UNECE work on environmental matters dates back to 1971, when the group of Senior Advisors to the UNECE Governments on environmental issues was created, which led to the establishment of the UNECE Committee on Environmental Policy (CEP) in 1994.
The activity of CEP is guided by the goals set out in the future strategic directions for the environment (En / Fr / Ru) adopted in 2003 and by the workplan on the reform of UNECE (En / Fr / Ru) adopted in 2005, as well as by the review of the 2005 ECE reform (En / Fr / Ru) concluded in 2013.
In 2007, UNECE adopted the revised terms of reference (En / Fr / Ru) for CEP as a result of the reform process. In addition, the reform plan of the Environment for Europe process (En / Fr / Ru) adopted by CEP in 2009, and subsequently endorsed by ECE, mandated CEP to act as the convening body for the preparatory processes for the Environment for Europe Ministerial Conferences.
CEP (see UNECE member States) meets annually. Also, special sessions are convened, as necessary. Organisations of the United Nations system as well as intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations active in the UNECE region are invited to participate in CEP meetings as observers.
CEP works to support countries to enhance their environmental governance and transboundary cooperation as well as strengthen implementation of the UNECE regional environmental commitments and advance sustainable development in the region.
Its main aim is to assess countries' efforts to reduce their overall pollution burden and manage their natural resources, to integrate environmental and socioeconomic policies, to strengthen cooperation with the international community, to harmonize environmental conditions and policies throughout the region and to stimulate greater involvement of the public and environmental discussions and decision-making.
CEP is the overall governing body of UNECE environmental activities. CEP work is based on several strategic pillars:
- Providing the secretariat to the Environment for Europe process and participating in the regional promotion of Agenda 21;
- Development and carrying-out of environmental performance reviews in the UNECE countries non-members of OECD;
- Overseeing UNECE activities on environmental monitoring, assessment and reporting;
- Increasing the overall effectiveness of UNECE multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) and facilitating the exchange of experience on MEAs' implementation.
- Participating and/or facilitating the exchange of experience in a number of cross-sectoral activities undertaken under the leadership of UNECE (e.g. education for sustainable development, transport, health and environment, green building), or in partnership with other organizations (e.g. environment and security initiative, European environment and health process).