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SDG Priorities

Supporting countries to achieve the SDGs

UNECE supports countries in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) thanks to its:

  • role as a platform for governments to cooperate and engage with all stakeholders on norms, standards and conventions
  • unique convening power across the region
  • multisectoral approach to tackle the interconnected challenges of sustainable development in an integrated manner
  • transboundary focus, which helps devise solutions to shared challenges

Partnerships (SDG 17) between stakeholders including governments, international and regional organizations, businesses, academia and civil society are a driving force of UNECE’s work.  This covers three main strategic areas:

  • Improving connectivity within the region (SDGs, 7, 8, 9, 11, 13)
  • Reducing environmental pressures and using resources more sustainably (SDGs 3, 6, 7, 12, 13, 15)
  • Contributing to creating more dynamic and resilient economies (SDGs 7, 8, 9, 11, 13)

UNECE works for member countries by:

  • Supporting evidence-based decision-making through reliable statistics and improved monitoring, analysis, and policy advice 
  • Fostering cooperation among all stakeholders at the country and regional level
  • Building countries’ capacities to implement its norms, conventions and standards, which offer practical tools to improve people’s everyday lives

UNECE promotes women’s economic empowerment and mainstreaming of gender equality in all its activities (SDG 5) 


UNECE supports concrete cooperation between countries to ensure that good health and well-being remain at the heart of sustainable development.

Tackling air pollution

Air pollution kills 7 million people worldwide every year, making it more deadly than malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS combined. Under UNECE’s Air Convention, 51 countries in Europe and North America are cooperating to reduce deadly air pollution, achieving major reductions in emissions of harmful substances.

Bridging gaps in access to clean water and sanitation

140 million people in the pan-European region still do not have access to clean water. The UNECE/WHO Europe Protocol on Water and Health helps countries design and implement policies to increase access to drinking water and sanitation for all citizens, especially for the most vulnerable members of society. It also links sustainable water management and the prevention, control and reduction of water-related diseases in Europe.

Reducing harmful vehicle emissions

By driving progress in UN vehicle regulations on emissions and by supporting the development of cleaner fuel technologies, UNECE achieves significant reductions in dangerous emissions from transport (World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations).

Improving road safety

Every year 1.25 million people are killed and around 50 million are injured in road traffic crashes, making it one of the most pressing health emergencies of our time. As host to the UN conventions and agreements on road safety, UNECE supports cooperation for safer transport and works with countries to build capacities for road safety plans that save lives. UNECE also hosts the secretariat and supports the work of the Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety.

Reducing health risks of hazardous materials

UNECE supports the safe handling, storage and transport of hazardous materials through standards, technical assistance and by promoting cooperation between countries, reducing risks to health and the environment.

Promoting access to healthy housing

Access to decent housing has a direct impact on people’s health. UNECE helps countries improve access to healthy housing through reviews, recommendations and policy advice on housing sector policy (Country Profiles on Housing and Land Management), together with standards and capacity-building for housing design, maintenance and retrofitting of existing housing stock.

Supporting healthy and sustainable mobility

Together with WHO/Europe, UNECE supports countries in the development of integrated policies connecting transport, health and environment. This includes initiatives to promote walking and cycling.

Ensuring ageing with dignity and reducing gender gaps in older age

Close to 195 million people in the region are 65 or older today and the proportion of persons aged 80+ is growing fast. Promoting health and well-being across the life course is a fundamental part of policy responses to population ageing. UNECE supports countries in their commitment to ensure ageing with dignity and reducing gender gaps in older age through the implementation of the UN policy framework on ageing in the region. This helps to ensure access to quality health and care services and the creation of an enabling, non-discriminatory environment that fosters participation and well-being for women and men at all ages.


The sustainable management of water resources is fundamental to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. UNECE provides an effective platform to strengthen cooperation and works with countries to build capacities and address key water policy challenges and their integration in other policy areas.

Facilitating cooperation on shared water resources

UNECE’s Water Convention enables effective cooperation between countries for the sustainable management of shared water resources that is essential for environmental protection, drinking water and sanitation, agriculture, industry and energy production.

Improving access to clean water

The UNECE/WHO Europe Protocol on Water and Health is the only international treaty spelling out countries’ obligations arising from the human right to water and sanitation. It helps countries design policies to increase access to drinking water and sanitation for all citizens, especially for the most vulnerable members of society.

Improving water management in cities

UNECE works with countries to integrate Improved water and sanitation management as a core component of all urban and housing strategies and policies (Country Profiles on Housing and Land Management and Smart Sustainable Cities Profiles).

Safeguarding forest ecosystems for water generation and purification

UNECE works to protect forests so they may continue to provide vital ecosystem services such as water generation and purification. In particular, UNECE supports the valuation of forest-water-related ecosystem services through payment schemes.

Ensuring environmentally friendly inland water navigation

UNECE promotes the use of inland waterways as a sustainable complement to the transport of goods by road and rail and works to reduce the environmental impact of vessels travelling on them.


Sustainable energy underpins attainment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. UNECE works with countries and stakeholders to attain sustainable and clean energy for all and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint of the energy sector.

Supporting sustainable future energy systems

UNECE assists countries in developing sustainable energy systems, national action plans and green economy policies that embrace the energy transition holistically. Through development of appropriate indicators and improving the quality of energy statistics, UNECE also supports enhanced measurement and decision-making for improved energy system management.  

Advancing energy efficiency

UNECE helps countries improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Performance guidance developed by UNECE supports enhanced energy efficiency of buildings, which in developed countries account for over 70% of electrical power generated and 40% of primary energy.

Enhancing interconnected energy systems

UNECE is assisting countries in providing energy services sustainably through enhanced electric system integration and interconnection with distributed generation sources and smart energy distribution and use.

UNECE is engaged with governments and the gas industry to enhance the emergence of a global gas market and the uptake of natural gas in transport while reducing methane emissions.

Reducing the ecological footprint of fossil fuels

UNECE is working with countries and industry to reduce the ecological footprint of fossil fuels: disseminating best practices for deploying high efficiency, low emissions fossil technology with carbon capture and storage; developing standards, technologies and best practices for reporting and reducing methane emissions; and modernizing classification systems to support sustainable resource management.

Supporting green and renewable energy

UNECE provides a platform for policy makers, financial institutions and technology developers to increase investment in renewable energy technology in the region based on improved data and policy dialogues.  

UNECE supports countries in increasing their use of green and renewable energy through the development of classification systems to improve the international management and coordination of alternative energy resources, including solar, geothermal, wind, bioenergy and energy from waste.

UNECE supports the use of hydropower by facilitating international cooperation on shared water resources (Water Convention) and by advancing integrated and sustainable water management as part of the water-food-energy-ecosystem nexus.

UNECE also supports the sustainable use of forests for wood energy, which is the region’s primary renewable energy source representing 50% of renewable energy use. This includes monitoring, policy advice and review in addition to reporting on current and emerging market trends.

Promoting energy efficient transport

UNECE promotes energy efficient transport through UN vehicle regulations on improved fuel efficiency and by ensuring that more sustainable fuel technologies including electric, hybrid and hydrogen, become widely available.

UNECE also promotes the shift to more energy efficient modes of transport such as rail and inland waterways for long distance haulage.


By simplifying and standardizing business processes and fostering the environmental and social sustainability of international trade, UNECE helps countries and companies ensure that economic growth is a catalyst for sustainable development.

Accelerating growth through simplified international trade

As host to UN Conventions on border crossing, UNECE helps over 70 countries in Europe, the Middle-East and Asia to develop sustainable and resilient cross-border infrastructure to drive economic growth and open new trade routes (TIR Convention). 

This is complemented by over 480 standards and recommendations on trade facilitation and electronic business (UN/CEFACT, UN/EDIFACT, Single Window) which help countries and companies cut trading costs, reduce bureaucracy and implement the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement.

Removing non-tariff barriers to trade

UNECE conducts evidence-based studies to help countries identify and remove regulatory barriers to trade, develop action plans for generating efficiency gains throughout supply chains, and diversify exports.

Cutting costs and opening access to markets

UNECE norms and standards ranging from agriculture to vehicle regulations help to reduce costs through economies of scale, eliminating technical barriers to trade and enabling countries to access new export markets.

UNECE acts as a convening platform to support partnerships among standards bodies, and between standards bodies and decision-makers in businesses, administrations, donor agencies and local communities. This helps bring innovative technological solutions to scale, reducing fragmentation in regulatory requirements and the duplication of standards. It supports coherent regulatory frameworks for sustainable economic growth and competitiveness that limit environmental and social risks (Working Party on Regulatory Cooperation and Standardization Policies).

Enhancing agricultural production

Food production is increasingly threatened by air pollution, which affects soil quality and crop yields. UNECE supports countries with guidance on reducing ammonia emissions from agriculture.

Recommendations and training on the use and implementation of UNECE’s international agricultural quality standards and best practice also help producers, traders and national authorities to increase quality production and yields. This in turn fosters the development of sustainable domestic and international markets.

Nurturing the green economy

UNECE fosters the development of the green economy by mobilizing public and private stakeholders to develop, commit to and deliver on concrete actions ranging from investment in green technologies to promoting sustainable production and consumption (Batumi Initiative on Green Economy (BIG-E), to which 40 countries and organisations have submitted more than 120 commitments).

UNECE also helps strengthen the forest sector’s contribution to the green economy in the region through the implementation of the Rovaniemi Action Plan. The holistic plan promotes sustainable production and consumption of forest products, a low-carbon forest sector, decent green jobs, the long-term provision of forest ecosystem services and policy development and monitoring.

Supporting green jobs

Through the Transport, Health and Environment Pan European Project in partnership with WHO/Europe, UNECE is working with a range of stakeholders to identify and promote green jobs in the transport sector.

Sustainable forest management and green jobs go hand in hand. UNECE works on identifying and promoting green jobs in the forests sector, supporting the implementation of the Rovaniemi Action Plan

Promoting sustainable growth of real estate markets

UNECE supports sustainable growth in the real estate sector through guidelines and capacity building on land registration, by promoting the use of e-governance, land tenure, spatial information and cadastres, and through recommendations on improving market sustainability.

Supporting economic growth through statistics

Through statistical work on economic growth and employment, UNECE provides countries with internationally harmonized tools to strengthen knowledge-based decision-making on economic issues, labour market dynamics, gender equality and business processes.

Supporting the development of gender statistics and gender equality indicators

UNECE conducts methodological work to ensure appropriate measurement of gender issues in official statistics, builds related capacities in national statistical systems, and facilitates the exchange of knowledge and experience between countries. The UNECE Gender Statistics Database highlights key issues and trends in gender equality in the region helping to inform targeted action.

Monitoring progress towards achieving gender equality in the region

UNECE leads the 5-yearly regional review of progress in the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, helping countries and other stakeholders to assess trends in gender equality in the region, identify current challenges, highlight good practices and commit to concrete actions in a range of key areas.

Making economies inclusive for all ages

Population ageing is a both a major challenge and opportunity for countries of the UNECE region. As part of wide-ranging support to help countries realize the potential of living longer, UNECE tracks progress, shares best practices and develops recommendations for inclusive and flexible employment for older persons and the elimination of all forms of discrimination. Promoting gender-responsiveness is a consideration throughout this work.


UNECE supports countries’ to ensure that industry, innovation and infrastructure provide robust foundations for sustainable development.

Fostering innovation & entrepreneurship

Innovation Performance Reviews enable countries to identify needs and opportunities to build knowledge-based economies. Through policy advice on how to boost investment in technology and R&D, this helps countries to diversify their economies and upgrade technological capabilities across various sectors, helping to create the conditions where entrepreneurship and innovation can thrive.

Developing sustainable transport systems

Through its 58 international Transport legal instruments, UNECE provides a framework for the development of infrastructure and operations to ensure safe and sustainable transport systems, by road, rail, and inland waterways, facilitating mobility of people and movement of goods. UNECE also helps countries to harness the potential of new technologies through the integration of Intelligent Transport Systems in all modes of transport.

Facilitating investment in infrastructure

Through international standards and guidance on “People first Public Private Partnerships”, UNECE helps to bring governments and businesses together for the sustainable financing of key infrastructure developments, including in transport, energy and water management.

Supporting the sustainable planning of infrastructure & industry

UNECE supports cleaner and safer industry and infrastructure through frameworks for assessment and effective planning to ensure their economic, social and environmental sustainability (Convention on the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents, Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment, Country Profiles on Housing and Land Management).

Promoting gender-responsive standards

UNECE supports the development of standards that respond to the needs of women and promotes their participation in the development of such norms in all contexts.

Supporting women’s economic advancement and entrepreneurship

UNECE supports countries in the promotion of women’s economic advancement, including entrepreneurship, by building skills and knowledge, and fostering professional networks. In South-East Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia, activities include assessing the business environment for women entrepreneurs and tackling key issues, such as the lack of networking opportunities, difficult access to credit and skills gaps. 


UNECE helps countries to implement the SDGs at the local level through the development of holistic sustainable urban development strategies.

Promoting sustainable housing and land use planning

UNECE supports sustainable urban planning though review processes, policy advice and technical assistance to countries. This includes Country Profiles, the development of international guidelines and National Action Plans on different aspects of housing, urban development and land management.

UNECE and its 56 member States are committed to the provision of decent, adequate, affordable and healthy housing for all.  The right to adequate and affordable housing is enshrined in the Geneva United Nations Charter on Sustainable Housing. Through a network of Geneva UN Charter Centres, analytical studies, and national and regional capacity building activities, UNECE supports countries’ implementation of the Charter at the national and local levels.

Harnessing new technologies for Smart Cities

UNECE promotes the use of ICTs in city planning and service provision, helping to capitalize on the potential of connectivity for sustainable urban development, including through the use of Key Performance Indicators (United for Smart Sustainable Cities, in cooperation with ITU).  UNECE also provides recommendations and policy advice on smart sustainable cities financing and management through Smart Sustainable Cities Profiles.

Improving urban air quality

Urban air pollution is a growing health risk, with many cities in the UNECE region exceeding WHO limits. UNECE helps countries reduce urban air pollution through measures to reduce harmful emissions from vehicles, through more stringent ceilings on emissions of pollutants (Air Convention) and access to information on pollutant sources (Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers).

Fostering sustainable mobility in cities

UNECE supports sustainable mobility in cities by integrating health and environmental transport objectives into urban and spatial planning. This includes support to the development of urban transport infrastructure, building capacities for urban road safety and UN vehicle regulations on pedestrian protection and public transport vehicles.

Encouraging green building

Through country reviews and policy recommendations as well as dissemination of good practices on energy efficient housing, UNECE promotes green building in the region. UNECE reports on trends in wooden building construction and promotes the use of wood in housing as a sustainable choice of the future. 


UNECE supports countries’ progress towards more sustainable systems of consumption and production through a range of complementary approaches.

Reducing negative environmental and social impact

UNECE’s Environmental Performance Reviews offer a comprehensive tool to help countries identify key environmental challenges and establish concrete recommendations to improve environmental sustainability across all sectors.

UNECE’s Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment provides a framework for countries to evaluate the environmental consequences of development plans and programmes, while Environmental Impact Assessment under the Espoo Convention facilitates the review and improvement of the environmental performance of future projects.

By mobilizing multi-sectoral partnerships and harnessing new technologies for electronic business, UNECE is leading international efforts to advance the traceability and transparency of supply chains for more sustainable production and consumption systems (UN/CEFACT, Sustainable Textiles).

UNECE works with countries to reduce the health and environmental risks of industry and infrastructure by strengthening cooperation and capacities for accident prevention, preparedness and response (Convention on the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents, Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals, and action improving coal mine and dam safety).

UNECE’s Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers promotes transparency, serving as a powerful incentive to achieve further reductions in the release of hazardous chemical substances to air, water and soil.

UNECE promotes the integration of standards in regulatory frameworks and the use of standards by policy-makers and business to reduce their impact on ecosystems and facilitate the transition to sustainable modes of production and consumption.

Facilitating sustainable resource management

The United Nations Framework Classification for Resources (UNFC) enables international coordination and reporting on all energy and mineral resources, helping to monitor their sustainable use and stimulating the expansion of renewable and green energy resource use, including energy recovery from waste.

UNECE supports the sustainable management of the region’s forest resources and the use of wood as a renewable material of the future. This ranges from sustainability roadmaps (Rovaniemi Action Plan for the Forest Sector in a Green Economy) to the promotion of sustainable forest management certification, and the production of go-to outlook resources for the sector.

Promoting sustainable food production and consumption

UNECE works with countries to increase the sustainability of food production and consumption and the prevention of food loss, including through the development of international agricultural standards and recommendations.

Its International Conventions on Border crossing and the transport of perishable foodstuffs help countries reduce food waste and loss during transport.


UNECE’s climate change mitigation work targets cross-cutting areas that help to achieve greenhouse gas reductions.

Integrating climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning

UNECE’s Environmental Performance Reviews provide concrete cross-sectoral recommendations for the integration of effective climate change measures within national policy frameworks.

Strategic Environmental Assessment offers a tool to ensure that climate change mitigation is addressed within countries’ development plans and strategies.

Reducing emissions

Reducing air pollution also has benefits for our climate. International cooperation and national commitments under UNECE’s Air Convention have helped to significantly cut air pollutants in 51 countries across Europe and North America. The Gothenburg Protocol is the only international legally-binding instrument with obligations to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants, helping to limit ground-level ozone and black carbon emissions.

UNECE helps countries achieve significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from transport through more stringent UN Regulations on vehicle emissions and by facilitating the availability of greener fuel sources.

Promoting the development of Intelligent Transport Systems and the use of rail and inland waterways helps to further limit emissions by reducing traffic congestion.

UNECE helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector via best practices for methane management, through technologies and investments for cleaner energy from fossil fuels, and recommendations on Carbon Capture and Storage.

UNECE also promotes the use of innovative wooden-based construction materials, which require between five and twenty-four time less energy than concrete and steel, and contribute to carbon storage.  UNECE carries out projects to restore forests and degraded land, helping to increase the potential of forests as carbon sinks in the region.

Advancing energy efficiency and renewables

Through a comprehensive approach promoting energy efficiency from source to use, UNECE supports countries’ transition to low carbon energy systems.

UNECE’s Framework Guidelines for the energy performance of buildings – which represent 40% of combustion-related CO2 emissions in developed countries – help to promote energy efficiency in buildings.

UNECE is working with countries to accelerate the uptake of renewable energy across the region.

This is supported by the United Nations Framework Classification for Fossil Energy and Mineral Reserves and Resources (UNFC) which has been expanded to allow for the improved management of renewable energy sources and helps identify sustainable energy investments.

Strengthening resilience and adaptive capacity

By promoting strengthened cooperation and providing practical tools and policy advice, UNECE assists countries in mitigating risks and adapting to the effects of climate change – including to the increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events.

UNECE supports the development and implementation of standards that help prevent and reduce disaster risks and ensure better preparedness and management of crises, including those related to climate change.  

UNECE’s Water Convention enables effective cooperation between countries to prevent and adapt to the effects of droughts and floods.

UNECE’s Convention on the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents provides a framework to reduce environmental and health risks from industrial facilities in the event of extreme weather-related accidents. This includes the promotion of appropriate land-use planning together with measures to enhance preparedness through emergency exercises and effective contingency plans.

As part of holistic support to countries in the development of sustainable transport systems, UNECE provides policy advice and develops best practices on transport resilience to climate change.

Providing tools to measure and adapt to climate change

Quality statistics provide the basis for effective decision-making for climate action. UNECE plays a leading role in global efforts to advance climate change statistics, producing the first ever Recommendations on Climate Change-Related Statistics. UNECE’s Expert Forum on Climate Change Statistics provides a key international platform to support this work.

UNECE has developed a modelling tool to help governments develop transport policies that minimize CO2 emissions (ForFITS).

UNECE also monitors the role of forests in the region in climate change mitigation and adaptation, and supports ongoing assessment of the role of forests as carbon sinks.


UNECE helps countries to reduce environmental pressures and protect the environment for present and future generations.

Promoting the sustainable use and preservation of ecosystems

UNECE’s Environmental Performance Reviews provide holistic policy advice enabling countries to sustainably manage their ecosystems and halt the loss of biodiversity. This is done through assessment and recommendations on national biodiversity conservation policies, on the integration of nature conservation and biodiversity considerations in sectoral policies, and on meeting their international treaty commitments.

UNECE promotes cross-sectoral measures to reduce pollution. These include measures to improve the conservation and sustainable use of inland freshwater ecosystems (Water Convention), enhancing cooperation for the effects of air pollution on ecosystems & biodiversity (Air Convention), and strengthened management of land resources through integrated urban planning that considers urban-rural linkages.

Environmental protection is a collective responsibility. UNECE’s Aarhus Convention promotes access to information and public participation in environmental matters,  making it easier for governments to involve citizens, non-governmental organizations and other groups in shaping their environment, from the design and planning of new developments, to public consultations on how to face the challenges of climate change.

UNECE helps to strengthen the sustainable management of the region’s forests. As part of a holistic approach, UNECE assists countries in addressing deforestation and land degradation by building capacities for the protection, restoration and management of forest ecosystems.

Strengthening environmental monitoring

UNECE  helps to build countries’ capacities to improve statistics for the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA), which provides a basis for the analysis of the sustainable use of natural resources.

The Shared Environmental Information System enables countries across the pan-European region to connect databases and make environmental data more accessible, so facilitating regular environmental assessments and reporting.

UNECE works with countries and stakeholders in the forest sector to develop and use criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management at local, national and regional level.

UNECE’s Water Convention supports cooperation between countries to monitor the status and quality of water resources, bringing together experts and stakeholders.

UNECE’s Air Convention supports countries in monitoring air quality thanks to a network of over 150 sites providing data to assess the environmental and health impacts of air pollution.