplished not only through diplomacy, but also through poverty reduction, increased employment opportunities, regional economic co-operation and a cleaner environment. In post-war Europe, a Geneva-based UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) was set up and mandated with reconstruction, economic development and strengthening of economic relations. Over time, UNECE’s primary objective became one of “building bridges” across bipolar Europe. These bridges have taken the form of international conventions, norms and standards in areas such as transport, environment, trade and statistics.
In a similar vein, in the early 1970s, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe was set up to serve as a multilateral forum for dialogue between East and West. The Helsinki Final Act – the key result of this process – was signed in 1975 and has established fundamental principles governing the behaviour of participating states towards their citizens and each other. Some twenty years later, the Conference became a full-fledged security institution: the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Today, the OSCE is the largest regional security organization in the world and has been the primary instrument for early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation in Europe.
UNECE and OSCE have shared virtually the same membership of over 50 states. They have both operated on a consensus principle and they have both provided a neutral framework to discuss and resolve potential conflicts. The organizations complement each other: OSCE is mainly a political organization with an extensive field presence while UNECE has retained its expertise in the area of international legal instruments, norms and standards. As a result of these complementarities and shared goals, the two organizations have developed a close relationship. Following a pattern of co-operation that has become well established since the mid-1990s, UNECE has continued to work closely with OSCE to develop more effective strategies for conflict prevention and security and find new responses to address risks in the economic and environmental dimension.
This website provides a selection of UNECE contributions to joint UNECE-OSCE undertakings, including UNECE reviews about the implementation of OSCE commitments in the economic and environmental dimension, copies of speeches and presentations made at various OSCE events and internet links to joint environmental initiatives.