On 26 February and 6 November 1996, respectively, Russia and Croatia joined the CE.
The Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy adopted at the Ministerial Conference "Environment for Europe," in Sofia in October 1995, serves as a frame of reference for environmental policies, particularly for the preservation of biological and landscape diversity in the member states of the UN Economic Commission for Europe. Pursuant to the Strategy, an initial Action Plan was drawn up for the period 1996-2000 and includes 12 action themes. The Ministerial Declaration of Sofia also gave a mandate to the CE and to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), to establish, jointly with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the World Conservation Union (IUCN), an appropriate mechanism for the implementation and further development of the Strategy. Based on that mandate, the CE and UNEP called a meeting, 15-17 May 1996, of the representatives of the 54 states and international organisations involved in the Strategy. The May meeting set up a Council for the Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy and an Executive Bureau for the Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy. The Council is responsible for setting the policies and priorities for implementing the Strategy; directing it within the framework of the Sofia Declaration; coordinating the activities of states, international organizations, and nongovernmental organizations ( NGOs) to ensure mutual compatibility; and guiding the activities of the Executive Bureau for the Strategy. The Council is expected to meet every two years on an alternate basis in Geneva and Strasbourg.
The Executive Bureau for the Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy, made up of 13 members, will meet approximately every six months, alternately in Geneva and Strasbourg. It is responsible for: implementing the work programme adopted by the Council; making proposals; preparing draft- reports for adoption; offering advice and assistance with a view to obtaining funds for implementing activities in the work programme; promoting cooperation among states, international organisations, and NGOs; and promoting awareness about the Strategy.