Approach to Identifying the International Donor Funding Landscape of the Amazon Basin


This study aims to provide a high-level assessment of international donor funding that has been allocated across the Amazon to strengthen and promote conservation of its natural resources. The study focuses on capturing and quantifying non-reimbursable funding towards conservation from 2016 to 2019.

More specifically, this study aims to answer the following questions:

  • How much was invested in conservation in the region through non-reimbursable grants from 2016 to 2019?

  • How does this amount compare to what was invested in conservation in the region from 2013 to 2015?

  • Who are the largest international funders of conservation in the Amazon?

  • What is the primary conservation and sustainable management strategy of their investments?

  • Which countries and types of organizations are the largest recipients of these funds?

  • Does the strategic focus of the investments vary by funder type?

As a descriptive analysis, this study does not evaluate the impact these investments have had on conservation and sustainable management or quantify the gap between what is needed and what is pledged. This analysis uses the same methodologies and survey categories from the 2017 study, thus providing a broader picture of international support for conservation from 2013-2019,7 and providing an important next step toward further analysis and donor dialogue as indicated in the recommendation section. An online data visualization tool is also available as part of this analysis so that policymakers and funders can explore the data in greater depth.

Study Criteria

Time frame: The analysis focuses on projects that were approved from January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2019. In order to preserve a clear cut off date to facilitate future surveys, no projects that started from 2020 onwards were included, even though some donors provided information about grants that were approved in the first quarter of 2020. Data in this study for 2020 forward represent committed allocations for grants approved in 2019 or before.

Commitments vs. Disbursements: Funds included in the study represent donor commitments. In a few cases, primarily with international NGO donors, funding represents disbursement data instead of committed funds. For multilateral organizations, the disbursed amounts may vary from the original commitment estimates. Funding commitments were divided evenly across the number of award years to estimate investment across the years; they do not represent actual annual disbursements as data was not uniformly available.8

Currency: Cumulative project funds from different international donors are converted to US dollars, based on the award year. These are then divided between the recipient countries and averaged across the number of years for each project.

Geographic focus: The study includes projects both funded and implemented in the Amazon basin, including in the following countries or territories:

  1. Bolivia

  1. Brazil

  1. Colombia

  1. Ecuador

  1. French Guiana9

  1. Guyana

  1. Peru

  1. Suriname

  1. Venezuela

  1. Basin-wide - Used as a category when donors have a basin-focused intervention or when a project is implemented in multiple countries, and the donor is unable to specify a breakdown of funding across countries.

Donor types: Donors are grouped into one of the following categories:

  1. Bilateral institutions

  1. Multilateral institutions

  1. Foundations

  1. International NGOs

  1. Private sector funders

Grantees: Recipients are put into one of the following categories:

  1. National governments

  1. Subnational or local governments

  1. International NGOs

  1. National or local NGOs

  1. Academic institutions

  1. Researchers or research groups

  1. Private sector or entrepreneurs

  1. Not specified10

  1. Other11

Conservation and sustainable management strategies: This survey preserves the same categories of strategies used in the 2017 survey (see Table 2). These strategies differ from those originally mapped in the 2014 survey.12 While foundations provided more nuanced breakdowns of their funding by strategy, many bilateral and multilateral donors do not track or could not share this level of detail. In addition, primary strategies capture donor intent, rather than implementation approaches used by organizations on the ground.

Table 2

Data Gathering

The study employed a variety of approaches to gather data from a wide range of funders with an environmental or climate focus. First, a virtual meeting was held with conservation donors to introduce the objectives of the study and promote engagement and participation. Questionnaires were sent to funders, and follow-up interviews with donor representatives were used to verify data and avoid any possible duplication with the previous study. Donors were also provided, when possible, with their data from the previous study to facilitate completion and ensure consistency in the distribution of funding along the established categories. In a few cases, as per donors’ request, revisions or additions were made to previously included data.

Researchers also contacted funders working in the region who had not participated in previous survey rounds but whose donations to the Amazon region were important to include. Some of these agencies also chose to provide data prior to 2016. This is important to highlight since the 2013-2015 numbers differ slightly from data previously reported.

Online searches for funding data were also used to verify and supplement data provided by donors. Follow-up conversations and correspondence with the donors were an important element of the study as they enhanced the quality of the data provided. Overall, 96 percent of the donors in the study responded to the survey questionnaire to provide the data.

This study leverages the database tool to store, analyze, and search the data that was previously developed by GBMF. This facilitates comparisons and helps to identify and eliminate possible duplications.

Important Considerations about the Data

This study maintains consistency with the one previously conducted in 2017 by tracing funding back to its original source. This approach helps avoid double counting and provides a more accurate picture of funding levels to the region; however, it also represents two important trade-offs:


Source: Walter Wust (SERNANP)

  1. Loss of precision in the primary conservation strategies: The primary conservation strategies in this analysis reflect donor intentions, but, on the ground, their awards may have been implemented using a variety of different strategies. For example, donors working on understanding mining in the Amazon may have classified their work under analysis or capacity building and training rather than extractive resources, or, alternatively, under indigenous peoples if the work aims to support increasing safeguards for indigenous communities. This was especially true for some bilateral and multilateral donors that award larger sums and are unable to accurately break down and assign amounts among the multiple strategies.

  1. Primary grantees: The grantee categories in this study reflect the primary grant recipient and not subsequent regranting or contracting that national governments or international NGOs may do.

When possible, researchers tried to address these trade-offs. For example, Brazil, Colombia, and Guyana have REDD+ mechanisms to raise donations for non-reimbursable investments in efforts to prevent, monitor, and combat deforestation. In the case of Brazil’s Amazon Fund, donation amounts were allocated back to their original donors (Norway, Germany and Petrobras), and detailed information on funded projects allowed researchers to break down those contributions by more nuanced conservation strategies and by grantees.13 Funding totals for Colombia’s Amazon Vision Program as part of the REDD+ Early Movers (REM) Program (supported by Norway, Germany and the UK)14 and Guyana’s REDD+ Investment Fund (GRIF) (funded by Norway)15 were also traced back to the original bilateral donors, but they were all assigned under the REDD+ Programs and Policies strategy directed to national governments.

The conservation funding captured in this survey does not include funding from host countries. While host country funding is undoubtedly important, it also poses a substantial risk of being double counted given that national governments also represent a significant funding recipient.

Survey efforts did not include systematic data collection from the private sector and thus funding may be under represented in this study.16 NGO donor amounts include funds raised from individual donors, the private sector, and other organizations for conservation efforts.

The approach to trace data back to the original source, while entailing certain trade-offs, ultimately ensures a more accurate picture of funding trends over time and avoids the duplication of funding that flows through the complex web of funders and NGOs in the region.