Our history

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Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) history dates back to 1971 when it was founded by four organisations from France, Sweden, the UK and the USA. Today's federation of 70 groups grew from annual gatherings of environmentalists from different countries who agreed to campaign together on certain crucial issues, such as nuclear energy and whaling.

1980s-90s: the Friends of the Earth federation grows

In 1981, Friends of the Earth International established a small International Secretariat initially staffed by volunteers, which rotated from country to country. By 1983, the organisation had grown to 25 members, and an Executive Committee was elected to oversee the issues worked on between meetings.

In 1986, the Annual General Meeting (AGM) was hosted for the first time by an organisation from the Global South, Sahabat Alam Malaysia (Friends of the Earth Malaysia). At that time, the federation had 31 member groups from around the world who were fully involved in the environment and development debate, and clearly recognised the need to change lifestyle and consumption patterns in the Global North.

In 1985, the European members of Friends of the Earth International set up a regional coordinating body of their own, Friends of the Earth Europe, with an office in Brussels. Among other work, Friends of the Earth Europe has pioneered the strengthening of the environmental movement in Eastern Europe.

The 1994 AGM decided that international cooperation should be further intensified through the development of an ‘agenda’ that presents common points of view within a coherent framework. This agenda has been further clarified and implemented over the years in a variety of publications, projects, campaigns, and international fora.

2000s: towards a new strategic action plan

In 2010, after an extensive and inclusive process, Friends of the Earth International adopted a strategic action plan detailing the following long-term objectives, by which we are still governed today:

  • Act to achieve environmental, social, economic, gender and political justice, by supporting popular and community struggles and processes of resistance and transformation.
  • Expose, delegitimise and dismantle corporate power and impunity and stop corporate control over government and institutional decision making.
  • Resist institutions, policies and mechanisms that promote or impose neoliberalism and unsustainable development.
  • Transform societies to achieve environmental justice and live within environmental limits, recognising ecological debt and building peoples’ sovereignty.
  • Build a stronger popular movement and strengthen our strategic alliances in support of our agenda.
  • Build Friends of the Earth International’s capacity for political action and ongoing transformation by increasing the strength of the regions, international coherence and solidarity, and collective reflection and learning with others in the movement.

Today, there are 73 Friends of the Earth member groups campaigning internationally, nationally and locally to protect the environment and peoples’ rights, and build sustainable societies. They are united by the common conviction that environmentally sustainable and socially just societies require strong grassroots activism, internationalist solidarity, and effective national and international campaigning.