A word from our board and director

Both ENDS was pleased to celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2020. As we reflected back on the organisation’s history, we were struck by the organisation’s consistency. At the heart of Both ENDS, then and now, is our commitment to our partners, to connecting and collaborating with organisations and individuals around the world to realise our shared vision of a world where the environment is protected and human rights are respected.

It is this commitment that remains at the centre of our new five-year strategy 2020-2025. The new strategy, which was developed through a rich dialogue with our global network of partners, is organised around three strategic objectives, with activities geared to realising our ambitions and indicators to keep us on track. Next to a strong civil society that can make its voice heard and systemic change at all levels, the new strategy emphasises the importance of the many planet-friendly, gender-just and inclusive initiatives that our partners have developed with us. There are a whole range of examples, from inclusive water governance to the Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Program. It is high time that these transformative initiatives receive the financial and policy support they deserve. They need to be scaled up and scaled out, to become the ‘new normal’. Going forward, Both ENDS aims to give these practices more visibility and to explore innovative sources of finance for them. We want to identify investors who share our goals and understanding that environmental sustainability, human rights and gender justice are the starting point of transformative change.

The new strategy reflects the urgency of the multiple crises the world faces. It was in the works well before the COVID-19 pandemic laid bare the faults in the system. To those who did not already see it, the pandemic made clear what we have long known: the current model of trade and development is bankrupt. Global value chains do not give people security. Our current trade system causes extreme inequalities.

Both ENDS responded to the challenge of the pandemic in multiple ways. First and foremost, we focused on our partners and the communities with which they work. For them, the pandemic came on top of what were already difficult circumstances. We assured our partners of the flexibility of existing funding and freed up additional funding for them to deal with urgent issues. We also discussed with donors the need of environmental justice and women’s organisations for sustained and flexible funding. Significantly, our partners didn’t want to change what they were working on. They just wanted to be able to continue. So we at Both ENDS knew we also needed to persevere.

Both ENDS quickly shifted to remote working. In the midst of the lockdown, we managed to move to a new digital workspace which provides improved security in a context of increased risk for our partners worldwide. We also managed to move to a new physical office, a beautiful, historic building in Utrecht. The decision-making process behind the office move, which was coordinated by a team of Both ENDS staff, was a really successful proof of concept for Both ENDS’s self-steering structure. We tried to adapt to the challenging work situation, to focus on what really matters and avoid overburdening each other.

We also responded to the crisis with analysis and recommendations for policymakers and donors. Among other things, we highlighted the effectiveness of small grants funds in ensuring that crisis funding actually reaches those in need. We also underscored the need to use public money to kick off a just transition by investing in green infrastructure.

2020 was an important year in terms of our two partnerships with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Fair, Green and Global Alliance (FGG) and the Global Alliance for Green and Gender Action (GAGGA), both of which were renewed. The fact that the Ministry, for the first time ever, included trade as a topic within its civil society funding framework is a testament to the success of awareness-raising by FGG. And the fact that the GAGGA Alliance, which is led by a women’s organisation, was moved from the gender department to the environmental department reflects the progress GAGGA has made in demonstrating that climate and gender justice are intertwined.

It is with great pride that we look back on 2020 and the response of Both ENDS to the challenges of COVID-19. We stood in solidarity, with purpose and flexibility, with our partners and with each other. Throughout the crisis, we were very clear that this was our priority. As we reflect back, we can say with confidence that what we do, we do well.

Danielle Hirsch, Director
Paul Engel, Chair of the Board

Our achievements in 2020

To achieve our vision of a sustainable, fair and inclusive world, Both ENDS works to empower civil society, to change the system so it prioritises people and the planet, and to support transformative practices. The numbers and successes below together show the broad variety of our achievements along each one of the three pathways.


Both ENDS works with civil society organisations around the world. We support them financially, but also engage in joint strategising, mutual capacity development and collective advocacy efforts. Our partner network embraces the whole world. The map below shows where our partners are situated; their activities might cover even more countries:


In order for systems to prioritize people and the planet, Both ENDS and partners aim to change the system step by step, policy by policy. Where policies are already strong, they need to be implemented, and where they are absent, we advocate for new ones to be enacted, on all levels:


According to Both ENDS and partners, transformative practices are the future. There are many of these bottom-up, planet-friendly practices. Below some numbers of a selection of practices that many of our partners work on. Also important is to take into account the gender aspect of these practices, in order for men and women to benefit equally:

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  • Our long-term relationships with our partners, based upon trust and solidarity, helped us to act quickly when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Together we continued to work towards our goals and where necessary adapted our plans and budgets to the new situation.
  • Together with five partners from Ghana,Togo, Nigeria and Uganda, we have published a report about the impact of export credit agencies (ECAs) on a just energy transition in these African countries. A huge effort and success, given the COVID-related difficulties that arose during the research period and the general lack of transparancy of ECAs.

  • After several years of close collaboration with our Asian and African partners in an informal network on inclusive land governance, we organized a follow-up skill- sharing workshop in Zambia and published a guidebook on Inclusive Land Governance. These activities have fostered South South linking and learning and helped partners in their daily work and lobby activities towards governments at different levels.

  • Current and former grantees of the Joke Waller-Hunter Initiative continued to unite in an online platform where they meet, share ideas, work together and network with each other. In 2020, in over 100 young environmental leaders participated in 8 meet-ups and webinars where they could learn from each others experiences, and from several distinguished guest from the world of climate justice and sustainable development.


  • In the fight against global deforestation, Both ENDS and partners achieved some successes at different levels. Our call for a strong deforestation law was clearly heard by the European Commission, while at the same time in Peru, Indonesia and Liberia our partners’ long-term struggles resulted in some remarkable victories concerning local land rights.
  • After intensive advocacy by Both ENDS and a broad coalition of civil society organisations from the EU and MERCOSUR countries, European Parliament adopted a resolution against the EU-MERCOSUR treaty. This is an important sign that also the EU parliament finds the human rights and environmental standards in this treaty insufficient.
  • After many years of advocacy by Both ENDS and partners, Dutch pension fund ABP in 2020 took the first steps toward divestment from fossil fuels by setting out exclusion criteria on coal and tar sand companies and to implement this policy change in its investments by 2025. Although Both ENDS would have liked to see ABP go even further, this is a significant first step in the direction of a fossil free financial system.

  • After joint lobby and advocacy by a network of Northern and Southern CSOs including Both ENDS and SEATINI, the Energy Charter Treaty decided to halt its expansion to include new member states. This means those states will keep the freedom to develop their energy policies in the public interest and to proceed with the necessary energy transition.


  • As part of the GAGGA programme, our partners Keystone and NTFP-EP are working to address some of the gender gaps in harvesting, managing, trading and accessing Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs). They provided small grants to strengthen women-led NTFP initiatives, coupled with capacity building activities.
  • The partners from the Wetlands without Borders programme have reached considerable success in the promotion of agroecology throughout the whole Rio de la Plata basin. Despite difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, they have reached more than a thousand people with agroecological trainings, supported 46 farmers in their agroecological activities and expanded the area under agroecological production by 22 hectares.

  • The Drynet Podcast Series “Good Food for a Better Normal” explores some of the most pressing environmental challenges that relate to life on land, and the people who use the land to produce food. The COVID-19 crisis has clearly exposed the failure of modern food systems, and the podcast provided an opportunity for Drynet members and experts to share their visions on fair and sustainable food systems in a time it was impossible to meet.

  • In Niger, a presidential decree has been adopted, which actively and exclusively promotes Farmer-Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) and recognizes the rights of farmers to their trees. This is the first of its kind in the world, and a huge win for our Nigerien partners in the Regreening the Sahel-programme.

  • After an Analog Forestry training in March 2020, communities from two Liberian counties have gained more confidence they are not going to lose their land to palm oil plantations, due to a better understanding of their different options and of the value of their land.

  • Government officials in Bangladesh acknowledged Tidal River Management as the only way to save Southwest coastal Bangladesh from climate shocks and sea level rise. This is an important paradigm shift, necessary for TRM to be implemented as an inclusive, community-based approach in the Bangladesh Delta Plan (BDP2100).

Women’s rights and Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs)

Forests are critical to the health of the planet and the well-being of people everywhere. About one in every six people, particularly women, directly rely on forests for their lives and livelihoods, especially for food. The disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic showed just how important local food production and short food value chains are, particularly during times of crisis. In India, where a lockdown sent millions of people back from the cities back to the countryside, wild foods and other non-timber forest products (NTFPs) proved essential to hungry migrants.

As a source of food, water and income, and for their cultural and spiritual meaning, forests and NTFPs help ensure community resilience. Both ENDS has a long history of collaboration with partners such as the Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Programme (NTFP-EP) and Keystone Foundation, which support forest communities in promoting the NTFP concept for forest conservation and livelihood enhancement.

Addressing the gender dimensions of NTFPs

Both ENDS aims to showcase and accelerate the massive upscaling of practices that are based on collective participation, healthy ecosystems, gender justice and a capacious vision of well-being. In recent years, Both ENDS, NTFP-EP and Keystone have collaborated as part of the Global Alliance for Green and Gender Action to strengthen and unify the women’s rights and environmental justice movements.

NTFP-EP and Keystone are advancing understanding of the gendered aspects of harvesting, managing, trading and accessing NTFPs. A new research report on the topic looked at a variety of NTFPs in India – tamarind, yams, greens and wild honey to name a few – and explored the gendered division of activities, access and control over these resources. Among other things, the report showed that most processing of NTFPs is done by women and that women tend to have greater access and control over NTFPs that can be collected easily, like leaves and berries. In most cases, women did not have control over the income from NTFP sales, and their access to formal or distant markets was limited due to social norms that restrict their mobility. Insights from the report will be used to improve the design of future NTFP-related programmes.

As part of the GAGGA programme, Keystone and NTFP-EP are already working to address some of these gaps. NTFP-EP and Keystone are providing small grants to strengthen women-led NTFP initiatives. For example, a grant from Keystone supported indigenous women’s groups across India to develop common packaging and branding of honey. The new packaging not only helps provide better income but also establishes the women’s rights over resources. It has become a powerful tool to promote solidarity of indigenous women across the country and their collaborative work on NTFPs.

In Indonesia, a grant from NTFP-EP made it possible for members of the Bangkit Bersama Women Group and Dara Kunci Women Group to participate in trainings that were held virtually, due to the pandemic. The training focused on organisational management, financial management, and online marketing to maximise the potential of the women’s cashew nut harvest.

Funding the nexus of women’s rights and transformative practices

NTFP-EP sees grantmaking as a tool which works best when coupled with capacity building activities. The group’s community workshops and exchanges have been crucial for helping build the skills and confidence of women to self-organise, develop their own initiatives and strategies, and engage with government officials. NTFP-EP’s involvement in GAGGA over the last five years has enabled the organisation to better operationalise its commitment to women’s rights. In a new report by Both ENDS, Embedding gender justice in environmental action: where to start?, NTFP-EP and other partners shared experiences and recommendations for environmental organisations, and made the case for dedicated programming and funding for work at the nexus of gender and environmental justice.

Both ENDS and our partners aim to expand the policy space and funding for transformative practices like NTFPs. Research, advocacy and lobbying by NTFP-EP led to important progress on this front in 2020. At the behest of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Working Group on Forest Products Development, NTFP-EP led a consultative process to develop guidelines on sustainable harvest and management of NTFP resources. In October 2020, the ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry adopted the new ASEAN Guidelines for Sustainable Harvest and Resource Management Protocols for Selected Non-Timber Forest Products. The guidelines will serve as a primary reference for NTFP management protocols in the ASEAN region and help guarantee the sustainable management of NTFP resources.


Forest dependent communities led by the women in Rejang Lebong, Indonesia map out their territory to delineate their livelihood and conservation sites © NTFP-EP

Digital storytelling workshop for women leaders in the Philippines © NTFP-EP

Different Non-Timber Forest Products from India



Protecting forests: a global fight at all levels

Both ENDS works to bring about the systemic change needed to ensure unconditional respect for human rights and planetary boundaries. Systemic change entails dealing with issues at all levels, from the local to the global. Our aim is to help strengthen the power of local communities, while simultaneously working to tackle the key drivers behind social and environmental harm. Both ENDS plays a key role in drawing the links between practices and policies in the Netherlands and internationally to their impacts in communities across the world.

Systemic change is urgently needed to protect the Earth’s forests and the rights of forest peoples. Deforestation and forest degradation are driven by global demand for products like palm oil and soy. Tackling the problem requires not reduced demand and better policies and practices at international levels, but also improved recognition of community land rights – a key focus of our work with partners in 2020.

Improved regulation of the palm oil industry

In February, Both ENDS and the Forest Peoples Programme convened a meeting in Malaysia of representatives from some 25 environmental justice, human rights, women’s, youth and indigenous peoples’ organisations from countries across Latin America, Africa and South East Asia. All are working to address the negative impacts of the palm oil industry. In a collective statement that came out of the meeting, the groups highlighted the role of palm oil companies in land-grabbing and deforestation, with particular emphasis on the impacts of women, who play a vital role as custodians of indigenous culture and repositories of knowledge about forests, plants, nutrition, traditional medicine and the like. The groups called on governments of both palm oil-producing and consuming countries to improve regulation of the industry and ensure protection of human rights.

Alongside pressing for regulation, Both ENDS uses its influence as a board member of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to improve the sector’s implementation of RSPO’s strong global standards meant to diminish the harm of palm oil production. In 2020 we contributed to greater attention in the RSPO to the gender dimensions and gender-specific risks in relation to palm oil production, when RSPO finalised their practical guidance on gender inclusion and compliance.

Land rights for palm oil affected communities

Both ENDS’s partners work hard to support communities in their struggles to preserve and secure their land rights in the face of powerful economic and political actors, including palm oil companies. Some long-fought struggles of indigenous peoples and local communities resulted in important victories this year.

In the Peruvian Amazon, Both ENDS and several international organisations have been supporting FECONAU, a local organisation that represents a number of indigenous communities in their struggles against the spread of palm oil. Years ago a company illegally acquired large swathes of their territories, cut down the rainforest and planted palm oil, destroying not only vital primary forest but also the indigenous peoples’ livelihoods, which depended on an intact ecosystem. After years of lobbying the local Santa Clara de Uchunya government, FECONAU succeeded in securing recognition of the indigenous peoples’ rights to 1,500 hectares of the illegally grabbed land. The community also achieved a significant victory in its struggle against a palm oil company when the country’s environmental regulator ordered the company to suspend its operations and pay a $2.5 million fine for environmental damages.

In Liberia, our partners celebrated a hard-won victory when the government adopted a new Land Rights Act, which promises improved land security to indigenous peoples. The new law includes strong protections for community customary land rights and is considered one of the most progressive in Africa. The next step is to put the law into practice. Both ENDS’s partners are currently supporting communities in preparing a land claim for one million hectares of village forest to protect it from being cleared to make way for monoculture palm oil plantations and other developments. A similar effort is underway in Kalimantan, Indonesia, where Both ENDS’s local partner is supporting communities to secure their lands (50,000 hectares) under Indonesia’s social forestry law using customary title provisions, such as Hutan Adat and Hutan Dessa. Their claim is currently being processed by the District Authorities.

Long-term advocacy to stop Europe’s imported deforestation

The pressure on local communities’ forests and land – in Peru, Liberia, Indonesia and many other countries – is directly linked to Northern demand for soy and palm oil. Both ENDS and our Southern partners have been advocating for years to push the European Union for strong legislation against ‘imported deforestation’ – deforestation caused by products imported to the EU.

In 2020 the EU finally began the process to draft such legislation by launching a public consultation. The campaign #Together4Forests, led by several international NGOs and backed by more than 160 environmental groups, including Both ENDS, encouraged people to engage in the public consultation and to insist that the EU tackle the forest footprint of its consumption. More than a million European citizens responded by demanding a strong EU law to protect the world’s forests and the rights of people who depend on them.

In the Netherlands, Dutch Minister of Agriculture Carola Schouten admitted that the response was a signal that cannot be ignored. Both ENDS, along with the other Dutch organisations involved in the campaign, called on the Minister to take the lead in Brussels in pushing for strong legislation and to encourage other EU member states to join her. In this process, Both ENDS aims to create space for the voices of locally affected peoples, their concerns, experiences and solutions, and to ensure that European decision-makers hear the wake-up call and are inspired to act.


Community members receive ownership rights of their rice fields. Kalimantan 2020. Photo by GEMAWAN

The community of Santa Clara de Uchunya receives its land title. Photo by FECONAU

Dutch minister Schouten receives the 1.2 million signatures for a strong deforestation law



Solidarity in the face of a global pandemic

Both ENDS collaborates with civil society organisations (CSOs) worldwide to pursue the structural changes they believe are needed and to amplify the voices of the communities they work with. Building strong, trusting relationships with our partners around the world is absolutely crucial to realising our vision. It is at the core of everything we do. So when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we immediately responded by reaching out to partners to show our solidarity and to ask them about their challenges and needs.

At the local level, the impacts of COVID-19 and measures to address it were severe, particularly for women. They faced food shortages, loss of access to water, loss of income due to closing of markets, intensified pressure from family members and children at home, increased threats due to policing and militarisation. The standard work of Both ENDS’s partners – communication and meeting with communities, organising, mobilising, monitoring and participating in decision-making processes – became incredibly difficult or impossible. More often than not, policy processes became even more inaccessible and secretive. Lockdowns required people to stay at home, while companies were allowed to proceed with business as usual. The voice of civil society was effectively muted in diverse policymaking forums, from local decisions about mining licenses to negotiations of the World Trade Organization.

Flexible support to partners

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, Both ENDS assured partners of flexible and sustained support to carry on their vitally important work. When it was clear that the pandemic would endure, funds that had originally been allocated for meetings and travel were made available to partners to deal with the challenges brought on by the pandemic and lockdowns. Among other things, as part of the Global Alliance for Green and Gender Action (GAGGA), Both ENDS helped set up a one-time funding initiative, the Autonomy and Resilience Fund, to address the urgent needs of women environmental defenders and their communities. In total, €255,000 was quickly distributed to 41 women-led community-based organisations and seven NGOs in 21 countries around the world for diverse initiatives, including many to strengthen local food and water systems, traditional medicine, and community well-being.

A grant to Colectivo CASA, a women’s collective in Bolivia, supported the group to implement a community garden based on an ancient system of work sharing and exchange, known as ‘Ayni’. The main objective of the garden was to foster solidarity production and exchange of products among women in the community, with the aim of safeguarding biodiversity and strengthening food sovereignty as a measure of resilience to the crisis. The grant covered the costs of seeds, organic fertilizer, and rental of a tractor, as well as inputs for water harvesting. In addition, the grant supported an ancient ritual of thanks to promote solidarity, as well as respect and gratitude for Mother Earth and her fruits.

New ways of sharing information

Although many 2020 activities had to be cancelled due to COVID-19, some activities simply took on a new form. A Southeast Asia Regional Coastal People’s Assembly, organised in September by Solidaritas Perempuan with support from Both ENDS, consisted of three sessions over three weeks that combined both online and face-to-face group participation. The first session, ‘How Small-Scale Fisheries Feed the World: A Reflection from the COVID-19 Crisis’, had some 75 participants online and was attended physically by another 70 participants in three villages in Indonesia. The unique format enabled broader participation from local fisherwomen. Moreover, a video recording of the sessions was converted into campaign material used for discussions with communities in other coastal areas.

One of the top priorities for our partners during the lockdowns was to maintain communication with communities. With flexible support from Both ENDS, partners could invest in digital infrastructure to stay in touch despite travel restrictions, and could continue to share vital information, for example through radio programmes and text message recordings. Similarly, for us at Both ENDS, good communication with partners was of utmost importance as the crisis unfolded. Our central message was: do what you need to do as an organisation and as an individual, and above all, take care of yourself and each other. 2020 proved to us that strong, long-term relationships and flexible support are not only the key ingredient for achieving the change we seek in the world, but also for enduring crisis.


Community garden. Photo by Colectivo CASA

Session at the Regional Coastal People’s Assembly. Photo by Solidaritas Perempuan

When visiting communities, partners often had to bring goods due to collapsed transport systems. This is a boat expedition by partner GAIA, an organisation working with communities in the Pantanal. Photo by Eduardo G. Oliveira