Fern: Delivering Long-Lasting Solutions to Protect and Restore Forests

Eighty percent of the world's plants and animals and 20 percent of its people call forests home. Not only do forests protect our air and water supplies, but they also lessen the destructive power of hurricanes, floods, and droughts. Despite all of the amazing qualities of forests, their existence is continually threatened. 2017 was the second-worst year on record for tropical deforestation. The rate of deforestation amounted to the equivalent of one soccer field lost per second. This loss increases carbon emissions, weakens the land rights of forest peoples, and destroys the plants' and animals' habitats.

Fern, the only European Union NGO working solely on forests and forest peoples' rights, understands the imperative for Europe to play a key role in protecting and restoring forests. The EU is a major trading bloc, the third biggest global polluter, the world's biggest aid donor, and a top importer of agricultural products whose production drives deforestation. The EU thus has the duty and the leverage to act against global deforestation. Additionally, over 87 percent of Europeans support new laws to fight global deforestation. Combined, these factors present a great opportunity, and Fern is leading the way toward the solution. 


Based in Belgium, the U.K., and France, Fern has devoted itself to informing the EU about the policies needed to protect forests as well as the rights of their inhabitants. Fern does so by identifying threats faced by forests across the globe and working with affected people, social and environmental organizations, and lawmakers to devise solutions where the EU can play a role. Only in its third decade of existence, Fern has already helped design a €1 billion EU program to change forest laws in order to improve the lives of the women and men who depend on them. It also achieved a climate policy change equal to taking 3 billion cars off the road. 

In March 2018, Fern's partners from tropical forested countries around the world visited Brussels to meet representatives of the European Union.

NGOsource's Role

Fern initially went through the equivalency determination (ED) processwith NGOsource in late 2017. Since then, both the original and an additional funder have requested Fern's ED again.  

Hannah Mowat, Fern's campaigns coordinator, noted that working with NGOsource to navigate the ED process helped Fern understand the requirements and rules placed on U.S. funders and NGOs related to restrictions on spending for lobbying. This helped Fern "to be clear about our own status when discussing the rules with legal experts." In addition to providing educational tools, "having the ED allowed Fern's existing U.S. donors to have renewed confidence in our status." Both NGOs like Fern and their U.S.-based funders benefit from the trust and top-notch support NGOsource provides through our expert team of attorneys and local global partners.

Learn more about the benefits of working with NGOsource

ED in Action

Fern is not just dedicated to supporting change on an EU level. The organization also has developed strong relationships with partners in tropical countries who work on promoting change in their respective regions. While partners help Fern understand the reality of the ground and design solutions, Fern opens space for them to be heard at the international level. Creating such a space has proved to be greatly beneficial to Fern's work. The impact of partners directly telling their story is much greater than if Fern were to speak on their behalf. 

The funding that Fern received as a result of the ED process has allowed Fern to continue to build on this work. Fern is already making a huge difference to allow both forests and their inhabitants not just to survive but to thrive. It will continue to do so and safeguard the longevity of our planet for the years to come. 

Top photo: In August 2018, Fern published an investigative report into the ongoing dispute between a palm oil company and residents. This image shows Agatha Killeng, president of the Mbongo village branch of Synaparcam, a community coalition representing more than 1,200 villagers.

All images and video used with permission from Fern © 2019.