Archived press release
Friends of the Earth appoints new Executive Director

Friends of the Earth has appointed Andy Atkins as its new Executive Director. He will leave his current post as Policy and Campaigns Director of relief and development charity Tearfund to join Friends of the Earth in late June, before replacing Tony Juniper as Executive Director later in the summer.

Andy has a track record and commitment for finding solutions to environmental and social justice challenges and is an experienced leader, campaigner and communicator.

During his 11 years at Tearfund, eight of which as Policy and Campaigns Director, he has overseen many achievements including the establishment of policy and campaigns work as core business for the organisation, initiating its work on climate change and poverty and championing climate change as a poverty issue among UK development NGOs. He was a key organiser of the Make Poverty History campaign, and is a Board member of the Stop Climate Chaos coalition, where he works with Tony Juniper.

Andy has also gained considerable experience in his previous roles as Campaigns Coordinator, and General Secretary of the Chile Committee for Human Rights, Coordinator of CAFOD's Working in Partnership Programme, and Latin America Desk Officer at the Catholic Institute of International Relations (Progressio).

Andy Atkins said:

“I have long admired Friends of the Earth. I am delighted to be asked to lead the organisation at what is a critical time for the global environment. The need to combat climate change and reverse the loss of the world's biodiversity has never been greater. Not only is our planet's unique nature under threat, but the world's poor people are already paying a heavy price. We must continue to transform political priorities and public attitudes to the environment.

“Change is possible, but it will require far-sighted proposals alongside principled protest. This means not just identifying problems, but working with others to drive positive change. Friends of the Earth, with its campaigning track record, its tens of thousands of committed supporters and unique international network, is ideally placed to do this.”

The Chair of Friends of the Earth's Board, Simon Counsell, said:

“I am delighted that Andy has agreed to become the new Executive Director of Friends of the Earth. We were looking for an exceptional person, who can build on the successes of the past few years and publicly champion a charity that makes a real difference to people and the environment. With his impressive leadership, campaigning and communication skills, and his obvious commitment to addressing environmental issues and social justice, I am certain we have found such a person in Andy Atkins.”

“I'd also like to pay tribute to Tony Juniper. He leaves an organisation that is in great shape, poised to grow in size and influence, and with a focus on engaging many more people in creating real change for a better world. Under his leadership Friends of the Earth led the campaign for a new law to cut UK carbon dioxide emissions through its highly successful campaign, The Big Ask. With the Climate Change Bill expected to soon become law, it's a fitting time for Tony to hand over the baton. We look forward to equally exciting and successful times under Andy.”

Friends of the Earth's outgoing Executive Director, Tony Juniper said:

"After 18 years at Friends of the Earth, including six fantastic years as Executive Director, it's time for me to find new challenges and to hand over to a new leader. I am immensely proud of Friends of the Earth and its achievements and feel especially privileged to have had the opportunity to lead the organisation during one of the most successful periods in its history.

“I am extremely pleased to be handing over to Andy. I'm sure that he will be a fantastic leader who will build on the organisation's achievements and ensure that it continues to play a key role in advocating safe and sensible solutions to the environmental challenges that we all face and helping to create real change for a better world."

Andy will join Friends of the Earth towards the end of June. He will then work with Tony before becoming Executive Director at the end of the summer.

Notes

1. A Climate Change Bill, which Friends of the Earth has led the campaign for through The Big Ask is currently passing through Parliament and is expected to become law over the summer. It will set legal targets for cutting UK carbon dioxide emissions; the first national legislation of its kind anywhere in the world. Friends of the Earth is delighted that the Government has agreed to legislate, but says that the law should be stronger aiming for carbon dioxide cuts of at least 80 per cent by 2050 (the draft target is 60 per cent), and that it should include the UK's share of international aviation emissions.

More information on The Big Ask and the campaign for a climate change law - and Friends of the Earth's successes under Tony Juniper (PDF† )

Andy Atkins - Background

Andy Atkins, who was one of a small group of charity campaigners to conceive what became the high profile Make Poverty History campaign in 2005, has spent the past seven years as Policy & Campaigns Director at relief & development agency Tearfund.

Andy, (47), has been a leading advocate of the need for the development sector to understand the critical importance of environmental issues. Under his leadership Tearfund became the first major UK development NGO to campaign on climate change.

Having previously worked on human rights issues, including Chile under the Pinochet dictatorship,and in other Latin American countries, Andy's first campaign at Tearfund involved working with Honduran communities to successfully halt plans for a hydroelectric dam which threatened the livelihoods of thousands of indigenous people and vast areas of rainforest.

Since going to Tearfund as the organisation's first Public Policy Adviser, Andy Atkins has pioneered its policy and campaigns work, with the result that Tearfund is now regarded as a major advocacy player among the big UK development NGOs.

Andy is married to Sarah, a solicitor, and they have three children. He is a keen amateur painter.

Education

Andy studied Economic Geography and then Latin American Development at University College London University, and is fluent in Spanish. He subsequently studied NGO management with the Open University. In 2006 he participated in the Cambridge University Business Programme course on Sustainable Development.

Work history

After his degree at UCL, Andy worked in Argentina for 9 months as a volunteer community development worker, in the aftermath of the Falklands War. The experience convinced Andy of the need to address the injustices of Western countries' economic and political relationships with developing countries, which had been supporting despotic regimes and fuelling mounting international debt.

1985-1988: General Secretary, Chile Committee for Human Rights

Andy campaigned for human rights and a return to democracy in Chile during the Pinochet dictatorship, working with the small but effective Chile Committee for Human Rights, first as local campaign groups coordinator and then as the general secretary.

1988-1990: Working in Partnership Programme Coordinator, CAFOD

His work with Catholic Development agency CAFOD involved successfully developing a combined development awareness and fundraising programme. It was one of the first such programmes by a development agency to feature explicitly `environmental' projects.

1990-1997: Latin American Desk Officer, CIIR

Keen to return to front-line lobbying, Andy took up a post as Latin American Desk Officer with the radical think-tank and development agency, Catholic Institute for International Relations (CIIR), now Progressio. Here he worked on peace negotiation in Central America at the time of the counter insurgency war, before setting up a programme of work on human rights in Colombia, which brought the brutal conflict in that country to much greater public attention. He went on to lead a ground-breaking programme on the developmental and environmental implications of the illegal drugs trade with Latin America. He was instrumental in establishing a European NGO network on drugs and development which successfully campaigned for a more enlightened EU approach to the drugs trade.

1997- present: Policy and Campaigns Director (also known as Advocacy Director), Tearfund

Andy was recruited by Christian relief and development agency Tearfund, to develop the organisation's first public policy strategy. This rapidly developed into a comprehensive strategy for research, policy work, campaigns and also capacity-building of Tearfund's overseas partners to lobby their own governments. Andy was appointed Tearfund's first Advocacy Director in 2000 and Tearfund is now considered a major advocacy player among UK development NGOs. He has particularly championed work on the links between environment and poverty and Tearfund was the first major development agency to identify climate change as a `poverty' issue and begin campaigning to address the impact of climate change on developing countries. He instigated and championed Tearfund's advocacy work on reducing the vulnerability of poor people to natural disasters and climate change.

Through his position at Tearfund, he is on the Board of the Stop Climate Chaos coalition of charities and is a founder member and on the Board of the growing international Micah Challenge campaign which is promoting churches' engagement in lobbying governments to deliver the Millennium Development Goals. Andy also served on the Coordination Team of Make Poverty History campaign in 2005. He has worked closely with senior UK church figures and scientists to encourage US church leaders to speak out more publicly on US government climate change policy.


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Published by Friends of the Earth Trust