Community rights are frequently enshrined in national constitutions or international treaties but rarely upheld in real life. As a result, when development schemes arrive, communities have few means to defend themselves against exploitative projects. These projects can incur terrible social, environmental and cultural costs, with the adverse impacts “outsourced” to local people and ecosystems, while the profits flow away from them.

A group of people protesting, hold up signs spelling out the words no dam but peace.
Day of Action for Rivers March 14 2019 | Photo by: Karen Rivers Watch

Our Work Supporting Local Voices

We support a community-driven and rights-based approach to the development and governance of river systems. Our ongoing work to support movements looks different in each region. We take our lead from the indigenous and ethnic minority communities, and deploy inclusive strategies to ensure gender equity. 

On the Tapajós River in Brazil, for example, we promote popular river basin committees to elevate local voices in river basin management. In the Mekong Basin, we support regional peoples’ platforms to directly engage government and private sector forums. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, we have supported women’s energy justice campaigns to challenge the exclusion of local women from energy policy and planning decisions, including the development of the Inga 3 dam.

We promote indigenous and local communities’ rights to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). We support communities to design and develop their own consultation protocols that build community power and set the terms of engagement for government and prospective investors. We use lawsuits and public actions to hold governments accountable to their highest legal principles, as in the ongoing Xayaburi Dam lawsuit in Thailand. And we promote community-driven energy and development alternatives to destructive mega-projects, such as women-led micro hydropower initiatives in Myanmar, India and Pakistan.

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