As a voluntary exercise, the Environmental Performance Review (EPR) is undertaken only at the request of the country itself.
It starts with an agreement on the structure of the report between UNECE and high officials of the candidate country. The assessing team is made up of experts from all over the ECE region, and is flexible to meet the needs of the reviewed country. This team meets with national experts to discuss the problems encountered in the areas of environmental management and integration of environmental considerations in related economic sectors in their country. The team’s final report contains recommendations for further improvement, taking into consideration the country’s progress in the current transition period. Peer review of the report and its recommendations is carried out by the UNECE’s intergovernmental Committee on Environmental Policy.
The structure of the EPR process consists of:
The process begins when a country requests UNECE to undertake a review. The decision to proceed with a specific country is taken by the UNECE intergovernmental Committee on Environmental Policy (CEP). Guidance is provided by the ad hoc ECE Expert Group on Environmental Performance (EPR Expert Group).
During a preparatory mission to the country, UNECE consults with the country to be reviewed on the structure of the review. The Secretariat subsequently assembles a review team, which typically includes experts from North America, Western Europe, and countries-in-transition as well as expert staff of UNECE, the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Health Organization’s European Centre for Environment and Health.
Once preparation is completed, the expert team travels to the country under review and meets with representatives of the government at national and local levels, non-governmental organizations and the private sector. The focus of discussion is on the evaluation of environmental performance. Participation of reviewing country experts in the teams themselves also brings invaluable experience.
At the end of the Review Mission, the international team prepares a series of chapters that are edited and compiled into a draft Environmental Performance Review report. Chapters contain both descriptive text and a series of recommendations on ways to improve problem areas.
The final draft is submitted to the Ad Hoc Expert Group on Environmental Performance.
The second review is the Expert Review, carried out by the hoc Expert Group on Environmental Performance. Unlike the teams of experts assembled for the Mission Review, the members of the Expert Group are appointed by the UNECE Committee on Environmental Policy.
During the Expert Review, the members of the Expert Group review the draft Environmental Performance Review report, with particular attention given to conclusions and recommendations. Experts from the review country (national experts) are invited to participate in this meeting and to interact with the Expert Group. At the end of this Review, the report is amended, as decided by the Expert Group, in consultation with the national experts. This amended Environmental Performance Review report is then forwarded to Governments in the Committee on Environmental Policy.
The third review is the Peer Review, carried out by the member States in the UNECE Committee on Environmental Policy. It is called a Peer Review because it is a review of one country by other countries, that is, a review among equals. During the Peer Review, countries focus on some of the major policy issues that have arisen during the Environmental Performance Review.
At the conclusion of the Peer Review, the Committee on Environmental Policy adopts the Environmental Performance Review report, with amendments, if any. The report will then be finalized and submitted for publication.
Publication of the completed report is the last step of the review process. Updated facts and figures are requested from the reviewed country. The Secretariat incorporates these changes, together with possible changes in line with the conclusions of the Committee on Environmental Policy.
The reports are aimed first at decision-makers, but they are also directed to a wider audience (general public, NGOs, industry, government at different levels) in the country under review and in other interested countries.
The first round of Environmental Performance Reviews has been completed among countries-in-transition. The Programme is now focussing on Second Reviews, which will assess progress since the first Review and assess a limited set of new issues of importance to the country.
In addition, the Committee on Environmental Policy, at its tenth session, requested relevant member States to present voluntary interim reports to the Committee at its annual sessions within three years of the conclusion of their first EPR Reviews, taking into account that, until the reporting schedule can be made current, some countries may report more than three years after their first Review but prior to their second Review.