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Regional Knowledge Center

Multilateral agreements

Multilateral environmental agreements are a powerful tool that can be used in order to preserve and improve the quality of environment and human health around the world. 

Air quality

The Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP)

CLRTAP, which entered into force in 1983, was originally created with the aim to reduce the negative impact of acid rain of the environment. The Convention has substantially contributed to the development of international environmental law and has created the essential framework for controlling and reducing the damage to human health and the environment caused by transboundary air pollution. It is a successful example of what can be achieved through intergovernmental cooperation.

The key protocols of CLRTAP are:

  • The 1984 Protocol on Long-term Financing of the Cooperative Programme for Monitoring and Evaluation of the Long-range Transmission of Air Pollutants in Europe (EMEP)
  • The 1998 Aarhus Protocol on Heavy Metals
  • The 1998 Aarhus Protocol on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) 
  • The 1999 Gothenburg Protocol to Abate Acidification, Eutrophication and Ground-level Ozone

Protocol on Heavy Metals

The Executive Body of CLTRAP adopted the Protocol on Heavy Metals on June 24, 1998 in Aarhus (Denmark). The main aim of the protocol is to reduce the negative impacts of emissions of heavy metals focusing on the three particularly harmful metals: cadmium, lead and mercury. In 2012 the protocol had undergone a series of amendments introducing more stringent requirements and more flexible implementation mechanisms to facilitate ratification and implementation of the Protocol’s requirements particularly for the countries of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. The amended text of the Protocol, although not yet in force, is used in the assessment in the context this project.

The main requirement of the Protocol is to reduce the total emissions into the atmosphere of the specified substances from the level of the emission in the reference year (1990 or an alternative year between 1985 and 1995).

In addition, the Protocol requires introduction of mandatory product control measures, foresees introduction of “best available techniques” (BATs) and stipulates limit values, applicable to a number of industrial sources, combustion plants, and waste incineration. The protocol also encourages introduction of additional product management measures, which are not mandatory, but application of such additional measures might facilitate compliance with regards to the reduction of emissions, which is a primary objective of the Protocol. Such additional measures may include substitution of products containing one or more intentionally added heavy metals covered by the protocol, provision of product information including labelling, etc.

Protocol on POPs

The protocol on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) was adopted by the Executive Body CLTRAP on June 24, 1998 in Aarhus (Denmark). The protocol has been amended in 2009 when the list of restricted or prohibited substances was updated. In its current edition the Protocol includes sixteen substances out of which eleven are pesticides, two industrial chemicals and three by-products/contaminants. These substances are grouped under three annexes of the protocol – annex I (Substances scheduled for elimination), annex II (substances scheduled for restrictions on use), and annex III (Substances referred to in article 3, paragraph 5(a), and the reference year for the obligation). The protocol requires development of appropriate strategies for identifying and environmentally sound utilisation of substances still in use and waste containing defined POPs. Additionally plans and strategies for emission reduction should be developed and implemented.

Similarly to the Heavy Metals protocol, POPs protocol stipulates introduction of BATs and application of limit values that would be at least as stringent as set in the protocol.

Gothenburg Protocol

Protocol to Abate Acidification, Eutrophication and Ground-level Ozone (known as Gothenburg Protocol) is the most recent protocol to the LRTAP convention. It was adopted on November 30, 1999 in Gothenburg (Sweden), originally setting 2010 ceilings for four atmospheric pollutants - sulphur, NOx, VOCs and ammonia. The Protocol was amended in 2012 to include national emission reduction commitments to be achieved by 2020 and beyond. The revised Protocol also introduced flexibility measures to facilitate accession of new Parties, mainly countries in Southern and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. In addition the amended Protocol, covers recently incorporated PM emissions.

The underpinning objective of the Protocol is reduction of the total emissions of the sulphur, NOx, VOCs, ammonia and particulate matter is to be achieved through complying with the determined critical loads/levels (acidity, nutrient nitrogen, ozone, PM, ammonia) and delimitation of the national emission ceilings (SO2, NO2, VOCs, NH3). The current version of the Protocol sets out country-specific emission reduction commitments for 2020 and beyond. The protocol also provides limit values both for stationary and mobile sources, requires implementation of the product control measures, BATs, measures encouraging energy efficiency, use of less-polluting fuels, and development of national programmes and strategies.

Taking into consideration that the protocol also focuses on ammonia emissions, it includes minimal NH3 control measures relating to activities in the agricultural sector.


The Protocol is an instrument for international cost-sharing of a monitoring programme which forms the backbone for review and assessment of relevant air pollution in Europe in the light of agreements on emission reduction. EMEP has three main components: collection of emission data for sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other air pollutants; measurement of air and precipitation quality; and modelling of atmospheric dispersion. At present, more than 200 monitoring stations in 40 UNECE countries participate in the programme.

Nature and biodiversity

Convention on Biological Diversity

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was signed at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992 and entered into force on 29 December 1993. It is the first global agreement to cover all aspects of biological diversity: the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources.

The objectives of the Convention, to be pursued in accordance with its relevant provisions, are the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources, including by appropriate access to genetic resources and by appropriate transfer of relevant technologies, taking into account all rights over those resources and to technologies, and by appropriate funding.


Cartagena Protocol

The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity is an international treaty governing the movements of living modified organisms (LMOs) resulting from modern biotechnology from one country to another. It was adopted on 29 January 2000 as a supplementary agreement to the Convention on Biological Diversity and entered into force on 11 September 2003.

The Protocol seeks to protect biological diversity from the potential risks posed by living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology. It establishes an advance informed agreement (AIA) procedure for ensuring that countries are provided with the information necessary to make informed decisions before agreeing to the import of such organisms into their territory. The Protocol contains reference to a precautionary approach and reaffirms the precaution language in Principle 15 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. The Protocol also establishes a Biosafety Clearing-House to facilitate the exchange of information on living modified organisms and to assist countries in the implementation of the Protocol.


Nagoya Protocol

The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity is an international agreement which aims at sharing the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources in a fair and equitable way.

The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization (ABS) to the Convention on Biological Diversity is a supplementary agreement to the Convention on Biological Diversity. It provides a transparent legal framework for the effective implementation of one of the three objectives of the CBD: the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.

The Nagoya Protocol on ABS was adopted on 29 October 2010 in Nagoya, Japan and entered into force on 12 October 2014, 90 days after the deposit of the fiftieth instrument of ratification. Its objective is the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources, thereby contributing to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

More information at

The Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar Convention)

The Convention on Wetlands, called the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

The Convention’s mission is “the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world”. The Convention was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 and came into force in 1975. Since then, almost 90% of UN member states, from all the world’s geographic regions, have acceded to become “Contracting Parties”.

Under the three pillars of the Convention, the Contracting Parties commit to:

  • work towards the wise use of all their wetlands through national plans, policies and legislation, management actions and public education;
  • designate suitable wetlands for the list of Wetlands of International Importance (the “Ramsar List”) and ensure their effective management;
  • cooperate internationally on transboundary wetlands, shared wetland systems, shared species, and development projects that may affect wetlands.

The Convention has five formally recognized “International Organization Partners”, which provide expert technical advice and assistance in line with Convention principles:

  • BirdLife International
  • International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
  • International Water Management Institute (IWMI)
  • Wetlands International
  • WWF International

The Convention collaborates with a network of partners:

  • Biodiversity-related conventions including the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), the World Heritage Convention (WHC), and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES);
  • Project funding bodies including global environmental funds, multilateral development banks and bilateral donors;
  • UN agencies such as UNEP, UNDP, UNESCO and the UN Economic Commission for Europe, and specific programmes such as UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) programme;

More information at


Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals

The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals was developed under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Program. It provides a global platform for the conservation and sustainable use of migratory animals and their habitats and brings together the states through which migratory animals pass, as well as their distribution sites.

The main goal of the convention is to implement internationally coordinated measures for the conservation of migratory species of wild animals throughout the entire range of migration.

Fundamental principles

The Parties acknowledge the importance of migratory species being conserved and of Range States agreeing to take action to this end "whenever possible and appropriate", "paying special attention to migratory species the conservation status of which is unfavourable and taking individually or in cooperation appropriate and necessary steps to conserve such species and their habitat."

The Parties acknowledge the need to take action to avoid any migratory species becoming endangered.


(a) Should promote, cooperate in and support research relating to migratory species;

(b) Shall endeavour to provide immediate protection for migratory species included in Appendix I.

CMS Parties strive towards strictly protecting these animals, conserving or restoring the places where they live, mitigating obstacles to migration and controlling other factors that might endanger them. Besides establishing obligations for each State joining the Convention, CMS promotes concerted action among the Range States of many of these species.

(c) Shall endeavour to conclude agreements covering the conservation and management of migratory species included in Appendix II.

The Convention encourages the Range States to conclude global or regional agreements.

Several Agreements have been concluded to date under the auspices of CMS. They aim to conserve:

  • Populations of European Bats (EUROBATS)
  • Cetaceans of the Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea and Contiguous Atlantic Area (ACCOBAMS)
  • Small Cetaceans of the Baltic, North East Atlantic, Irish and North Seas (ASCOBANS)
  • Seals in the Wadden Sea (Wadden Sea Agreement)
  • African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA)
  • Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP)
  • Gorillas and Their Habitats (Gorilla Agreement)

More information could be found at



Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

CITES was negotiated in 1973 to protect wildlife against over-exploitation and to prevent international trade from threatening species with extinction. It entered into force on 1 July 1975 and now has a membership of 151 countries. These countries act by banning commercial international trade in an agreed list of endangered species and by regulating and monitoring trade in others that might become endangered.

At the national level, each Party to the Convention is required to adopt legislation to nominate a national Scientific Authority. This Scientific Authority determines whether trade in any of the species included in the Appendices to the Convention from the country concerned may or may not be detrimental to its survival. However, not all Parties to CITES have adequate means to properly implement these requirements. At its 11th meeting, the Conference of the Parties (COP-11) approved a proposal by the Secretariat to develop and implement a programme through which assistance could be provided to Parties, to develop the capacity of their Scientific Authorities to make these so-called non-detriment findings.


Roughly 5,000 species of animals and 29,000 species of plants are protected by CITES against over-exploitation through international trade. Each protected species or population is included in one of three lists, called appendices. The Appendix that lists a species or population reflects the extent of the threat to it and the controls that apply to the trade.

  • Appendix I

Appendix I, about 1200 species, are species that are threatened with extinction and are or may be affected by trade. Commercial trade in wild-caught specimens of these species is illegal (permitted only in exceptional licensed circumstances). Captive-bred animals or cultivated plants of Appendix I species are considered Appendix II specimens, with concomitant requirements.

The Scientific Authority of the exporting country must make a non-detriment finding, assuring that export of the individuals will not adversely affect the wild population. Any trade in these species requires export and import permits.

  • Appendix II

Appendix II, about 21,000 species, are species that are not necessarily threatened with extinction, but may become so unless trade in specimens of such species is subject to strict regulation in order to avoid utilization incompatible with the survival of the species in the wild.

  • Appendix III

Appendix III, about 170 species, are species that are listed after one member country has asked other CITES Parties for assistance in controlling trade in a species. The species are not necessarily threatened with extinction globally. In all member countries, trade in these species is only permitted with an appropriate export permit and a certificate of origin from the state of the member country who has listed the species.

Additional information on the Convention and its content can be found at



Water resources

Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes

The Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) aims to ensure the sustainable use of transboundary water resources by facilitating cooperation. The purpose of this Convention is to improve national attempts and measures for protection and management of transboundary surface waters and ground waters. On the international level, Parties are obliged to cooperate and create joint bodies. The Convention includes provisions on: monitoring, research, development, consultations, warning and alarm systems, mutual assistance and access as well as exchange of information.

It was opened for signature in Helsinki on 17 March 1992 and entered into force on 6 October 1996. As of September 2018, it has been ratified by 43 parties, which includes 42 states and the European Union.

Protocol on Water and Health

This protocol was negotiated in 1999. It is addressing the problems of water related diseases in the UNECE region, where one out of seven people do not have access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. Consequently, that brings diseases such as cholera, bacillary dysentery, coli infections, viral hepatitis A and typhoid. The implementation of this Protocol requires setting firm targets: the process of setting targets consists of analyzing the national situation, streamlining and harmonizing responsibilities and commitments in water and health. A State Party has to elaborate a realistic plan for improvement. This process helps focus the attention on the services and actions needed. Some of the areas of work of the Protocol are: small scale water supplies, water supply and sanitation in extreme weather events, water-related disease surveillance, equitable access to water and sanitation etc.

The Protocol on Water and Health entered into force in 2005. As of 2013, it has been ratified by 26 European states.

Protocol on Civil Liability

The Protocol on Civil Liability for Damage and Compensation for Damage Caused by Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents on Transboundary Waters was formally adapted at the Ministerial Conference "Environment for Europe" in Kiev, Ukraine, on 21 May 2003. It was initiated by a first joint special session of the Parties to the Water Convention together with the Parties to the Convention on the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents. Its aim is to give individuals affected by the transboundary impact of industrial accidents on international watercourses (e.g. fishermen or operators of downstream waterworks) a legal claim for adequate and prompt compensation.[37]

The financial limits of liability as well as the minimum amount of financial securities have been agreed by all the actors of the negotiation, including the insurance sector, and are therefore realistic and appropriate.[38] As of 2013, the Protocol has been ratified only by Hungary and is not in force.

More information at

Climate change

UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an intergovernmental treaty developed to address the problem of climate change. The Convention, which sets out an agreed framework for dealing with the issue, was negotiated from February 1991 to May 1992 and opened for signature at the June 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) — also known as the Rio Earth Summit. The UNFCCC entered into force on 21 March 1994, ninety days after the 50th country’s ratification had been received. By December 2007, it had been ratified by 192 countries.

Parties to the Convention continue to meet regularly to take stock of progress in implementing their obligations under the treaty, and to consider further actions to address the climate change threat. They have also negotiated a protocol to the Convention.

Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol was first agreed in December 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, although ongoing discussions were needed between 1998 and 2004 to finalize the “fine print” of the agreement.

The Protocol obliges industrialized countries and countries of the former Soviet bloc (known collectively as “Annex I Parties”) to cut their emissions of greenhouse gases by an average of about 5% for the period 2008-2012 compared with 1990 levels. However, under the terms agreed in Kyoto, the Protocol only enters into force following ratification by 55 Parties to the UNFCCC, and if these 55 countries included a sufficient number of Annex I Parties that at least 55% of that group’s total carbon dioxide emissions for 1990 were represented.

The Protocol finally entered into force as a legally-binding document on 16 February 2005. By December 2007, the Protocol had been ratified by 177 countries, including Annex I parties representing 63.7% of Annex I greenhouse gas emissions in 1990.

More information at

Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement builds upon the Convention and for the first time brings all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so. As such, it charts a new course in the global climate effort.

The Paris Agreement central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Additionally, the agreement aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change.

To reach these ambitious goals, appropriate financial flows, a new technology framework and an enhanced capacity building framework will be put in place, thus supporting action by developing countries and the most vulnerable countries, in line with their own national objectives. The Agreement also provides for enhanced transparency of action and support through a more robust transparency framework. Further information on key aspects of the Agreement can be found

Nationally determined contributions

The Paris Agreement requires all Parties to put forward their best efforts through nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and to strengthen these efforts in the years ahead. This includes requirements that all Parties report regularly on their emissions and on their implementation efforts.

The Paris Agreement requests each country to outline and communicate their post-2020 climate actions, known as their NDCs.

Each climate plan reflects the country’s ambition for reducing emissions, taking into account its domestic circumstances and capabilities. Guidance on NDCs are currently being negotiated under the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA), agenda item 3.

Further information can be found at


Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer

By the 1970s, concern was growing that the Earth's stratospheric ozone layer, which protects the earth against excessive ultraviolet radiation, was being destroyed - which would cause damage to humans, plants, and animals. In 1977, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) concluded a World Plan of Action on the Ozone Layer and in 1981 UNEP was authorized to draft a global framework Convention on stratospheric ozone protection.

 In 1985, the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer formalized international cooperation on this issue. The next step of the cooperation resulted in the signing of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer in 1987.

After the Montreal Protocol was signed, new data showed worse-than-expected damage to the ozone layer. In 1992, the Parties to the Protocol decided to alter the terms of the 1987 agreement to end production of halons by 1994 and CFCs by 1996 in developed countries.

  • Provisions

The treaty's provisions include the international sharing of climate and atmospheric research to promote knowledge of the effects on the ozone layer. In addition, the treaty calls for the adoption of international agencies to assess the harmful effects of depleted ozone and the promotion of policies that regulate the production of harmful substances that influence the ozone layer.

A Multilateral Fund exists to aid developing nations transition from ozone-depleting chemicals using guidelines under the convention, which is administered by a Multilateral Fund Secretariat. A Multilateral Fund established by an amendment to the Protocol has approved activities worth more than $2.9 billion, including industrial conversion, technical assistance, training, and capacity-building. It has aided thousands of projects in nearly 150 countries, preventing the usage of roughly 250,000 tons of ozone-depleting chemicals.

Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer

The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer is a global agreement to protect the Earth’s ozone layer by phasing out the chemicals that deplete it. This phase-out plan includes both the production and consumption of ozone-depleting substances. The landmark agreement was signed in 1987 and entered into force in 1989.

  • Amendments to the Montreal Protocol

The London Amendment (1990)  changed the ODS emission schedule by requiring the complete phaseout of CFCs, halons, and carbon tetrachloride by 2000 in developed countries, and by 2010 in developing countries. Methyl chloroform was also added to the list of controlled ODSs, with phaseout in developed countries targeted in 2005, and in 2015 for developing countries.

The Copenhagen Amendment (1992)  significantly accelerated the phaseout of ODSs and incorporated an hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC) phaseout for developed countries, beginning in 2004. Under this agreement, CFCs, halons, carbon tetrachloride, and methyl chloroform were targeted for complete phaseout in 1996 in developed countries. In addition, methyl bromide consumption of methyl bromide was capped at 1991 levels.

The Montreal Amendment (1997)  included the phaseout of HCFCs in developing countries, as well as the phaseout of methyl bromide in developed and developing countries in 2005 and 2015, respectively.

The Beijing Amendment (1999) included tightened controls on the production and trade of HCFCs. Bromochloromethane was also added to the list of controlled substances with phase-out targeted for 2004.

The Kigali Amendment (2016) extended controls to phase down the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) because these substances were adopted by industries in moving away from ozone-depleting substances and they are potent greenhouse gases damaging to the earth’s climate.

More information about the Convention available at

Chemical substances

Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods, become widely distributed geographically, accumulate in the fatty tissue of humans and wildlife, and have harmful impacts on human health or on the environment.

Exposure to Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) can lead to serious health effects including certain cancers, birth defects, dysfunctional immune and reproductive systems, greater susceptibility to disease and damages to the central and peripheral nervous systems.

Given their long range transport, no one government acting alone can protect its citizens or its environment from POPs.

The Stockholm Convention, which was adopted in 2001 and entered into force in 2004, requires its parties to take measures to eliminate or reduce the release of POPs into the environment.

The convention entered into force on 17 May 2004 with ratification by an initial 128 parties and 151 signatories. Co-signatories agree to outlaw nine of the dirty dozen chemicals, limit the use of DDT to malaria control, and curtail inadvertent production of dioxins and furans.

Parties to the convention have agreed to a process by which persistent toxic compounds can be reviewed and added to the convention, if they meet certain criteria for persistence and transboundary threat. The first set of new chemicals to be added to the Convention were agreed at a conference in Geneva on 8 May 2009.

As of June 2018, there are 182 parties to the Convention, (181 states and the European Union). The Stockholm Convention was adopted to EU legislation in Regulation (EC) No 850/2004.

More information about the Convention available at

Other environmental issues

Convention to Combat Desertification

Established in 1994, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management. The Convention addresses specifically the arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, known as the drylands, where some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and peoples can be found.

The new UNCCD 2018-2030 Strategic Framework is the most comprehensive global commitment to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) in order to restore the productivity of vast expanses of degraded land, improve the livelihoods of more than 1.3 billion people, and reduce the impacts of drought on vulnerable populations to build

A future that avoids, minimizes, and reverses desertification/land degradation and mitigates the effects of drought in affected areas at all levels ... to achieve a land degradation-neutral world consistent with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

The Convention’s 197 parties work together to improve the living conditions for people in drylands, to maintain and restore land and soil productivity, and to mitigate the effects of drought. The UNCCD is particularly committed to a bottom-up approach, encouraging the participation of local people in combating desertification and land degradation. The UNCCD secretariat facilitates cooperation between developed and developing countries, particularly around knowledge and technology transfer for sustainable land management.

More information at

Environment Impact Assessment Convention (The Espoo Convention)

The Espoo (EIA) Convention sets out the obligations of Parties to assess the environmental impact of certain activities at an early stage of planning. It also lays down the general obligation of States to notify and consult each other on all major projects under consideration that are likely to have a significant adverse environmental impact across boundaries.

Principle 17 and 19 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (1992) are the cornerstones of the Espoo Convention:

  • Principle 17: Environmental impact assessment, as a national instrument, shall be undertaken for proposed activities that are likely to have a significant adverse impact on the environment and are subject to a decision of a competent national authority.
  • Principle 19: States shall provide prior and timely notification and relevant information to potentially affected States on activities that may have a significant adverse transboundary environmental effect and shall consult with those States at an early stage and in good faith.

More information at

Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment (Kyiv Protocol)

The Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Protocol augments the Espoo Convention by ensuring that individual Parties integrate environmental assessment into their plans and programmes at the earliest stages – so helping to lay the groundwork for sustainable development. The Protocol also provides for extensive public participation in the governmental decision-making process. The Protocol entered into force on 11 July 2010.

The (SEA) Protocol, now in force, requires its Parties to evaluate the environmental consequences of their official draft plans and programmes.

More information at

Watch a short introduction to the Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA). The video presents the SEA process set out in the Protocol, together with its benefits and potential as a tool for greening economies.

More information at


The Convention on the Prohibition of Military or any other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques (ENMOD Convention)

The Convention on the Prohibition of Military or any other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques (ENMOD Convention) is an instrument of international disarmament law specifically intended to protect the environment in the event of armed conflict. It prohibits hostile use of the environment as a means of warfare.

The ENMOD Convention is specifically intended to prevent use of the environment as a means of warfare, by prohibiting the deliberate manipulation of natural processes that could produce phenomena such as hurricanes, tidal waves or changes in climate.

States party to the Convention undertake “not to engage in military or any other hostile use of environmental modification techniques having widespread, long-lasting or severe effects as the means of destruction, damage or injury to any other State Party”.

The States Parties further undertake not to “assist, encourage or induce” any State, group of States or international organization to engage in such activities».

The environmental modification techniques covered are those intended to change “through the deliberate manipulation of natural processes, the dynamics, composition or structure of the Earth”.

Within the framework of the Convention, the participants undertake to cooperate in the exchange of scientific and technical information about works in the field of creative influence on nature and the peaceful use of the environment. The Convention does not put obstacles in its impact on natural processes for constructive purposes but it provides for a number of strict measures to ensure stringent compliance with its provisions by all the participating States.

If there is information about a violation of the provisions of the Convention, any state has the right to file a complaint directly to the UN Security Council. In addition, any member state has the right to send a formal request to the UN Secretary-General to convene an Advisory Committee of experts, which should meet no later than a month to find out and assess the actual circumstances of suspicious environmental events.

Additional Protocol I

Additional Protocol I: ban on the use of methods and means of warfare that damage the environment Protocol I of 1977 additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 applies to international armed conflict and contains two specific provisions for the protection of the environment. These provisions are clearly complementary to the ENMOD Convention in the event of armed conflict: while the Convention prohibits deliberate modification of the environment as a means of warfare, Additional Protocol I prohibits attacks on the environment as such, regardless of the means used.

Additional Protocol I prohibits the use of “methods or means of warfare which are intended, or may be expected, to cause widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment”.

More information about the Convention available at

Convention on the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents

Since the early 1990s the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) has concentrated its efforts on preventing industrial accidents and especially their transboundary effects in its region. Its work led to the adoption of the Convention on the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents on 17 March 1992. It was signed by 26 UNECE member countries and the European Union and entered into force on 19 April 2000. It now has over 40 contracting Parties.

The Convention aims at protecting human beings and the environment against industrial accidents by preventing such accidents as far as possible, by reducing their frequency and severity and by mitigating their effects. It promotes active international cooperation between the contracting Parties, before, during and after an industrial accident.

The Convention on the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents is part of a pan-European legal framework to protect our environment and encourage sustainable development that has been negotiated by governments within the UN/ECE in response to regional challenges.

The aim of the Convention on the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents is to help its Parties to prevent industrial accidents that can have transboundary effects, to prepare for them and to respond to them. The Convention also encourages its Parties to help each other in the event of such an accident, to cooperate on research and development, and to share information and technology.

  • Prevention

The Convention spells out what its Parties have to do to reduce the risk and prevent industrial accidents to the extent possible. First, they should identify the hazardous operations that take place within their borders but could have an effect abroad if an accident were to occur.

The Conference of the Parties, at its first meeting, adopted guidelines to facilitate this process. Once the Parties have drawn up a list of these operations, they should inform all the other Parties that could be affected and consult them.

New projects should be sited in areas where the risks are minimal and any decision to allow a project to go ahead should take account of the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context.

Past industrial accidents will be reported and analyzed so that lessons can be learnt from them in order to be able to prevent similar accidents from happening in the future. The Parties approved the terms of reference for cooperation between the UN/ECE secretariat and the European Commission's Major Accident Hazards Bureau in this respect.

  • Preparedness

Yet, no matter how stringent the safety standards, accidents will occur and countries must be prepared to deal with their consequences. The Convention therefore also outlines how Parties can maintain a high level of preparedness to respond to an industrial accident, especially if its effects spill over into another country. Hazardous operations must have on-site and off-site contingency plans. If several Parties might be affected by a hazardous operation, they are expected to get together to try to make their plans compatible or even draw up joint off-site contingency plans.

The local residents should be informed about what is going on. The public should also have a say in the setting-up of prevention and preparedness measures and have access to administrative and judicial proceedings if its views are disregarded. In this context, the provisions of the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters will also prove useful.

  • Response

If an industrial accident does occur, the Convention expects the Parties to take effective steps to minimize its effects, including those of a transboundary nature. If several countries are affected by the accident, they should work together to ease its effects. They should also help one another if asked to do so.

  • Notification

To respond effectively and in a coordinated way to an industrial accident, Parties must be informed as soon as possible, since time is of the essence. The Convention consequently calls on Parties to set up special notification systems . The UN/ECE Industrial Accident Notification System has been developed with this in mind and accepted by the Conference of the Parties. It includes forms for giving early warning, providing information and requesting assistance. This system makes it easier for a country where an industrial accident has taken place to notify all the others that could be affected and to give them the information they need to fight its possible effects.

Since 2008, the IAN Systen has been operated through an internet application.

  • Competent authorities and points of contact

Each Party must designate or set up authorities specifically to deal with industrial accidents, following the Convention's entry into force. Other UN/ECE member countries have nominated focal points .

According to the Convention, Parties must also designate points of contact, to whom industrial accident notifications and requests for assistance must be addressed. The network of points of contact now comprises 35 countries and the European Union. The secretariat regularly updates this list; however, access to it is restricted.

This project is funded by the European Union

And implemented by a consortium led by