The countries of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA) are home to ecosystems of global importance, including the Caucasus region, the Black Sea wetlands complex and the Central Asian mountains. Back in the early 1990s, the environmental challenges facing the region were many and varied. Outbreaks of water-related diseases were increasing. Unaffordable water infrastructure systems ws crumbling, urban air pollution damaged, and waste and chemicals management was largely deficient. Across the region, legislation was largely inconsistent and poorly enforced. Environmental policies were neither effective nor efficient in stimulating significant environmental improvements, and policy instruments presented serious shortcomings.
These concerns, among others, led to the establishment of the “Environment for Europe” process and the development of an Environmental Action Programme for Central and Eastern Europe following a meeting of environment ministers at Dobris Castle, in the former Czechoslovakia, in 1991. Its aim was to establish a planning and co-ordination framework for both national actions and international assistance intended to address urgent environmental issues in the nations of Central and Eastern Europe.
Within the Environment for Europe process, in 1993 ministers endorsed an Environmental Action Programme (EAP) for Central and Eastern Europe with three main pillars: (1) integrating environmental policies into the process of economic reconstruction; (2) institutional capacity building; and (3) immediate assistance programmes, including investment projects for priority areas. The OECD was asked to provide the secretariat for an international Task Force to implement the EAP. This Task Force brought together representatives from governments of Western and Eastern Europe and the North America, multilateral and regional banks, industry and environmental NGOs to raise awareness, mobilise funding and plan co-operative projects. Ministers also established the Project Preparation Committee (PPC) to accelerate environmental investments, supported by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The EAP Task Force and PPC worked closely together over many years to promote a coherent approach to policy and institutional reform, and investments in central and eastern European countries. UNECE has provided the organisational framework for the Environment for Europe process.