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Bundesamt für Naturschutz

Klaus Toepfer Fellowship

Promoting excellence and leadership among emerging nature conservation leaders from Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia

The Klaus Toepfer Fellowship Programme takes an integrated approach to the development of the personal capacity of early-career conservation professionals from the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. The programme puts high-potential individuals into the centre of capacity development, while closely cooperating with the delegating institutions and promoting the participants' commitment and contribution to them.

The Klaus Toepfer Fellowship Programme is implemented by the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) – the central scientific authority of the German federal government for both national and international nature conservation – in partnership with IUCN, the CBD Secretariat, the Secretariat of the CMS, and UNEP-WCMC. The programme is funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV) through the Advisory Assistance Programme (AAP) for Environmental Protection in Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia.


The application period for the 2023–2025 cycle of the Klaus Toepfer Fellowship Programme is closed.

weiterführender Inhalt

Patron Prof. Klaus Toepfer

"I hope that what we see in the little island of Vilm is a kind of symbol, a signal of change; that we remain aware of the great diversity of creation and the great possibilities of nature both for their own sake and for the wellbeing of nine billion people." — Prof. Klaus Toepfer, former UNEP Director, patron for the programme

© Thomas Köhler / phototek.net

Goals and objectives

The Klaus Toepfer Fellowship Programme aims at developing the personal capacity of early-career conservation professionals with leadership potential, to contribute to overcome global biodiversity loss and to strengthen the regional capacities to implement multilateral environmental agreements. Participants are trained on international best conservation practices and policies, management skills and personal network development. This enables them to work effectively in leading positions in the biodiversity conservation sector of their home countries and to be actively involved in international conservation processes and networks.

During the programme the participants continue to work at their home institutions. Each fellow will develop a transfer project in which the acquired knowledge is used to identify innovative solutions to a specific challenge within their institution. Through sharing comprehensive nature conservation experience and knowledge, the fellowship programme seeks to deepen the relationship among the participants and their home countries, as well as with Germany and the European Union.

The Klaus Toepfer Fellowship Programme is

  • the only extra-occupational training programme for established conservation professionals from both governmental and non-governmental organizations from the Eurasian region,
  • putting a broad focus on biodiversity policy,
  • promoting professional excellence,
  • focusing on technical skills, management skills and leadership skills,
  • considering the ecological, historical and political linkages among the transition countries of the Eurasian region,
  • fostering a professional network in support of regional cooperation in biodiversity conservation,
  • combining highly interactive seminars held in English language, field trips and assignments, e-learning as well as a transfer project.

weiterführender Inhalt

Klaus Toepfer Fellowship

Promoting excellence and leadership among emerging nature conservation leaders from Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia

Programme structure

The 18-month course consists of four modules and assignments between the modules.
Two training modules will take place  on the Isle of Vilm, Germany, and include ten days of on-site training and a two-day excursion to leading nature conservation institutions based in Germany. The two other modules will be held online with a duration of ten days. Training language is English.The modules combine joint learning on key conservation topics with management and leadership training.

Informing Conservation Conservation Economics and Financing Conservation Management in a Spatial Context Conservation Governance and Policy

Trends and causes of biodiversity loss and basic rationales for conservation

Concepts for evaluating and monitoring biodiversity

Conservation economics


Innovative financing instruments for biodiversity conservation

Planning and participatory management: protected areas national protected areas systems

Spatial planning tools

Decision making processes and structures relevant to conservation al local, national and international level

User-based approaches to resource conservation

Media and presentation skills

Strategic planning of conservation projects

Resource mobilisation and financing instruments

Fundraising, proposal development

Engaging stakeholders and building collaboative partnerships

Leadership skills

Negotiation, lobbying and advocacy skills
Excursion   Excursion  
Transfer Project Transfer Project Transfer Project Final Presentation


Modules and transfer project

The module takes place on Vilm island from 27 August – 8 September, 2023.
Decision making for biodiversity conservation and sustainable natural resources management needs to be supported by information. A strong baseline knowledge about biodiversity and ecosystems, triggers and root causes of biodiversity loss, the ability to monitor, recognize and communicate relevant changes in the status of biodiversity and to plan strategic conservation responses are prerequisites for effective conservation activities. This module of the programme familiarizes the participants with current international best practice methods and tools.

In this module participants have the opportunity to

  • Acquire or refresh their baseline knowledge about basic terms and concepts of biodiversity and ecosystems, their distribution, as well as threats to biodiversity and ecosystems including their root causes.
  • Place the biodiversity concept of their own field of work into a global context and to identify and close knowledge gaps.
  • Develop their skills in the assessment and monitoring of biodiversity including its distribution, trends and influencing factors.
  • Familiarize themselves with successful national biodiversity monitoring systems and explore the uses of biodiversity information.
  • Learn and/or improve their use of practical tools, databases and methods for researching and managing information in support of conservation programmes.
  • Get to know strategic conservation planning and adaptive management with the Conservation Standards and MIRADI.
  • Deepen their understanding of communication as a strategic management area and develop their media and presentation skills.
  • Take a final decision about the theme and work plan of their transfer projects and prepare a first outline of their contents.


An excursion will lead the fellows to the official opening of the programme at the Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV) in Berlin and on questions of biodiversity monitoring to Rügen island.

The module takes place online from 11 – 22 March, 2024.
Many root causes of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation are economic in nature. At the same time, there is a growing understanding that biodiversity and ecosystems underpin economic development in a multitude of ways, and that there is an urgent need to value them accordingly. 

In addition, conservation efforts are often severely constrained by the available financial resources. The module will introduce a number of innovative financing instruments and assist the fellows in exploring their applicability and potential benefits.

During this module participants have the opportunity to

  • Acquire knowledge about economic root causes of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation.
  • Develop their understanding of the economic dimensions of biodiversity conservation and the management of natural resources.
  • Analyse the relationship between biodiversity conservation, rural livelihoods and sustainable regional development.
  • Get to know the most important financing instruments for nature conservation and explore their applicability in their home countries.
  • Improve their skills in the areas of fundraising, proposal development and technical writingfor conservation projects.

The module takes place on Vilm island from 16 – 27 September, 2024.
Habitat loss and degradation are major causes of biodiversity loss. Habitat conservation within protected areas and spatial planning for sustainable use of an entire landscape are therefore key approaches which conservation professionals need to know to counteract the loss of biodiversity.

The module familiarizes the participants with international standards for protected areas. As the designation of protected areas is often only a first step, but not in itself sufficient to effectively conserve biodiversity, the group will take a closer look at governance and stakeholder participation as important emerging themes in the protected area field. Protected areas need to be joined into wider protected area systems and ecological networks in order to conserve viable populations of target species, safeguard ecosystem services, and ensure resilience to local disturbances and global environmental shifts.

During this module participants have the opportunity to

  • Familiarize themselves with basic terms, concepts and international best practice tools for the design, planning and participatory management of protected areas and national protected area systems.
  • Get to know approaches for management planning of protected areas using the IUCN management planning guidelines.
  • Familiarize themselves with protected area governance and participation of stakeholders in protected area management.
  • Receive an introduction to key tools, such as METT and RAPPAM, for assessing management effectiveness of protected areas.
  • Get acquainted with approaches and methods to plan protected area systems and ecological networks in a systematic way, when dealing with national protected area system design, planning and development.
  • Acquire knowledge about the use of spatial planning tools to support sustainable landscape management and biodiversity conservation between protected areas, and throughout the entire landscape.
  • Understand the importance of leadership in conservation and improve their leadership skills. 
  • Learn and practice multilateral negotiations and decision making on shared resources.
  • Continue developing and improving their transfer projects, based on feedback to the work plans already elaborated and exchange with other fellows.


The fellows will visit the Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea National Park, which is also part of a trans-boundary protected area, a UNESCO World Heritage site, a Ramsar site, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and a Marine Protected Area. The support of the administration of the National Park to the programme is gratefully acknowledged. An additional shorter excursions will take the participants to South East Rugen Biosphere Reserve.

The module takes place online from 24 March – 4 April, 2025.
Biodiversity and ecosystems are typically common goods, and are hence critically affected by decisions on natural resource use, land use, infrastructure development etc. that are taken independently by a wide range of actors throughout society. Therefore, conservation leaders need to understand by which actors, through which institutional setups and according to which rules relevant decisions are taken and turned into policy. They also need to be aware of how these structures and processes can be influenced to maximize conservation benefits. In order to develop this understanding and the corresponding skills, the module will address relevant governance actors, structures and processes at the local, national and global level.

During this module participants have the opportunity to

  • Explore the relevance of governance and policy to the practice of biodiversity conservation and natural resources management at the local, national and international level.
  • Address the role and entry-points of civil society in biodiversity governance and policy.
  • Get to know Community Based Natural Resource Governance at the local level, to support sustainable natural resources management, and discuss their potential applicability to their region.
  • Familiarize themselves with current examples of legal reform processes in natural resource governance on the national level in their region
  • Learn about the role of NGOs and Academia in the governance of ecosystems and biodiversity.
  • Collect information about Biodiversity-related Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) and their national implementation, as an important driver of national policy development, with a particular focus on the Convention on Biological Diversity and critically appreciate the international governance framework on biodiversity and natural resources.
  • Present the outcomes of their transfer projects and look into alumni activities of the programme.

As part of the programme, participants will develop a transfer project with relevance to the work of their home institution. The transfer project, once implemented, is expected to improve the effectiveness of their organisation or project. It should address a technical or management challenge that the home institution is facing and suggest solutions or innovative ways how to overcome this. Participants will receive assistance and technical input by trainers and mentors throughout the entire elaboration process.

During intervals between the modules, participants will be expected to work on their transfer projects and fulfil additional assignments such as e-learning units and work on case studies. The work on transfer projects and additional assignments will require approximately 350 hours of work by participants in between the modules in total.

Cooperation partners

The Klaus Toepfer Fellowship is implemented in partnership with organisations, which are highly relevant actors in international biodiversity conservation. These strategic partners support the conceptual design of the programme, e.g. by providing technical input on current conservation topics and latest training methodologies, or by granting access to their extensive network of stakeholders in the nature conservation field.

Cooperation Partners

The KTF is funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV) through it`s Advisory Assistance Programme (AAP).

Since 2000, the AAP has supported the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia and other countries neighbouring the European Union in projects aiming at environmental protection. The purpose of the programme is the exchange and transfer of knowledge and experience in order to strengthen environmental administration bodies, raise environmental standards and to prepare for environmental investments.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges. It supports scientific research, manages field projects all over the world and brings governments, non-government organizations, United Nations agencies, companies and local communities together to develop and implement policy, laws and best practice.

IUCN is the world's oldest and largest global environmental network - a democratic membership union with more than 1,400 government and NGO member organizations, and some 15,000 volunteer scientists in more than 160 countries

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was signed at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992. It is the first global agreement to cover all aspects of biological diversity: the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources.

The Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD) assists member governments in the implementation of the various programmes of work, coordinates with other international organizations and collects and disseminates information.

As an environmental treaty under the aegis of the United Nations Environment Programme, the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) provides a global platform for the conservation and sustainable use of migratory animals and their habitats. CMS brings together the States through which migratory animals pass, the Range States, and lays the legal foundation for internationally coordinated conservation measures throughout a migratory range.

The UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) is a collaboration between the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the world's foremost intergovernmental environmental organization, and WCMC, a UK-based charity. UNEP-WCMC is UNEP's specialist biodiversity assessment arm, and the Centre for UNEP's collaboration with WCMC 2000.The Centre's goal is to provide authoritative, relevant and timely information for countries, multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), organizations and companies to use in the development and implementation of their policies and decisions.

Additional cooperation partners

Further cooperation partners support the Klaus Toepfer Fellowship Programme through technical advice, training support, as well as their regional expertise and networks throughout the region.

Training venue

Two of the total four training modules will be conducted at the International Academy for Nature Conservation (INA) Isle of Vilm of the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN). Part of the Southeast Ruegen Biosphere Reserve, the 94 ha island is not only of exceptional natural beauty, but also an ideal venue for concentrated course work. While the Isle of Vilm is an example of successful efforts to conserve natural resources since as early as 1812, the facilities are also fully equipped to meet today's demands of study. Accommodation is provided in double rooms, in guesthouses which have internet access. Given the remote location, all meals are provided by the academy's canteen.

The academy has an outstanding reputation for conducting training and expert workshops on a wide range of conservation topics, with a particular focus on Eurasia. 


Participation in the fellowship programme is free of charge. The participants will receive free accommodation and board at the training venue and during excursions, as well as a contribution towards their travel expenses. Health insurance during stays in Germany and visa application fees will also be covered by the organisers.

The proportion of travel expenses to be covered by participants or their home organizations is based on the following scheme, which relates to the gross domestic product of the respective countries:

Country Group A

Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Islamic Republic of Iran, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia

Country Group B

Belarus, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Montenegro, Russian Federation, Serbia, Türkiye, Turkmenistan

Country Group C

Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Jordan, Kosovo, Moldova, Mongolia, North Macedonia, Ukraine

Country Group D

Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan

Table: Travel costs to be covered by the participants of the Klaus Toepfer Fellowship Programme or their organizations

Modules Country Group A Country Group B Country Group C Country Group D
Module 1 200,00€ 100,00€ 65,00€ 10,00€
Module 3 200,00€ 100,00€ 65,00€ 10,00€
Total Programme 400,00€ 200,00€ 130,00€ 20,00€


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