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.
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.
Indigenous people comprise just 5% of the world’s population, but they steward some 80% of the world’s biodiversity. Learn more about our work with indigenous groups in Latin America, Southern Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia, amplifying their voices, and supporting their movements.
All over the world, women a play critical role in providing, managing and safeguarding water resources. Yet too often, governments ignore women’s lives and perspectives when making decisions about water. Learn more about our work to improve the state of knowledge around women and rivers, and offer a new set of gender-aware principles to guide the process for any proposed development on a river.
In recent years, the silencing, disappearance and assassination of environmental and indigenous defenders has become tragically common. International Rivers works with environmental defenders in their struggles to protect rivers and territories. Learn more about our work to document and monitor projects where rights violations are occurring so that responsible parties redress harm, and the hydropower sector as a whole improves its practices.
Take Action for dam collapse victims
Thousands of people lost their homes when faulty construction led to a devastating dam collapse in southern Laos. Those responsible for the construction of the Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy hydropower project must be held accountable.
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