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Development Aid

Fern’s aim is to improve the quality of EU and Member State aid so it contributes to the protection of forests and the recognition of forest peoples' rights.

Fern’s analysis:The European Union is by far the world’s largest donor. In 2013 the top 12 donors, in terms of the proportion of Overseas Development Aid (ODA) to Gross National Income, were European countries. European ODA increased from EUR 40.4 billion in 2002 to EUR 70.0 billion in 2012.EU ODA commitments for climate change mitigation increased more than four-fold between 2007 and 2011, reaching EUR 0.98 billion in 2011. The European country giving most aid was Norway and Germany was the Member State which spent the most on biodiversity. The element of ODA that went to forest-related projects also dramatically increased between 2002 and 2012, from EUR 130.2 million to EUR 493.2 million, while disbursements identified as biodiversity increased from EUR 74.8 million to EUR 329.6 million. Although this is all positive in principle, the increase in spending has often gone hand in hand with cuts in staff. Furthermore not all spending ensures that the rights of local people are being respected.

What Fern is doing: Fern has been working on this issue since 1995. Successes include ensuring that country environmental profiles (reports analysing the country's environmental situation) must now guarantee all aid programmes take ecological considerations and the rights of local communities into account. More recently our work has focused on effective implementation of the EU FLEGT Programme, funded by the European Commission and EU Member States (see

To learn more about this campaign:see history of the EC Forest Platform or Taking stock: Tracking trends in European Aid for forests and communities.

Most recent publications

Fern's input to the EU Consultation on revising the European Consensus on Development

Fern's input into the European Commission consultation on how development policy, in the context of EU external action as foreseen by the Lisbon Treaty, should respond to the range of landmark 2015 summits and conferences, and also to the rapid changes happening in the world.

PDF iconFern response to consultation.pdf107.78 KB

Comment on the COP21 - a forest perspective

Forests barely feature in the draft text, but runaway climate change could devastate the forests which more than a billion people directly rely on for their survival. Forests also play a crucial role in regulating the climate. Whichever way you look at it, the outcome of the Paris agreement is also an outcome for forests.
Kate Dooley  is in Paris, tracking the developments in the UN climate summit. She has written this overview of the talks from a forests perspective for Fern. Check back later in the  week for  further perspectives from Kate and other contributors.

New study finds EU donors spend millions of Euros halting deforestation while funding projects that drive it

20 March 2015. On the eve of UN International Day of Forests, this press release launches a new study commissioned by Fern to take stock of EU spending on forests. It finds striking incoherence at the heart of donor spending. Fern believes this could be fatally undermining the efficiency of aid to forests and calls for increased coherence and new priorities.

PDF iconTracking Trends final.pdf375.41 KB

Taking stock: Tracking trends in European Aid for forests and communities

Forests and forest-dependent communities are under increasing pressure due to infrastructure projects and the demand for agricultural commodities. Although there is growing recognition of the importance of forests in mitigating climate change, this makes them vulnerable to a new threat: that they will be appropriated to capture potential payments to compensate for carbon emissions (REDD+ initiatives).

PDF iconfern_takingstock_internet.pdf3.26 MB

NGO letters re: European Commission’s support to Civil Society Organisations through thematic programmes

On 26 April 2012 a coalition of NGOs wrote to Director-General Fotiadis to share their concerns about recent trends in the reduction of financial support available for civil society through the thematic programmes of the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI).

Forestwatch issue 141

  • Obstacles on the road to sustainable bioenergy criteria
  • Climate haggling... to be continued
  • UK timber procurement: Help shape criteria
  • The Saami Council applauds breakthrough
PDF iconOPEN179.99 KB