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UNECE, OECD and UNEP join forces for greening the economies in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia

Much progress has been made since the 1990s in the countries of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA - Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan) to address severe environmental problems while reinforcing the market economy and democratic reforms. The structures of EECCA countries’ economies, and the related environmental pressures, have undergone important changes. The greater exposure to market forces led to a significant reduction in the energy - and pollution -intensive manufacturing sectors. The growth of the service sector - now the largest sector in most countries in terms of share of GDP - has also helped to reduce the overall intensity of environmental pressures.

Several projects with international assistance contributed to the reform of environmental policies and institutions, their integration with those aimed at economic development and investments that reduced environmental impacts while strengthening economic restructuring. International organisations, such as UNECE, OECD and UNEP are playing an important catalytic role to mobilise and support much needed reform.

Despite these efforts economic structures, energy resources and minerals extraction continue to dominate the economies of the region and generate a range of important environmental impacts. - Some of the EECCA countries remain among the most carbon-intensive in the world with ageing energy infrastructure. Although the agricultural sector has declined in terms of share of GDP, it still remains important in some countries and exerts pressure on land and water resources.

The short-term economic outlook for many EECCA countries remains challenging in part due to the collapse of commodity prices in recent years, following the global financial crisis which hit EECCA countries hard. These developments underline the need for the countries of the region to boost the productivity and competitiveness of their economies while supporting green growth. 

In June this year in Batumi, the 8th “Environment for Europe” Ministerial Conference endorsed the Pan-European Strategic Framework for Greening the Economy and welcomed the Batumi Initiative on Green Economy (BIG-E). Ministers invited the UNECE member States to implement the Strategic Framework and requested UNECE jointly with UNEP, and in cooperation with relevant international organisations, to support countries in their efforts to green their economies and achieve sustainable development. 

As a result, UNECE, OECD and UNEP have developed a coordinated and joint approach to better support countries of the sub-region under the GREEN Action Programme Task Force. The programme, which was officially launched at the meeting on 24-25 November 2016 at the OECD headquarters in Paris, will become a platform for dialogue by national governments, international organisations, and bilateral and multilateral development partners, think tanks, NGOs and for mobilising result–oriented financial and technical support for regional and country specific activities.

UNECE, OECD and UNEP have now joined the Task Force Bureau ex-officio and will contribute to prepare the agenda and work programme of the Task Force. The new work programme approved in Paris will help to further strengthen good cooperation among the three organisations and to respond in an effective and efficient way to demand for support from countries of the sub-region.