Friends of Nature

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Friends of Nature (international abbreviation: NFI, for German: Naturfreunde International) is an international movement with a background in the social democratic movement, which aims to make the enjoyment of nature accessible to the wider community by providing appropriate recreational and travel facilities.


It is a non-profit organisation which, in addition to encouraging sustainable tourism, which has a minimal effect on the environment, also aims to promote international friendship and understanding.

It is also known as Naturfreunde (German), Les Amis de la Nature (French), Amici della Natura (Italian), La Naturamikoj (Esperanto), and Natuurvrienden or NIVON (Dutch).

The organisation began in Austria in 1895 as Naturfreunde among people associated with the emerging Social Democratic movement who enjoyed outdoor activities and began to build their own huts and overnight chalets. The movement spread and it now has 350.000 members, 45 member organisations and runs some 700 houses mainly in Europe. The houses vary in size and facilities. The International Friends of Nature (IFN), based in Vienna, is the umbrella organisation of the national Friends of Nature federations.

Publications of the various sections include a handbook detailing all the houses and magazines published by various sections (such as Naturefriends - Great Britain - Bulletin, Les Amis de La Nature, La Migranto – in Esperanto by "Esperantistoj Naturamikoj" etc.).


The Friends of Nature organisation was founded in Vienna in 1895.The group was founded by three activists, Karl Renner, a law student and future President of Austria, Georg Schmiedl, a schoolteacher, and Alois Rohrauer, a blacksmith. [1] In the age of incipient tourism the organisation succeeded in making nature accessible to broader population strata by providing requisite recreational and travel facilities. Even then, the organisation's activities were aimed at getting people to beautiful natural settings, at awakening their love of nature and at imparting to them knowledge about nature and culture. Parallel with the rise of the modern industrialised society and of commercial tourism the Friends of Nature developed a professional commitment to nature and environment protection and had a major share in advancing the theory and practice of alternative forms of ecological tourism.

The organisation was banned by the Nazis in 1933,[2] but revived in 1945.


The work of the Friends of Nature rests on the conviction that people's opportunities of personal development are inextricably linked with the protection of nature and the conservation of natural resources. Hence, the Friends of Nature have, since their inception, taken a stand for the conservation of an environment worth living in, for peace and international understanding, for the social and democratic rights of all people, and for a meaningful organisation of leisure time. Building on their century-old tradition, the Friends of Nature are nowadays committed to the implementation of sustainable development, in particular to transboundary environmental solutions and to an environmentally and socially sound tourism.[citation needed]

Commitment to sustainable development[edit]

The biennial proclamation of a "Landscape of the Year" exemplifies how sustainable regional development can be put into practice. International environmental campaigns, such as "100,000 Trees for Europe" or "Blue Rivers for Europe" are intended to enhance environmental awareness in Europe and to offer members opportunities to take action in the interest of the environment. In 1995, the Friends of Nature set up the "Institute for Integrative Tourism" (IITF) with the intent to input the concept of sustainability into research and training in this field. The "Manifesto for a New Europe" (1993) and the "Manifesto for a Social, Ecological and Peaceful Future" (1996), proposals submitted to the Inter-governmental Conference of the European Union, and the"Green Paper - The Alps" are examples of international lobbying by the Friends of Nature.

Friends of Nature worldwide[edit]

With 350.000 members organised in approximately 45 member organisations, the Friends of Nature are among the biggest non-profit and non-governmental organisations worldwide. Apart from seminars and information material they provide environmentally sound leisure-time and travel programmes for their members and run over 700 Nature Friends Houses in Europe and overseas.

International Young Naturefriends[edit]

In the 1970s a group of young members of four Naturefriends' organisations (Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands) created a youth umbrella to network and support youth work in the movement. Through the course of the time the organisation got formalised and extended to current 26 member and partner organisations. The organisation was officially funded in 1975 with the first Secretary General Jochem Zimmer from Germany.

The International Young Naturefriends (IYNF) cooperated and were supported by the Council of Europe's Directorate Youth and Sport. In 2002, after more than ten years of seating in Brussels, the office of IYNF was moved to Prague, Czech Republic where the Secretariat of IYNF is currently located.

IYNF is a founding member of the European Youth Forum where Young Naturefriends belonged to the socialist family or the family of non-formal education organisations.

International Young Naturefriends provides trainings and international activities to the members of its network on different topics every year. They are also active in international conference such as the COP of the UNFCCC, actively lobbying for the interests of the young people of both Europe and beyond, concerned with environmental issues, social justice and the climatic change.


  1. ^ John Alexander Williams (2007) Turning to Nature in Germany: Hiking, Nudism, and Conservation, 1900-1940. Stanford University Press,pp. 71-2. ISBN 0-8047-0015-X
  2. ^ Boria Sax (2000). Animals in the Third Reich: Pets, Scapegoats, and the Holocaust. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 41. ISBN 0-8264-1289-0.

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