United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE or UNECE) is one of the five regional commissions under the jurisdiction of the United Nations Economic and Social Council. It was established in order to promote economic cooperation and integration among its member states.

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe
Formation28 March 1947 (1947-03-28)
TypePrimary organ - regional branch
Legal statusActive
HeadquartersGeneva, Switzerland
Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe
Oľga Algayerová
Parent organization
United Nations Economic and Social Council
 Politics portal
Map showing the member states of the commission

The commission is composed of 56 member states, most of which are based in Europe, as well as a few outside of Europe. Its transcontinental Eurasian or non-European member states include: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Canada, Cyprus, Georgia, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, the United States of America and Uzbekistan.[1]


The commission was established by the Economic and Social Council on 28 March 1947 in order to "Initiate and participate in measures for facilitating concerted action for the economic reconstruction of Europe," as well as to "maintain and strengthen the economic relations of the European countries, both among themselves and with other countries of the world."[2]

It was established at the request of the United Nations General Assembly who called on the Economic and Social Council to create the commission, as well as the Commission for Asia and the Far East, in order to "give effective aid to countries devastated by war."[3]

ECE absorbed the function and resources of the European Central Inland Transport Organization upon its founding.

As the commission was established towards the beginning of the Cold War, it faced difficulties in achieving its mandate of economic reconstruction of Europe due to the Iron Curtain: separately the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation was established in 1948 in the west and the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance in 1949 in the east. The work of the commission had to concern itself only with questions that were of common interest to East and West, as to not cause confrontation.[4] However, since the fall of the Soviet Union, the economic commissions of the United Nations have been expanding their activities in the former Soviet republics.

Member states

The following are the member states of the commission, along with their date of admission:[1]

Member states
CountriesDate of membership
 Albania 14 December 1955
 Andorra 28 July 1993
 Armenia 30 July 1993
 Austria 14 December 1955
 Azerbaijan 30 July 1993
 Belarus 28 March 1947[lower-alpha 1]
 Belgium 28 March 1947
 Bosnia and Herzegovina 22 May 1992
 Bulgaria 14 December 1955
 Canada 9 August 1973
 Croatia 22 May 1992
 Cyprus 20 September 1960
 Czech Republic 28 March 1947
 Denmark 28 March 1947
 Estonia 17 September 1991
 Finland 14 December 1955
 France 28 March 1947
 Georgia 30 July 1993
 Germany 18 September 1973
 Greece 28 March 1947
 Hungary 14 December 1955
 Iceland 28 March 1947
 Ireland 14 December 1955
 Israel 26 July 1991
 Italy 14 December 1955
 Kazakhstan 31 January 1994
 Kyrgyzstan 30 July 1993
 Latvia 17 September 1991
 Liechtenstein 18 September 1990
 Lithuania 17 September 1991
 Luxembourg 28 March 1947
 Malta 1 December 1964
 Republic of Moldova 2 March 1992
 Monaco 27 May 1993
 Montenegro 28 June 2006
 Netherlands 28 March 1947
 North Macedonia 8 April 1993
 Norway 28 March 1947
 Poland 28 March 1947
 Portugal 14 December 1955
 Romania 14 December 1955
 Russian Federation 28 March 1947[lower-alpha 2]
 San Marino 30 July 1993
 Serbia 1 November 2000
 Slovakia 28 March 1947
 Slovenia 22 May 1992
 Spain 14 December 1955
 Sweden 28 March 1947
 Switzerland 24 March 1972[lower-alpha 3]
 Tajikistan 12 December 1994
 Turkey 28 March 1947
 Turkmenistan 30 July 1993
 Ukraine 28 March 1947[lower-alpha 1]
 United Kingdom 28 March 1947
 United States of America 28 March 1947
 Uzbekistan 30 July 1993
  1. Belarus and Ukraine were already UN members in 1947, even though they were not independent.
  2. Joined UNECE as the USSR, then the Russian Federation took over its membership.
  3. In 1972, Switzerland was not a UN member. Switzerland joined the United Nations in 2002.

Committees and programmes

Committee on Environmental Policy

The concern of UNECE with problems of the environment dates back at least to 1971, when the group of Senior Advisors to the UNECE governments on environmental issues was created which led to the establishment of the Committee on Environmental Policy, which now meets annually. The Committee provides collective policy direction in the area of environment and sustainable development, prepares ministerial meetings, develops international environmental law and supports international initiatives in the region. 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. The Committee's work is based on several strategic pillars:[5]

  • Providing the secretariat to the "Environment for Europe" process and participating in the regional promotion of Agenda 21;
  • Developing and carrying-out of UNECE Environmental Performance Reviews in the UNECE countries non-members of OECD;[6]
  • 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. See UNECE Espoo Convention, Aarhus Convention, Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution, Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes and Convention on the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents.
  • 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).

Committee on Forests and the Forest Industry

The first task of UNECE after the Second World War was to coordinate reconstruction effort in Europe. Timber was crucial for construction, and energy, but the forests had been heavily overcut and production and trade were at a standstill. The ECE Timber Committee emerged from the International Timber Conference held in 1947 in Mariánské Lázně in the former Czechoslovakia.

The main pillars of the Committee's activities have been: the collection and publication of the best available statistics on forests, wood production and trade; the exchange of information on forest working techniques and training of forest workers; periodic surveys of the long-term outlook on forests; technical work on the rational use of wood; reviewing forest product markets; and share experiences on forest and forest sector policy.[7]

Committee on Urban Development, Housing and Land Management

In 1947, UNECE set up a Panel on Housing Problems, which later evolved into the Committee on Human Settlements and after the reform in 2005/2006 into the Committee on Housing and Land Management. The Committee is an intergovernmental body of all UNECE member States. It provides a forum for the compilation, dissemination and exchange of information and experience on housing, urban development, and land administration policies; and in areas such as Birmingham, a more fiscal issue-UK.[8]

In 2020, the CUDHLM created the Forum of Mayors[9] at the Palais des Nations, an event allowing mayors from the UNECE region to exchange their best practices on urban development, housing and land management. UNECE is the first UN Regional Economic Commission to implement such an initiative that facilitates the cooperation between the UN, Member States and cities.[10]

Inland Transport Committee

The UNECE Transport Division has been providing secretariat services to the World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations (WP.29).[11] In addition to acting as secretariat to the World Forum, the Vehicle Regulations and Transport Innovations section serves as the secretariat of the Administrative Committee for the coordination of work, and of the administrative/executives committees of the three agreements on vehicles administered by the World Forum.[12]

Among other things, ITC has produced:[13]

  • 59 United Nations conventions concerning inland transport,[14]
  • Trans-European North-South Motorways, Trans-European Railways and the Euro-Asia Transport Links projects
  • the TIR system (Transports Internationaux Routiers), a global customs transit facilitation solution
  • transport statistics methods.[13]

The World Forum services three UN Agreements:

  • the 1958 Agreement on the approval/certification of Vehicles and its annexed UN Regulations,
  • the 1997 Agreement on Periodic Technical Inspections (PTI) and its annexed UN Rules,
  • and the 1998 Agreement on Global Technical Regulations and its annexed UN GTRs.[13]

Statistical Division

The UNECE Statistical Division provides the secretariat for the Conference and its expert groups, and implements the statistical work programme of UNECE. The Conference brings together chief statisticians from national and international statistical organizations around the world, meaning that the word "European" in its name is no longer an accurate description of its geographical coverage. The Statistical Division helps member countries to strengthen their statistical systems, and coordinates international statistical activities in the UNECE region and beyond through the Conference and its Bureau, and the Database of International Statistical Activities. The Statistical Division develops guidelines and training materials on statistical methodology and practices, in response to demands from member countries. It works with different groups of specialists from national and international statistical organizations, and organizes meetings and online forums for statistical experts to exchange experiences on a wide range of topics. The UNECE Statistical Division also provides technical assistance to South-East European, East European, Caucasus and Central Asian countries.

The division also provides:

  1. On-line data on the 56 UNECE member countries in Europe, Central Asia and North America in both English and Russian, on economic, gender, forestry and transport statistics.
  2. A biennial overview of key statistics for member countries.
  3. A set of wikis to support collaboration activities and disseminate information about good practices.

UNECE conducted the Fertility and Family Survey in the 1990s in 23 member States, with over 150,000 participants, with hundreds of resulting scientific publications.[15] This activity has hence continued in the form of the Generations and Gender Programme.[16]

Sustainable Energy Division

The Sustainable Energy Division supports the UN's energy program, including security of energy supply, economics, and environmental protection, in the areas of energy efficiency, renewable energy, clean electricity, natural gas, coal, and resource classification. It is the secretariat responsible for Committee on Sustainable Energy and various expert groups supporting access to affordable and clean energy for all, as well as help reduce greenhouse gas emissions of the energy sector in the region.[17]

The Expert Group on Resource Management created the United Nations Framework Classification for Resources, the first widely accepted natural resource management system for classifying, managing, and reporting energy, mineral, and raw material resources in the world.[18]

United Smart Cities (USC)

The United Smart Cities programme is a joint effort between UNECE and the Organization for International Economic Relations (OiER).[19]

Numerous private business entities and other international and European agencies support the programme, including Environment Agency Austria (EAA), the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), UN-Habitat, and the International Society of City and Regional Planners (ISOCARP). The programme promotes areas of strategic smart city policy and development. The key focus areas as detailed by the programme are:

  1. Urban mobility
  2. Sustainable housing
  3. Clean energy
  4. Waste management
  5. Information and Communications Technology (ICT)

Executive secretaries

Years Country Executive secretary
1947–1957  Sweden Gunnar Myrdal
1957–1960  Finland Sakari Tuomioja
1960–1967  Yugoslavia Vladimir Velebit
1968–1982 Janez Stanovnik
1983–1986  Finland Klaus Sahlgren
1987–1993  Austria Gerald Hinteregger
1993–2000  France Yves Berthelot
2000–2001  Poland Danuta Hübner
2002–2005  Slovakia Brigita Schmögnerová[20]
2005–2008  Poland Marek Belka[21]
2008–2012  Slovakia Ján Kubiš[22]
2012–2014  Bosnia and Herzegovina Sven Alkalaj[23]
2014  Denmark Michael Møller (acting)[24]
2014–2017 Christian Friis Bach[25]
2017–present  Slovakia Olga Algayerova[26]

Statistical Journal of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Statistical Journal of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe
Publication details
IOS Press (Netherlands)
Standard abbreviations
ISO 4Stat. J. U. N. Econ. Comm. Eur.
OCLC no.900948641

From 1982 to 2007 the IOS Press published the Statistical Journal of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe on behalf of the UNECE.[27][28]

See also


  1. United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (24 August 2016). "Member States and Member States Representatives". United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. United Nations. Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  2. United Nations Economic and Social Council Session 4 Resolution 36. Economic Commission for Europe E/RES/36(IV) 28 March 1947.
  3. United Nations General Assembly Session 1 Resolution 46. Economic reconstruction of devastated areas A/RES/46(I) 11 December 1946.
  4. United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (n.d.). "History". United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. United Nations. Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  5. "UNECE Homepage". www.unece.org.
  6. - EPR Programme
  7. ECE Committee on Forests and the Forest Industry (2017). 70 years working together in the service of forests and people. New York: European Forestry Commission, United Nations, United Nations. Economic Commission for Europe/Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Forestry and Timber Section. ISBN 978-92-1-117142-6. OCLC 1011422671.
  8. "UNECE". Archived from the original on 8 October 2009. Retrieved 28 September 2009.
  9. "Forum of Mayors | UNECE". unece.org. Retrieved 2 May 2022.
  10. Geneva Cities Hub (2022). "Forum of Mayors".
  11. "World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations (WP.29): How It Works, How to Join It". UNECE. March 2022. Retrieved 25 March 2022.
  12. "Programmes: Vehicle Regulations and Technological Innovations". Archived from the original on 26 September 2010. Retrieved 12 October 2010.
  13. "Road Map for Accession to and Implementation of the United Nations 1998 Agreement" (PDF). UNECE. March 2022. Archived (PDF) from the original on 9 October 2022. Retrieved 25 March 2022.
  14. UNECE, United Nations Road Safety Conventions, published June 2020, accessed 17 December 2021
  15. "Fertility and Family Survey (FFS)". unece.org. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
  16. "Fertility and Family Survey (standard country tables), FFS". edac.eu, the European Data Center for Work and Welfare. Retrieved 5 February 2016.
  17. Brkic, Iva (2020). Pathways to sustainable energy: accelerating energy transition in the UNECE region. United Nations. Economic Commission for Europe. Geneva. ISBN 978-92-1-117228-7. OCLC 1178639864.
  18. United Nations Framework Classification for Resources : update 2019. Geneva: United Nations. Economic Commission for Europe. 2020. ISBN 978-92-1-117233-1. OCLC 1151188428.
  19. "United Smart Cities (USC) - United Nations Partnerships for SDGs platform". sustainabledevelopment.un.org. Retrieved 5 July 2019.
  20. "Secretary-General Appoints Brigita Schmögnerová as New Executive Secretary of Economic Commission for Europe". UNECE.
  21. "Secretary-General appoints Marek Belka of Poland as Executive Secretary of Economic Commission for Europe". UNECE.
  22. "Secretary-General appoints Ján KUBIŠ of Slovakia to head United Nations Economic Commission for Europe". UNECE.
  23. "EXCOM welcomes Executive Secretary". UNECE.
  24. "Acting Director-General of UNOG Michael Møller takes on functions of Acting Executive Secretary of UNECE". UNECE.
  25. "The Secretary-General appoints Christian Friis Bach of Denmark as the next Executive Secretary of UNECE". UNECE.
  26. "Algayerova Appointed to Head the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe". TASR.
  27. "Statistical Journal of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe". EconBiz. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
  28. "Publications: STATISTICAL JOURNAL of the UNECE". UNECE. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
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