International Rivers is a non-profit, non-governmental, environmental and human rights organization. Founded in 1985 by social and environmental activists, International Rivers works with policy and financial analysts, scientists, journalists, development specialists, local citizens, and volunteers to combat destructive dams and their legacies in over 60 countries.

International Rivers
IRlogo blue clear.png
Area served
MethodAdvocacy, Education, Research
Key people
Kate Horner, Executive Director
Scott Spann, Chair of the Board of Directors
US$1,893,514 (2016)[1]:16

The organization has staff in South Africa, Thailand, Brazil, China, India, and the United States. The staff has expertise in a range of issues and uses research, education, and advocacy to achieve the organization's mission.[citation needed]


The organization stated aims are to protect rivers and defend the rights of communities that depend on them. It is active against the development model with which dams are associated, which International Rivers holds to be unsustainable. It promotes alternative solutions for meeting water, energy and flood-management needs. The organization is dedicated to giving dam-affected people the tools to participate in the development of local lands in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

By facilitating international grassroots organizing and informed participation, the organization seeks to change the terms of the debate over river development. The group works with its numerous partners to advocate for social reparations, ecological restoration and decommissioning of existing dams. International Rivers states that it works to clarify the traditionally top-down decision-making of large infrastructure projects. It also argues against industry's presentation of hydropower regards climate change, making clear that reservoirs often produce greenhouse gas emissions that further impact on the environment.[2]


The organization has undertaken a two-pronged approach to analyzing and promoting viable water and energy solutions. Combining its efforts to change global policy with campaigning on specific key projects, the organization simultaneously addresses the root causes and localized consequences of destructive dam development. Their campaigns throughout Africa, China, Latin America, South Asia and Southeast Asia focus on the intersection of dams and climate change, reforming the policies and practices of international financial institutions, and promoting water and energy solutions that recognize human rights and environmental sustainability.


Among its accomplishments, the organization counts its integral involvement with the formation of the World Commission on Dams as one of its most important contributions. The commission was a global, multi-stakeholder body initiated in 1997 by the World Bank and the World Conservation Union, formed in response to growing opposition to dams. During its two-year lifetime, the WCD conducted the most exhaustive study of dams done to date, ultimately evaluating over 1,000 dams in 79 countries.[3] In its published final report, the WCD concluded that although "dams have made an important and significant contribution to human development, and benefits derived from them have been considerable... in too many cases an unacceptable and often unnecessary price has been paid to secure those benefits, especially in social and environmental terms, by people displaced, by communities downstream, by taxpayers and by the natural environment."[4]

Since the organization's inception, worldwide construction of dams has decreased by half, and universal recognition of the consequences of hydropower continues to increase.

The organization publishes a journal, World Rivers Review, focused on addressing the state of various dam projects, ecosystems, and people.[5] It also publishes an annual report on a variety of dam-related subjects.[1]

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  1. ^ a b "Annual Report 2016" (PDF). International Rivers. Retrieved 10 April 2018.
  2. ^ Lima, Ivan B T; Ramos, Fernando M; Bambace, Luis A W; Rosa, Reinaldo R (February 2008). "Methane Emissions from Large Dams as Renewable Energy Resources: A Developing Nation Perspective". Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change. 13 (2): 193–206. doi:10.1007/s11027-007-9086-5.
  3. ^ "The World Commission on Dams Framework - A Brief Introduction". International Rivers. Retrieved 10 April 2018.
  4. ^ WCD final report[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ "World Rivers Review – December 2014: Focus on the Mekong". International Rivers. 3 December 2014. Retrieved 10 April 2018.