Water is essential for life on earth. But for too long, river and water defenders – people who’ve dedicated their lives to protecting our most precious resource – have labored in obscurity, starved of resources, and often facing persecution for their courageous work.
As a result, our waterways have been polluted, neglected and fragmented, transformed from vibrant, connected ecosystems that support humans and wildlife alike to stagnant dead zones.
The movement to protect a river is often local, but the consequences of failing to protect a river are global: displacement, food insecurity, loss of biodiversity. And yet global decision-makers have often overlooked rivers in their conservation work.
Healthy rivers feed our most vulnerable people, sustain some of our most diverse ecosystems, protect us from floods and droughts, and are central to the cultural identity of so many people around the world. It’s time to galvanize policymakers to understand the critical importance of rivers – and to finally make firm commitments to protect them.
As we embark upon this new era at International Rivers, we are ready to deliver this transformation. In the past three decades, we’ve grown from a small group of volunteers into a global organization with offices in every region where we work. We will mobilize our vast networks, armed with cutting-edge research, to change how governments and corporations operate. We believe in the power of people to achieve great change.
We must seize this moment to protect the world’s life-giving waterways, because they are fundamental to the health and wellbeing of our people and this planet. And they will help us survive the coming climate chaos: Healthy rivers with intact floodplains are our best defense against the increasingly frequent and severe floods and droughts wrought by climate change.
This is a challenging time, with repressive governments on the rise and climate change threatening. But rivers and water provide a new vision – one of cooperation across boundaries. We are inspired by the many water defenders finding creative and innovative ways to achieve tangible impact, even under corrupt, authoritarian regimes.
We are in the midst of a major energy transformation – one that will take us from environmentally destructive, centralized models of energy generation to decentralized solutions that empower communities while protecting the environment. We look forward to finding a new way forward together.
We’ve got a lot of work to do, but the need for healthy, free-flowing rivers calls for bold, urgent action. We know that we need to change how rivers are governed, how they are protected in law, and how they are valued through planning and management. By securing lasting protections for the world’s rivers, we can realize our vision for healthy rivers that sustain life and the communities that depend on them.
The following six goals will guide our work in making this a reality:
- Strengthen movements for healthy rivers
- Ensure corporations are accountable in policy and practice
- Promote clean and fair finance for energy and water solutions
- Secure human rights for river communities and water protectors
- Support equitable and effective governance that sustains rivers
- Gain permanent legal protections for the world’s iconic rivers
These goals are interconnected: Achieving progress in one will contribute to outcomes in another. The strategies that support them align our efforts towards better river governance globally – an outcome that will result in permanent protections of rivers for our future well-being, and that of the planet and its natural systems.