Fern (also Stichting Fern) is a Dutch foundation created in 1995.[2] It is an international Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) set up to keep track of the European Union's involvement in forests and coordinate NGO activities at the European level. Fern works to protect forests and the rights of people who depend on them.[2]

Founded1995, The Netherlands
TypeNon governmental organisation
Indigenous rights
Climate change
European Union
Development aid
Area served
MethodCampaigning, research, networking, capacity building
Key people
Hannah Mowat
Iola Leal Riesco (ex-staff)
Saskia Ozinga (ex-staff)
Richard Wainwright
€3,217,099 EUR (2017)[1]
Websitewww.fern.org Edit this at Wikidata

Although Fern is known for its work on forests, since 2000 it has widened its scope to include climate,[3] development aid,[4] trade[5] and consumption[6] as many of the decisions made in these areas have a direct or indirect impact on forests and forest peoples' rights. In all these areas, Fern collaborates with many environmental groups and social movements across the world.

Fern is a non-hierarchical flat organization. Currently, it has four offices (Delft, the Netherlands; Paris, France; Brussels, Belgium; and Moreton-in-Marsh, UK) and around 18 staff.

Fern's official mission statement is "We identify the threats facing the world's forests, and work with affected peoples, social and environmental organisations and policy makers to devise and deliver solutions where the EU can make a difference."[2]


Fern's origin lies in the World Rainforest Movement meeting in Penang in 1989.[7] At this meeting Southern participants decided they needed closer co-operation with a network of like-minded European organisations to further their objectives. An already existing ad hoc European coalition of NGOs responded and adopted the name, the European Rainforest Movement. This movement changed its name into the Forest Movement Europe in 1994 after linking up with the newly formed Taiga Rescue Network (1992) and widening its focus to all forests, including Russia's.

As most NGOs of the Forest Movement Europe were working at national level, and increasingly trade and aid decisions that impacted on forests were made at EU level, it was felt by most in the movement that more attention should be given to influencing the EU institutions. So, in March 1995 Saskia Ozinga (formerly working for Friends of the Earth in the Netherlands) and Sian Pettman (formerly working for the European Commission) created Fern with a mandate to monitor EU activities relating to forests, and inform and educate the Forest Movement Europe about these activities and facilitate joint advocacy work towards the different EU institutions.

Starting in 1995 with Ozinga and Pettman both working part-time, the former from a shed in Oxford, the latter from a desk in Brussels, Fern has grown to an organisation of between 15 and 18 staff, while its area of work has widened to include climate change, carbon trading, finance, governance and development aid.[8][9] Consistent themes in Fern's campaigns include tackling the corruption, lack of transparency and power imbalances which it says are among the universal causes of both legal and illegal forest destruction, and putting forest communities at the heart of decision-making about policies affecting them.

Fern's way of working still reflects its origin, as in its activities the organisation aims to create ad hoc or permanent North-South, North-North or South-South NGO coalitions to jointly develop campaigns or activities, mostly – but not always – targeted at the EU institutions. Facilitation of the wider movement and supporting Fern's partners in the South remain Fern core activities.

In March 2018, Fern's co-founder and Campaigns Coordinator Saskia Ozinga stepped down after 23 years with Fern. Hannah Mowat took over as the organisation's Campaigns Coordinator.[10]

Fields of activityEdit

The organisation campaigns in many areas with a direct or indirect impact on forests and forest peoples' rights. It focuses specifically on the policies and practices of the European Union, since together with its Member States, the EU is collectively the world's single biggest aid donor,[11] and also plays a pivotal role in global trade, and therefore has a vast influence on the fate of the world's forests and their inhabitants.

To achieve its aims, Fern produces original research in briefings and reports; it builds NGO coalitions with its partners and affected peoples in the global South and Europe, and campaigns collaboratively with them; it raises awareness among decision-makers and proposes specific policy changes to tackle the threats facing the world's forests.

A significant portion of Fern's funding is channeled to its partners in tropical forested countries, and Fern says it prioritises supporting them (including in the form of building capacity and strengthening their advocacy skills) as they understand the issues facing forests in their countries first-hand.[2]

Fern also plays a coordinating role in building networks and alliances among NGOs, a prime example being the annual Forest Movement Europe (FME) meeting which it organises.[8]

Since 1996, Fern has published  Forest Watch, a monthly specialist newsletter covering the latest developments in efforts to protect the world's forests.[12]


Fern currently focuses on forests in relation to four overarching forest issues: Climate,[3] Consumption,[6] Development Aid[4] and Trade.[5][2] To achieve its aims, Fern works closely with environmental as well as social NGOs in Europe and the South.

Fern’s climate campaign calls for an EU climate policy which prioritises restoring European forests and ending subsidies for the burning of trees for bioenergy.[13] Fern's climate campaigning also encompasses work on negative emissions,[14] land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF),[15] aviation,[16] coal and forests,[17] and carbon trading.

Fern’s consumption campaign focuses on the biggest cause of deforestation globally: agriculture.[18] The EU, being the world's second biggest importer of agricultural goods contributes significantly to this deforestation[19][20]. Fern campaigns to end EU imports of commodities – such as soy, palm oil and cocoa – grown on illegally deforested land. It works with NGO coalitions, farmers, scientists and policy makers to use legislative tools, such as the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), to reduce imports, while pushing for an EU action plan on deforestation.[21]

The Development Aid and Forests campaign aims to ensure EU policies reduce illegal logging and deforestation by improving the way forests are owned and managed.

Previous Fern campaign’s include those on Export Credit Agencies (ECAs),[22] biodiversity offsetting,[23] certification[24] and Development Finance Institutions.[25]


Some of the most visible Fern achievements include:

  • The rejection of the scientifically flawed concept of planting trees to reverse climate change (‘carbon sinks’) by the European Parliament;
  • Highlighting the undue and unjust influence by large companies on environmental and social laws in host countries when executing large projects, such as the Chad-Cameroon pipeline;[26]
  • Improving integration of environmental concerns and demands for recognition of indigenous peoples rights' into EU aid programmes and policies and the creation of networks of Southern NGOs to improve the quality of EU aid;
  • Getting the EU to reduce illegal logging and improve forest governance through adopting and implementing the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan - a pioneering programme to tackle illegal imports of timber, strengthen community rights and improve the way forests are managed;[27] Fern is also co-manager of the FLEGT website https://LoggingOff.info.
  • Successfully coordinating the European network for reforming export credit agencies leading to the adoption of environmental guidelines for export credit agencies.

Fern also brought NGOs, academics and scientists into the notoriously complex debate about Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) to ensure a wide chorus of voices calling for EU forests' carbon carrying capacity to be increased as well as, not instead of emissions reductions in energy and transport.[28]

Some of Fern's successes have reduced threats to forest communities' livelihoods. For example, Fern's work on highlighting the flaws in carbon sinks and direct correspondence with the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) board, has led the CDM board to reject all plantation projects put to it, many of which would have had serious negative impacts on people.

The EU FLEGT Action Plan to combat illegal logging would not have been drafted without Fern. This Action Plan – if implemented properly - will create a leverage point to get customary rights accepted as 'legal' in countries including Indonesia (which is already exporting FLEGT timber), Ghana, Cameroon, Vietnam and Guyana: the lack of recognition of these rights are among the most significant obstacles to poverty alleviation, justice and even democracy.

Moreover, the campaign on reforming ECAs led to halting ECA funding and the subsequent cancellation of some projects, which would have had serious negative consequences for local people, such as in the case of the Ilisu Dam in Turkey which would have led to the replacement of around 80,000 people, with women suffering most.


Fern receives its money from private foundations and governments. In order to ensure its independence and impartiality, Fern has committed to not directly participate in the selection, award or administration of a contract when a real or apparent conflict of interest may be involved. Fern's audited finances are available from their website.

Fern's donors during 2017 included: The Ford Foundation,[29] US; the Department for International Development, UK;[30] DG Environment of the European Commission; LIFE+, European Commission and the Waterloo Foundation UK.[8]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Fern Annual Report 2017". Fern. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e "About us". Fern. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Climate". Fern. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  4. ^ a b "Development Aid". Fern. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  5. ^ a b "Trade". Fern. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  6. ^ a b "Consumption". Fern. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  7. ^ "Annual Report 2005". Fern. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  8. ^ a b c "Annual Report 2017". Fern. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  9. ^ Fern NGO (30 June 2015), The story of Fern, retrieved 11 June 2019
  10. ^ Hannah@fern.org; Work +32 2 894 4694; Fax +32 2 894 4610, Work; vCard, Download. "Hannah Mowat". Fern. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  11. ^ Admin_DEVCO (21 June 2013). "European development policy". International Cooperation and Development - European Commission. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  12. ^ "Forest Watch issues". Fern. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  13. ^ "Bioenergy". Fern. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  14. ^ "Negative emissions". Fern. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  15. ^ "Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF)". Fern. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  16. ^ "Aviation". Fern. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  17. ^ "Coal and forests". Fern. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  18. ^ Resources, Forest Governance and Natural; Coordinator, Project; Glover, Adelaide; Wellesley, Laura; Brack, Duncan (28 January 2016). "Agricultural Commodity Supply Chains: Trade, Consumption and Deforestation". Chatham House.
  19. ^ "Consumption Impact Study - Forests - Environment - European Commission". ec.europa.eu. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  20. ^ Kissinger, Authors; Herold, G.; Sy, M. ; de; V. "Drivers of deforestation and forest degradation: A synthesis report for REDD+ policymakers". Center for International Forestry Research. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  21. ^ "Study on the feasibility - Forests - Environment - European Commission". ec.europa.eu. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  22. ^ "Export Credit Agencies (ECAs)". Fern. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  23. ^ "Biodiversity offsetting". Fern. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  24. ^ "Certification". Fern. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  25. ^ "Development Finance Institutions (DFIs)". Fern. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  26. ^ Bank, The World (1 December 2006). "Chad-Cameroon Petroleum Development and Pipeline Project : overview": 1–55. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  27. ^ "Evaluating the EU's Fight against Illegal Logging | capacity4dev.eu". europa.eu. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  28. ^ "Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) | UNFCCC". unfccc.int. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  29. ^ "Ford Foundation Annual Report 2002 | Workforce Development | Community Reinvestment Act". Retrieved 11 June 2019 – via Scribd.
  30. ^ "Audited finances". Fern. Retrieved 11 June 2019.

External linksEdit