International Rivers works to protect rivers and defend the rights of communities that depend on them. It opposes destructive dams and the development model they advance, and encourages better ways of meeting people’s needs for water, energy, and protection from damaging floods. To achieve this mission, the organization collaborates with a global network of local communities, social movements, non-governmental organizations, and other partners.
A 2015 grant from the Cultures of Resistance Network supported a collaboration with award-winning filmmaker Todd Southgate, the Xingu Vivo Movement, Amazon Watch, and the Socioenvironmental Institute (ISA) to produce a documentary video on the disastrous social and environmental consequences of the Belo Monte mega-dam and the courageous efforts of grassroots activists to defend human rights and the Xingu River. This video material will be used in smaller social-media productions and in a future documentary about the reality of the Amazon (with a focus on the Xingu) for Brazilians and others around the world, contributing to public awareness of the myth of large dams as “cheap and clean energy,” the authoritarianism and rampant corruption underlying such projects, and the existence of truly sustainable energy alternatives, such as decentralized solar power. It will also contribute to ensuring respect for the rights of Xingu peoples, accountability among those who have steamrolled the rule of law, and political pressure to avoid similar disasters elsewhere in the Amazon.
A 2014 grant from the Cultures of Resistance Network continued International Rivers’s efforts to bring justice to indigenous communities impacted by the Belo Monte Dam on the Xingu River. The grant helped increase transparency and accountability within the Brazilian National Development Bank (BNDES) and supported the Munduruku and other indigenous groups to better understand threats posed by dams to their territories, livelihoods, and rights. The grant also expanded technical, strategic, and coordination support for civil society groups in Southeast Asia to effectively challenge the building of the dams on the Mekong River.
The Cultures of Resistance Network previously supported International Rivers’s campaign to stop the Belo Monte Dam. If built, the Belo Monte Dam would divert the flow of the Xingu River and devastate an extensive area of the Brazilian rainforest, displacing over 20,000 people and threatening the survival of indigenous peoples. International Rivers is working with the Kayapó and other indigenous groups and environmental and human rights activists to protect the Xingu River Basin from large dams and to promote alternatives to meeting Brazil’s energy needs.
In addition to support from the Cultures of Resistance Network, director iara lee arranged an outside grant for International Rivers in 2022, which supported work to ensure that river protections are part of the environmental policy of the new Brazilian administration.