Fern was founded in 1995 by Saskia Ozinga, a Friends of the Earth Netherlands campaigner, and Sian Pettman from the European Commission. Like the world around it, the organisation has changed dramatically in the last 25 years, while also remaining true to its founding principles and core purpose.
Before starting Fern, Sian had been instrumental in developing the Commission’s tropical forest strategy, and Saskia had set up the European Rainforest Movement, which later became the Forest Movement Europe (FME), and which still thrives today. By the early 1990s, they both saw - through the lenses of their different but complementary backgrounds - that holding national governments in the EU accountable for their forest policies was not enough because power often lay in Brussels, the heart of the EU.
There were no NGOs monitoring the impact of EU policies on forests, trying to ensure it was a force for good, or able to navigate the often-labyrinthine world of EU policymaking.
To remedy this, and driven by the shared belief that protecting the world’s forests means amplifying the voices of the millions of women, men and children who live in and survive off them, Sian and Saskia began working unfunded out of a cramped shed in Oxfordshire, choosing the name Fern because of the plant’s ubiquity in the world’s forests.