Friends of the Earth International (FOEI)

Friends of the Earth International (FOEI)

We are the world’s largest grassroots environmental network, uniting 76 national member groups and some 5,000 local activist groups on every continent. With over 2 million members and supporters around the world, we campaign on today’s most urgent environmental and social issues. We challenge the current model of economic and corporate globalization, and promote solutions that will help to create environmentally sustainable and socially just societies.


Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) is an international network of environmental organizations in 74 countries.

Friends of the Earth was founded in 1969 in San Francisco by David Brower, Donald Aitken and Gary Soucie after Brower’s split with the Sierra Club due to the latter’s positive approach to nuclear energy. The founding donation of $500,000 (in 2019 USD) was provided by Robert Orville Anderson, the owner of Atlantic Richfield oil company.

It became an international network of organisations in 1971 with a meeting of representatives from four countries, namely U.S., Sweden, the UK and France. FoEI currently has a secretariat (based in Amsterdam, Netherlands) which provides support for the network and its agreed major campaigns. The executive committee of elected representatives from national groups sets policy and oversees the work of the secretariat. In 2016, Uruguayan activist Karin Nansen was elected to serve as chair of Friends of the Earth International.


As per their website, Friends of the Earth groups are required to act independently of party political, religious or other influences; be open, democratic and non-discriminatory in their internal structures; and be willing to cooperate with other organizations who are working for the same goals. These are conditions of remaining a member of FOEI.

The national groups work on the main issues affecting their own country and choose to participate in the international campaigns of FoEI which are relevant to them. In turn, the local campaigners can work on local, national and/or international campaigns


Climate change

  • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment, Working Group 2 reportFriends of the Earth FoE February 2014
  • Ten key findings of the IPCC Working Group 3 report on climate mitigation

Can I become a member of Friends of the Earth InternationalFriends of the Earth International does not have individual members, although many of our national groups around the world do. You can support our international activities and become involved in our campaigns.

Frequently Asked Questions – Friends of the Earth International › about-foei › frequently-asked-questions

Mission statement

“Our vision is of a peaceful and sustainable world based on societies living in harmony with nature.”

Size and organisational structure

Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) is the world’s largest grassroots environmental network, with 74 national member groups, some 5,000 local activist groups on every continent and over two million members and supporters.

FoEI is a federation of autonomous member groups with a democratic and participatory structure. The ultimate decision-making body is the biennial general meeting (BGM) where all member groups have an equal say.

2008: The UK parliament passed a climate change bill into law, a world first. The world-beating legislation was passed after a three-and-a-half-year campaign.

This profile is part of Ethical Corporation’s special management briefing on activist NGOs

Campaign issues

Friends of the Earth (International) is an international membership organisation, with members spread across the world. Its main parent body, Friends of the Earth (EWNI) is primarily an advocacy group, with most of its activities focused in UK. Its advocacy programs focus on environmental issues, highlighting their social, political and human rights contexts. Their campaigns mostly take place in the United Kingdom, with a few activities in USA and Europe through their sister agency Friends of the earth (International). The international wing of Friends of the Earth is headquartered in Amsterdam, Netherlands for tax reasons.


As per its website, the current campaign priorities of Friends of the Earth internationally are: economic justice and resisting neoliberalism, forests and biodiversity, food sovereignty and climate justice and energy (Including releasing the song “Love Song To the Earth”). The campaign priorities of FOEI are set at its bi-annual general meeting. Additionally, FOEI also plans campaigns in other fields like desertification, Antarctica, maritime, mining and extractive industries and nuclear power. In 2016, FOEI also led a campaign on the consumption and intensive meat production (Meat Atlas)


FOEI claims that it has been successful as it has eliminated billions in taxpayer subsidies to corporate polluters, reformed the World Bank to address environmental and human rights concerns, pushed the debate on global warming to pressure the U.S. to attempt the best legislation possible, stopped more than 150 destructive dams and water projects worldwide, pressed and won landmark regulations of strip mines and oil tankers and banned international whaling Its critics claim that the organization only tries to obtain media attention, but does not stay with locals to actually solve complicated problems, and that it prevents development in developing countries. They have also been critical of its policy to accept high levels of funding from companies and charities related to oil and gas.

Structure of the network

The member organization in a particular country may name itself Friends of the Earth or an equivalent translated phrase in the national language, e.g., Friends of the Earth (US), Friends of the Earth (EWNI) (England Wales and Northern Ireland), Amigos de la Tierra (Spain and Argentina). However, roughly half of the member groups work under their own names, sometimes reflecting an independent origin and subsequent accession to the network, such as Pro Natura (Switzerland), the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement, Environmental Rights Action (FOE Nigeria) and WALHI (FOE Indonesia).


The BGM elects an executive committee, which meets several times per year. It is made up of a chairperson and a balanced representation from all regions: Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe/North America and Latin America. The executive committee employs and oversees the work of a small international secretariat in Amsterdam.

Sources of funding

FoEI is funded through grants from governments and foundations as well as contributions from its member groups.

Leadership and key personnel

Jagoda Munić (Friends of the Earth Croatia), current chair

Dave Hirsch, international coordinator

Brief history of the organisation

FoEI was founded in 1971 by a small group of environmental activists from France, Sweden, the UK and the US who came together to share strategies for tackling environmental problems. FoEI now has regional co-ordinating bodies across the world and is firmly dedicated to supporting the struggles of communities adversely affected by unsustainable exploitation of human and natural resources.

Campaign priorities for 2013 include transforming societies away from fossil fuels and toward decentralised, community-owned and controlled sustainable energy; and exposing and stopping landgrabs, which occur when land used by local communities is leased or sold to foreign investors, including corporations and governments.



In October 2018, it was announced that Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man, was planning to build a $12 billion oil refinery on 6,180 acres of swampland in Nigeria. This would make it the world’s largest refinery. By 2022, the refinery would process 650,000 barrels of crude oil daily. Nigeria is already Africa’s largest oil producer, though the refineries present are of low quality, and so most of the oil used within the country is imported. Because the refinery would be built so far from the Niger Delta, where most Nigerian oil is extracted, two undersea pipelines will be used to carry petroleum the 240 miles to the Lagos-based refinery. Pipelines that already exist in Nigeria are under security, and some have been blown up by angry citizens and members of a rebel group called the Delta Avengers, who are angry about the pollution and poverty associated with and stemming from the oil industry. In addition, this refinery would likely give Dangote a monopoly on Nigerian oil.

On December 11, 2018, FOE Africa began protesting outside of an event hosted by the Shell corporation. Activists found that Shell helped draft a portion of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015. Shell, an oil drilling company, influenced the guidelines on greenhouse gas emission allowances and restrictions. At the protest, Rita Uwaka of Nigeria’s branch of FOE said: “It’s like hell on Earth. I represent communities in the Niger Delta who are impacted by these big polluters…Having these big polluters come in here as a saint is not only a slap on us as delegates of COP. It’s also a slap on Mother Earth.”


Friends of the Earth groups

‘Friends of the Earth’ workshop, at Nambassa Festival 1978, New Zealand.

The Friends of the Earth in each country are themselves many-tiered networks reaching from individual activists up to the national pressure group which campaigns for environmentally progressive and sustainable policies. The groups and activists carry out educational and research activities.


Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) is supported by a secretariat based in Amsterdam, and an executive committee known as ExCom. The ExCom is elected by all member groups at a general meeting held every two years, and it is the ExCom which employs the secretariat. At the same general meeting, overall policies and priority activities are agreed.

In addition to work which is coordinated at the FoEI level, national member groups are free to carry out their own campaigns and to work bi- or multi-laterally as they see fit, as long as this does not go against agreed policy at the international level.

Friends of the Earth supported the publication of Frances Moore Lappé’s 1971 book Diet for a Small Planet.[citation needed]


Campaign sectors

Social and environmental justice, climate justice and energy, forests and biodiversity, economic justice, food sovereignty, and human rights.

Campaigning highlights

January 2013: A Dutch court ruled that Shell Nigeria is responsible for polluting farmlands in a landmark case brought by four Nigerian farmers and Friends of the Earth Netherlands and supported by Friends of the Earth Nigeria.

2012: FoEI succeeded in securing essential human rights wording in the guidelines text of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation committee on world food security.

By 2011: More than 200 regions and 4,500 local authorities in Europe had declared their territories free of genetically modified organisms.

2010: A new law in Argentina banned mining near glaciers.

2010: An unprecedented country-wide ban on metal mining was introduced in Costa Rica following 18 years of intense campaigning.

2009: A court case was won in Bangladesh, forcing the government to ensure that all ship-breaking yards operate with environmental clearance.

2009: Illegal logging was exposed in Cameroon, leading to the cessation of purchasing of illegal timber by European companies.

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