UNECE Economic Cooperation and Trade Division

Mika Vepsäläinen,


E-mail: virginia.cram-martos [at] unece.org (,)

Tel: +41 22 - 917 3197


UNECE Sustainable Transport Division

Eva Molnar, Director

E-mail : eva.molnar [at] unece.org

Tel: +41 22 917 2400

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) is one of five regional commissions of the United Nations. It was established in 1947 by the UN Economic and Social Council. The overarching mandate of the UNECE is to facilitate greater economic integration and cooperation among its fifty-six Member States and promote sustainable development and economic prosperity. The UNECE’s area of expertise covers the following sectors: environment; transport; statistics; sustainable energy; economic cooperation and integration; trade; timber and forestry; and housing, land management, and population. The UNECE programme of work is focused on (i) the negotiation of conventions, norms, standards, and guidelines in the above-mentioned sectoral areas; (ii) the provision of technical assistance (advisory services, capacity building workshops, training courses, and study tours) to countries with economies in transition, aimed at building national capacity to implement UNECE legally binding instruments and standards, and supporting these countries in the achievement of internationally-agreed development goals; (iii) the organization of policy debate, and the exchange of experience and best practices in the key areas of UNECE work; and (iv) the monitoring of and provision of support to the regional implementation of the outcomes of global UN conferences and summits.

Selected TCB programmes and initiatives in this guide

Improving understanding of the needs of transition economies
Regulatory cooperation and standardization policies
Promotion of knowledge-based development
Agricultural quality standards
UNECE support
Trade facilitation and electronic business
Successful projects
Sub-programme on transport
Transport of dangerous goods
Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations
Intelligent Transport Systems
TIR customs transit and border crossing facilitation
Successful projects

Successful projects (UNECE)

The UNECE technical assistance activities in support of trade facilitation contributed to:

  • Strengthening trade facilitation bodies’ institutional capacity: for example, the Ministry of the Economy of Ukraine was assisted in establishing a section for trade and transport facilitation issues; likewise, AzerPRO in Azerbaijan and similar bodies in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia received advice and guidance;
  • Strengthening cooperation among trade facilitation bodies by creating regional networks: for example, within the Russian Federation and among the EurAsEC countries (the Russian Federation, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan);
  • Designing technical cooperation projects that attracted financing from IFIs and various other donors: the UNECE also participated in the implementation of these projects, for example, the development of national and regional trade facilitation organizations in South-Eastern Europe, a trade facilitation project in Central Asia, and project plans for single pilot windows for export and import in a number of countries, including the Russian Federation;
  • Strengthening the negotiating capacity of economies in transition in multilateral negotiations on trade facilitation: for example, workshops on WTO accession and trade facilitation in Sarajevo and Belgrade, and workshops for WTO members from the Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA);
  • Development of guidelines and policy papers that were implemented by the several Member States with economies in transition: for example, guidelines on a strategy for electronic business for the Western Balkan countries within the framework of the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe.

One very valuable tool that UNECE has developed is the Trade Facilitation Implementation Guide (TFIG). This is a one-stop shop - available in English, French, Russian, Spanish and Arabic - where policymakers and implementers can find information about key policies, measures, and tools for trade facilitation, from more than 10 Organizations. This web-based interactive tool also includes a section about the recently adopted WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, with reference to tools and instruments supporting its implementation. To reflect the cross-organizational nature of the TFIG and the cooperation that it has fostered, the Guide is in the process of being transformed into the United Nations TFIG (with the maintenance and updating continuing to be ensured by UNECE).

In trade, the UNECE has been involved since 2008 in supporting the Aid for Trade Roadmap for SPECA Initiative, which targets members of the United Nations Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA): Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The Initiative involves harnessing national and regional trade development efforts to achieve a set of common immediate and long- term priorities, namely: (a) developing national supply-side capacity, including productive capacity and institutional frameworks; (b) harnessing cross-border cooperation; and (c) facilitating the beneficial integration of SPECA countries into the multilateral trading system . The aim is to attain greater regional and global integration, ensure continuous coordination of AfT activities, and create synergies between national and regional trade development efforts.

Also, the UNECE is carrying out demand-driven national trade needs assessment studies, using an in-house evaluation methodology that is tailored to capture behind and at-the-border regulatory and procedural barriers to trade in goods. The findings and recommendations emerging from these studies are intended to serve as a basis for: (i) discussions among Member States during the UNECE Steering Committee on Trade Capacity and Standards’ (CTCS) annual sessions; (ii) decisions by national governments concerned and their development partners on follow-up interventions; and, (iii) decisions by member States on the CTCS’s programme of work .

The Committee on Economic Cooperation and Integration (CECI) information exchange platform is a polyvalent and innovative tool for the online exchange of professional information among groups of connected experts. It also serves as a communication tool for conferencing among them between physical meetings. It was launched as a pilot project in April 2007 and, later, as a fully functioning environment. It is structured along the five thematic areas in the CECI program of work and was designed in-house by the UNECE Secretariat which manages the platform and provides user accounts to individuals with expertise and interest in the CECI areas of work.

In the field of agricultural supply chains and trade, ECE has managed to train over 1800 experts, and develop training material over the past nine years under two consecutive capacity-building projects. This created spill-over effects and attracted additional donor engagement, funding, and complementary technical cooperation projects in many of the areas covered by the projects. In the Fergana Valley, capacity-building and awareness raising initiated by ECE was coupled with regular standardization activities and has led to a multi-year donor-funded technical assistance program aimed at integrating production cross-border) in the Fergana Valley.


Capacity building activities focused on:

  • food quality and safe food;
  • series of cross-border trade workshops in all commodities covered by the ECE’s Agricultural standards;
  • analysis and preparation of case studies (Business Process Analysis) on priority export commodities with the engagement of national authorities and private sectors; and
  • development of training material and agricultural platforms.

The ECE-led capacity-building project: “Strengthening the capacity of transition and developing economies to participate in cross-border agricultural food supply chains” which targets countries in the Western Balkan region, Central Asia, South Asia and South East Asia managed to create inter-regional linkages, increased cooperation and exchange between the ECE and ESCAP regions.

Also, links were intensified between agricultural quality issues, agricultural trade facilitation and paperless trade to enhance supply-chain optimization and limit both food loss and environmental impacts (including water and resource usage). The cross-sectoral cooperation and focus is also part of ECE’s on-going standardization work which has so far resulted in over 100 standards used and adopted worldwide by national and regional authorities, international organizations and the private sector. Currently, the 36 European Union (EU) standards, which are based on ECE agricultural quality standards, cover around 90 per cent of the market volume for fruit and vegetables traded in the 28 EU countries. The EU regularly reviews its legislation in view of a harmonization with the ECE standards.

In the area of regulatory cooperation, recent successful projects included:

  • On demand review of national regulatory systems in specific sectors against the UNECE Risk Management in Regulatory Frameworks recommendations, leading to the adoption of a national Risk Management Action Plan and the creation of a national risk platform, to support inclusive, transparent, and accountable rule-making activities and related decision-making on the basis of a sound risk-management process (e.g. in Namibia and Uganda, review of the fisheries regulatory systems, in Malawi, review of food, construction and tourism sectors etc.)
  • Development of train-the-trainers workshops for Kyrgyz trade-support institutions in the areas of risk management, conformity assessment and market surveillance;
  • Awareness raising activities on: how standards and related tools can support the implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement worldwide;
  • Advocacy for the use of standards in the implementation of the SDGs and other global frameworks, including the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction;
  • Development of best practice in emerging new issues, for example, how standards and technical regulations can support the empowerment of women and girls (SDG Goal 5) and how standards can be made more responsive to gender considerations.


Transport Subprogramme

The UNECE objective in this area is to facilitate the international movement of persons and goods by inland transport modes. Transport infrastructure is a key element in facilitating and promoting trade flows. In this respect, the UNECE Transport Subprogramme relates to trade capacity, particularly in such areas as the development of transport infrastructure networks and border crossing facilitation. A number of international legal instruments in the field of transport cover the following trade-related areas:

  • Transport networks, international road transport and road traffic safety;
  • Vehicle regulations;
  • Transport of dangerous goods; and
  • Border crossing facilitation.

To facilitate the operation and implementation of these legal instruments and recommendations on inland transport, the UNECE Secretariat organizes training courses, seminars and workshops, and provides advisory services to its Member States to promote capacity and institution- building and to assist in the identification, formulation and implementation of national and regional transport strategies and programmes. The UNECE also produces best practice guidelines. One such example is the UNECE “Handbook of Best Practices at Border Crossings – A Trade and Transport Facilitation Perspective”, published jointly with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Designed for officials in transport, trade and finance ministries, customs agencies; transport, freight and logistics business communities; civil society and researchers, it offers a rich array of reference materials, among others, covering legal instruments, risk management, the use of ICT solutions, and more than 120 best practice examples at border crossings.


The handbook is available at http://www.osce.org/eea/88200 and http://www.unece.org/trans/publications/wp30/best_practices.html


In the area of commercial agricultural quality standards, the main partners are other regional commissions, the European Union (EU), the OECD, the FAO-WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission, UNDP, ITC, WTO as well as professional organizations, NGOs, and civil society.

In the area of regulatory cooperation and standardization policies, the main partners are the WTO, in particular, its Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade, as well as OECD, ITC, and UNIDO. Other important partners are national, regional, and international standards organizations - including the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) - international quality infrastructure institutions– including the Bureau International des Poids et Mesures (BIPM), the International Committee of Weights and Measures (CIPM), the International Accreditation Forum (IAF), the International Laboratory Accreditation Co-operation (ILAC) and the International Organization of Legal Metrology (OIML), International Committee for Legal Metrology (CIML).

In the area of trade facilitation, the main partners are the World Bank, the WTO, WCO, OECD, the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), the International Trade Centre (ITC) and UNCTAD, notably in the context of the MoU for the Global Facilitation Partnership for Transport and Trade (GFP). In addition, there is extensive cooperation with the other UN Regional Commissions (ECA, ECLAC, ESCAP, and ESCWA).

To secure coherence in the development of electronic business related standards and recommendations, the UNECE cooperates with ISO, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), and the ITU and selected NGOs in the context of the ISO/IEC/ITU/UNECE MoU on electronic business standards.

In collaboration with IMO and ILO, UNECE has developed and updated the Code of Practice on the Safe Packing of Cargo Transport Units (the CTU Code). This voluntary code ensures that trade that is undertaken primarily with the use of containers or intermodal transport units is done so in a safe and secure manner by assisting terminal operators, shipping companies and all operators in the logistics chain in packing, unpacking and handling containers effectively and safely.

On other aspects of trade facilitation, its most important partners are IMO, UNCTAD, ITC, the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), the other UN regional commissions (ECA, ECLAC, ESCAP, ESCWA), the WCO, and the World Bank. These agencies work together through the Global Facilitation Partnership for Transportation and Trade (GFP) and the United Nations Trade Facilitation Network (UNTF), which unites the world’s leading organizations and practitioners in trade and transport facilitation with the aim of creating an open information and exchange platform covering all aspects of trade and transport facilitation. GFP holds biannual meetings and keeps a regularly updated website: www.gfptt.org. In the area of transport, the main partners are the European Commission, the EBRD, the World Bank, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), UNESCAP, and the ADB.

Work under the CECI programme is undertaken in close cooperation with other relevant organizations and institutions operating in this field, including United Nations agencies, with a view to increasing synergies.

The list of partner organizations includes, but is not limited to: UNDESA, UNCTAD, UNIDO, UNESCAP, WIPO, the ITC, the World Bank, the EC, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC), the OECD, the EBRD, the European Patent Office, the WCO, the European Business Angel Network (EBAN), the European Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (EVCA), the IPR Business Partnership, the Alliance for Grey Market and Counterfeit Abatement (AGMA), etc.

For more information: