Based on the involvement of its members already in the 60’s, ECO˛TERRA was created in the early 80’s as an informal network of scientists, researchers and development professionals, as well as concerned individuals having various backgrounds with the task to create awareness especially about the environmental problems in developing countries and to elaborate, promote and implement solutions.

In 1986 ECO˛TERRA was officially registered and in 1987 recognised as NGO, NGHA and charity, at first in the Federal Republic of Germany. Though ECO˛TERRA has its roots as European NGO still in various states of the European Union, nodes were established in most of those developing countries, where ECO˛TERRA operates. This process continues as people in a growing number of countries join ECO˛TERRA or receive ECO˛TERRA co-operation, assistance and/or support.

The basic constitution and mandate of ECO˛TERRA as international CSO applies for all countries of operation, and differs only in some administrative matters, required legally by the respective country. Within the task countries ECO˛TERRA Intl. creates its local ECO˛TERRA groups and nodes, which assist in the programmes and projects, while receiving support and training to become a locally registered and recognised NGO, an associate and later a full member of ECO˛TERRA International.

This basic policy is important to safeguard the bottom up approach from grassroots level  in order to address the real local needs, to establish the necessary trust and co-operation, but also to guarantee local capacity building as well as the responsibility, transparency and accountability of the organisation in general. That approach helps equally to empower local people and communities, to reduce their external dependence or future vulnerability and to create sustainable life-styles.


ECO˛TERRA was created as a platform for concerned people, who realised that (for various reasons) most governmental or non-governmental organisations existing, can not or do not tackle the growing environmental problems consequently. In todays world, where more and more environmental problems, caused by short-sighted economic ventures of people or simply by the human needs to survive within growing populations or societies in distress, though being realised by better insights based on advanced environmental sciences, the degradation of nature in most areas has even not been stopped. 

Cases, where the negative trend has been reversed, even for a short time, are still very rare. 

Most existing institutions and organisations are still either strictly oriented towards the standard economic success, propaganda-like conservation stories, the repetitive collection of information, or towards the preservation of nature and natural resources without taking the human factor seriously into consideration. 

The imperative to adapt into specific ecological niches, which provide people with the necessary sustainability in economic security, whilst not endangering its coexistence within an intact natural environment, has short term consequences. These are politically often not opportune and therefore shunned, which leads to the fact that existing and realised problems are not solved, though possible solutions are known. It was and is necessary to harmonise the short term economic demands and the long term ecological necessities. But, instead implementing existing solutions to stop and reverse the negative trends in environmental degradation, global consensus to care for the earth is only just discussed and mostly not enacted, thus hindering also the positive actions and processes initiated and created by locally successful activities.

As early as in the 60’s, ECO˛TERRA members were involved in the activities leading 1972 to the United Nations Conference on Human Environment in Stockholm. In the beginning of the 80’s the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the European Union (EU) through its Environmental Bureau (EEB) called upon their member states for the engagement of concerned people and to create or become engaged in Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to work for the common future of humankind in terms of a global effort in environmental protection and environmentally sound economic development.

In this spirit ECO˛TERRA was founded as an independent CSO and NGHA with the goal to support the increased global effort to prevent damage especially to indigenous people and their intact natural environment, as well as to assist in the stabilisation and rehabilitation of disturbed environs.

The world-wide concern led in 1992 to the Earth Summit of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro as well as its Global Forum, adopting Agenda 21, in 1995 to the Social Summit and to the Global Climate Conference and in 1996 to the Habitat II Conference and various other conventions like the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) or the Kyoto Protocol. ECO˛TERRA was an active participant in all these conferences and contributed to the various conventions, but sees its tasks in not just talking again and again but in being engaged in the process to implement the found solutions. 

Therefore, though research and information exchange is not neglected, the “HANDS-ON” approach is our priority and contributes that future discussions can be based on positive examples actually realised. However, the gap between implemented solutions and the magnitude of newly arising problems, especially in developing countries, is widening, despite the efforts of all concerned. Therefore we will continue, based on Art. 5 and 21 e of the World Charter for Nature, as well as especially based on the Principles 23 and 24 of the Rio Declaration to secure first peoples and nature against degradation caused by warfare or other hostile activities and to safeguard and preserve nature also in areas beyond national jurisdiction.