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Environmental Performance Reviews (EPRs) have their genesis in the work of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In 1991, Ministers of Environment of OECD member countries launched a programme for EPR to help OECD member countries improve their individual and collective performances in environmental management.

After the Dobris Assessment had drawn a first overall picture of the state of the environment in Europe in 1993, the Ministers of Environment decided that countries would be reviewed individually in much more detail. The aim was to examine not only these countries' environmental conditions, but also the strategies, policies and tools that they used to manage the environment.

At their Second Environment for Europe Ministerial Conference (Lucerne, Switzerland, 1993), Ministers of Environment decided that the EPR Programme would be gradually extended to the whole region of Europe and mandated ECE to carry out this extended programme. Excerpt from the Lucerne Declaration (ENG FRE RUS): "The OECD Country Environmental Performance Review Programme will be developed and gradually extended, in cooperation with the UN ECE, to Central and Eastern Europe, initially through three pilot reviews of Poland, Bulgaria and Belarus."

Pursuant to that decision, in 1994, the ECE Committee on Environmental Policy "decided to undertake in 1994-96, subject to the availability of extrabudgetary resources, a pilot ECE review of Estonia" (ECE/CEP/1; ENG FRE RUS). In 1995, the Committee "took note of the progress made in the development of the initial ECE programme of environmental performance reviews, including the successful review mission to Estonia" (ECE/CEP/14; ENG FRE RUS). In 1996, the Committee "adopted the proposal to include EPRs in its programme of work as a continuing project." (ECE/CEP/30; ENG FRE RUS).  

Since 1996, Central, Southeastern and Eastern Europe and Central Asia countries have been reviewed by ECE, in addition to a few countries that were reviewed in cooperation with OECD (Poland (1995), Bulgaria (1995), Belarus (1997) and the Russian Federation (1999).

At their Seventh Environment for Europe Ministerial Conference (Astana, Kazakhstan, 2011), Ministers of Environment invited ECE, building upon the success of the ECE EPR Programme, to conduct its third cycle of EPRs, which may include environmental governance and financing in a green economy context, countries’ cooperation with the international community and environmental mainstreaming in priority sectors (ENG FRE RUS).  

At their Eighth Environment for Europe Ministerial Conference (Batumi, Georgia, 2016), Ministers of Environment acknowledged the important contribution of the ECE EPR Programme over the past 20 years as an effective and practical policy tool, and highlighted the role it can play in supporting the achievement and monitoring of SDGs in the pan-European region. Ministers expressed their satisfaction with the progress in the third cycle of reviews and encouraged countries to benefit from the EPR Programme by undertaking further reviews (ENG FRE RUS).