River communities’ rights are deeply entwined with the environment. The fragmentation, over-extraction and pollution of river systems threatens fundamental rights to water, food, housing, health, livelihoods and culture.

An indigenous leader stares into the camera with rows of police in riot gear standing behind him.
Apiaká indigenous leader protesting the Belo Monte dam in Brazil. | Photo by International Rivers

Large dams have a particularly troubled human rights record: According to the World Commission on Dams report, they:

…forced some 40-80 million people from their lands in the 20th century. Legions of dam refugees –  largely indigenous, tribal and peasant communities – have been economically, culturally and psychologically devastated. Millions have suffered from the diseases dams bring, and an estimated 400-800 million people have faced downstream changes.

Our Work to Protect Human Rights

Around the world, environmental defenders face growing threats to their lives and safety. We work with community leaders, women, indigenous peoples and civil society activists to draw attention to these threats, support their efforts to protect their lands and waters, and plan for a just energy transition.

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