FOCUS ON

FOCUS ON

UNECE standards cover fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, eggs, seed potatoes, nuts and dried fruit, and cut flowers © Unsplash

Having an everyday impact
Find out five ways UNECE benefits lives
1 Jul 2024

For over 75 years, UNECE has helped countries to cooperate to develop norms, standards and conventions that constitute building blocks for economies and sustainable development. 

Safer and greener cars

Look for a capital ‘E’ marking on your windshield, tires, safety belt or child seat: that means your journey is safer thanks to a UN regulation developed at UNECE!

Countries from all over the world participate in the work of UNECE’s World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations, which develops strict requirements for safety and environmental performance.

Applying UN safety standards is among the measures governments are urged to take to tackle the road safety crisis, which claims 1.19 million lives annually, over 90% of which are in developing countries.

These standards also facilitate the widespread introduction of electric, hybrid and hydrogen-powered vehicles, and support the safe introduction of automated vehicles, with regulations on cybersecurity and various automated driving functions already in force.

Their use, which is consistently mandated by the G7, is also crucial for the global automotive sector, which employs 50 million people (including 13.8 million people in the EU alone, where the sector accounts for over 7% of GDP). This enables a huge economy of scale, fostering innovation and lower prices for consumers. The sector also contributes to over €400 billion in government revenues worldwide.

Cleaner air

Air pollution kills seven million people worldwide every year, damages ecosystems, reduces crop yields and accelerates climate change. Because air pollutants can travel thousands of kilometers, international cooperation is a key part of the solution.

In fact, countries in Europe and North America have been working together for 45 years to cut harmful emissions through the UNECE Air Convention. In Europe, these measures prevent 600,000 premature deaths annually. Thanks to them, we all enjoy one additional year of life expectancy!

To this day, it is the only legally binding regional treaty to impose emission limits for air pollutants. Other regions, especially Asia, which faces the worst air pollution, are increasingly looking to the Convention’s experience as a model to inspire action.

High-quality fruit and vegetables

Whether you enjoy apples from Switzerland, tomatoes from Italy, walnuts from Türkiye or pineapples from the Philippines, UNECE agricultural quality standards help make sure that you receive your fruit, vegetables and other produce in the best condition possible.

Over 100 of these standards facilitate import and export worldwide, since all players are clear about the merchandise (class I, II, III and packaging standards).

These standards open up markets for agricultural products. They also foster quality and increase yield, contributing to food security, jobs and gender equality in a sector employing over one billion people worldwide, of which an estimated 43% are women.

Countries come to UNECE to develop new standards – examples in recent years include Mexico for chillies, Uzbekistan for dried melon, and Spain for pomegranate – and update or extend existing standards.

The familiar pictograms of the Globally Harmonized
System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) © UNECE

Reduced chemical accident risks

In how many languages can you read the words ‘danger,’ ‘flammable’ or ‘toxic’? Thanks to the pictograms of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS), you can use your daily cleaning or care products safely. This also increases the safety of millions of people globally that handle chemicals at work.

Supported by UNECE, GHS is implemented all around the world. It is a real success story of multilateralism.

The orange plates on chemical tankers you can see on the roads are another example of UNECE tools in this area, reflecting one of the safety requirements under the Agreement on the Transport of Dangerous Goods by Road.

Cooperation under UNECE’s Industrial Accidents Convention further supports countries to reduce risks of chemical spills, explosions and other potential disasters, and to notify each other and take effective response if an accident should occur.

Key statistics on populations

A census provides the information on a country’s population, its characteristics and distribution – and how these change over time – that underpins all policymaking. It is the basis for all per capita measurement, and informs the work of the entire UN system, including on the SDGs.

UNECE produces a guide to help ensure censuses are reliable, cost-effective and comparable. Revised every ten years, these Recommendations have served as the main reference for countries both within and beyond the region since the 1950s.

All the 50 censuses conducted by UNECE member states in the most recent ‘2020 round’ followed these Recommendations. Countries outside the region such as Mexico, Argentina, South Africa and New Zealand use the Recommendations and are now contributing to the largest ever effort of its kind to update this guidance for the next round of censuses, projected to take place around 2030.

Conducting a census pays off: for example, each dollar invested in Australia’s last census generated six dollars of value for its economy. 

* Thomas Croll-Knight is Public Information Assistant at UNECE.
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