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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

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

Environmental tools in EC Development Cooperation

This report follows on from the 2007 FERN, BirdLife and WWF report ‘Transparency and availability of EC aid documentation | a review’. It provides an analysis of 21 geographically-diverse country and regional environmental profiles in order to assess the quality and value of the information they provide.

PDF iconEnglish1.58 MB

Forestwatch issue 140

  • Ilisu dam: teetering at the edge
  • Liberia’s dubious timber concessions
  • UK Environmental Audit Committee heeded
  • EU aid: must do better
PDF iconFW 140.pdf176.55 KB
PDF iconBonn II meeting update.pdf131.11 KB

Forestwatch Issue 135

  • DRC: ninety-one logging contracts cancelled
  • Communication acknowledges failings of the CDM
  • Diluting the Renewable Energy Directive’s benefits
  • The trouble with market schemes: A US example
PDF iconOPEN268.4 KB
PDF iconFLEGT Update124.19 KB