Way Forward

Way Forward 1:

Water Justice and Water Sovereignty

It is critical to premise water justice concerns through the lens of indigeneity and recognize the colonial state water bureaucracy practices. Water justice can be understood as the interactive societal and academic endeavor to critically explore water knowledge production, allocation and governance and to combine struggles against water-based forms of material dispossession, cultural discrimination, political exclusion and ecological destruction, as rooted in particular context.

Water injustice goes beyond its physical or chemical forms. Therefore, there is a need to broaden our understanding about the harmful relationships between water and other sectors such as energy, manufacturing and agriculture which perpetuate water-based injustices, inequalities, and discrimination. Water justice scholars should seek innovative approaches to the challenges and not merely focus on the technical aspects of water issues.

The powerful state water bureaucracies have imposed colonial large-scale construction of dams, reservoirs and hydropower plants that are grounded on ideological western domination of nature resulting in destruction of the environment, displacing millions worldwide and perpetuating societal concerns.

While there is a stronger momentum for water sovereignty, we should also be able to recognize that some water resources are ‘allocated' by the state. Even if sovereignty is embodied in local communities, vulnerable groups, and corporations, it is merely a shift of powers amongst States, International Organizations and Institutions, and private actors, including local communities or vulnerable groups.

Climate Change
Frontline communities face immediate risk due to the impacts of climate change. Along with loss of land, the rise in sea levels impacts coastal communities’s drinking water resources which are at risk due to desalination. In the mountain regions, there is an increased risk from glacial lake outbursts floods (GOLFs) contributed by glacier melts due to rise in global temperatures. Likewise, downstream communities face risk from dam hazards, flooding and loss of arable land. 

Organizations leading the way in Water Justice and Water Sovereignity

Transnational Institute (TNI)

The Transnational Institute (TNI) is an international research and advocacy institute committed to building a just, democratic and sustainable world.
  • Water Justice Project: The Water Justice project, run jointly by TNI and Corporate European Observatory, is engaged in the work of building viable alternatives to water privatisation, focusing on how to reform public water systems in order to make the human right to water a reality for everyone.

FAME (Alternative World Water Forum)

The objective of FAME is to create a concrete alternative to the sixth World Water Forum (WWF) which is organized by the World Water Council. This Council is a mouthpiece for transnational companies and the World Bank and they falsely claim to head the global governance of water.
FAME will pursue and amplify the water movement by:
    • creating and promoting an alternative vision of water management which is based on ecological and democratic values
    • continuing research to find solutions to the worldwide water crisis
    • making the water movement structure sustainable.

Movement Of People Affected By Dams (MAB)

MAB advocates for the human right to water and land, particularly for people displaced by dams and other mega-projects. The threat from increasing numbers of mega-dams has risen dramatically as the climate and energy crises have fueled the growth of so-called “clean and green” energy sources like hydro-power

Women and Rivers Network 

The Women and Rivers Network is committed to protecting free-flowing rivers and the lands, forests and territories they sustain, to ensuring women’s leadership in decision-making at all levels over freshwater resources, and to strengthening alliances and growing our movement – for the future of ourselves as women, our families and communities, our rivers and our planet.
The event brings together close to women from more than 30 countries to celebrate the fundamental role women play in defending and stewarding freshwater resources, as well as to spur collective action to challenge the deep-rooted, gender inequities that women face in safeguarding rivers and river ecosystems

Focus on the Global South

Focus on the Global South is an activist think tank in Asia providing analysis and building alternatives for just social, economic and political change. They work on the following thematic areas: Political Economy & Development, Power and Democracy and People’s Alternatives.

Water Protector Legal Collective

Water Protector Legal Collective provides legal support, advocacy, and knowledge sharing for Indigenous centered and guided environmental and climate justice movements.

South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP)

SANDRP is an informal network working on issues related to rivers, communities and large scale water infrastructure like dams: their environmental and social impacts, their performance and issues related to governance of rivers and dams.   

The Acequia Institute

The Acequia Institute (TAI) is a non-profit organization dedicated to research, education, and program extension to support the flourishing of the acequias, or communal irrigation canals, farming communities of the Upper Rio Grande watershed in New Mexico and Colorado.

Water Alternatives - Journal

Water Alternatives is an interdisciplinary journal addressing the full range of issues that water raises in contemporary societies. Its ambition is to provide space for alternative and critical thinking on such issues.

International Rivers

International Rivers protects rivers and defends the rights of communities that depend on them. They work to stop destructive dams and promote water and energy solutions for a just and sustainable world.
International Rivers also focuses on energy issues and is mentioned in False Solutions in Energy/Minerals

Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature (GARN)

GARN is a network of organizations and individuals committed to the universal adoption and implementation of legal systems that recognize, respect and enforce “Rights of Nature”.

GAIA Foundation

GAIA accompanies partners, communities and movements in Africa, South America, Asia and Europe by supporting communities and social movements on the front line of struggles to protect land, water and life, and to build regenerative alternatives to mining and extractivism.

Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save the Narmada Movement)

Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) is an Indian social movement spearheaded by native tribes (adivasis), farmers, environmentalists and human rights activists against a number of large dam projects across river Narmada, which flows through the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

European Rivers Network

Through a myriad of activities, including information campaigns and educational programmes, the network is involved in the protection of rivers and their ecosystems.

Additional Readings & Resources on Water Justice and Water Sovereignty: 

Books, Articles, and Reports: 

Toolkits and Maps 

Campaigns and Petitions 

Way Forward 2:

Democratization and Remunicipalisation of Water

The dominant water governance frameworks reproduce water colonialism which normalises settler occupation of land, the dispossession of Indigenous peoples of water, and legitimises settler exploitation of water. Likewise, scientific expertise of hydrology is valued over knowledge produced over centuries through Indigenous peoples’ water rights, responsibilities, and governance systems. Privatization of water for profit maximization, control of water resources through megadam hydraulic projects, and reinforcing concepts like watershed management, water quality control and sense of scarcity perpetuate water commodification.

However in the last few decades, there have been local mobilizations against privatization efforts, mostly in the global north. Remunicipalisation is a local response by citizens and local authorities to systematically failing water privatisations and public private partnerships (PPPs). Multiple layers of water issues like pollution and depletion of watersheds have threatened Indigenous peoples’ rights to control water for the public good by other legal imperatives for water that do not respect its sustainable use or indigenous cultural autonomy and traditional systems.
Therefore, in order to resist control by corporations, Alternative World Water Forum (FAMA) successfully made its own space of diversity, welcoming the indigenous movements, quilombolas, fishermen, traditional communities, rural organisations, and socio-environmental movements from all over the world.

Unlike contemporary systems that solely frame water as a commodity, the indigenous cultural autonomy and traditional systems of commons-based management systems includes the right to democratic control over the management of water resources while presenting that the idea of water rights goes well beyond defined terms of access and use.

Organizations leading the way in Democratization and Remunicipalisation of Water:

Remunicipalisation - Transnational Institute (TNI) 

There are many motivations behind (re)municipalisation initiatives: a goal to end private sector abuse or labour violations; a desire to regain control over the local economy and resources; a wish to provide people with affordable services; or an intention to implement ambitious climate strategies

WaterJustice.org: Resource Center for Alternatives to Privatization

Waterjustice.org is an open space to connect people from around the world dedicated to effective, democratic and equitable water solutions, including community activists, NGO campaigners, academic researchers, trade unionists and water utility managers. The success of the website will depend primarily on the active participation of these diverse groups.

Hydropower Reform Coalition

Hydropower Reform Coalition is a diverse consortium of more than 160 national, regional, and local organizations with a combined membership of more than one million people.

Amrta Institute for Water Literacy (Indonesia)

Amrta Institute for Water Literacy’s mission is to increase public awareness in water management, wise use, and sustainable water protection; find and implement efforts to overcome water scarcity for ecosystem sustainability and public welfare through water conservation; and fight for the public rights to get water with fair access.

Public Service International 

Public Services International is part of the original movement of Internationals: united groups of socialists, trade unionists and workers created to link the struggles of the working class around the world.

La Red VIDA (Inter-American Network for the Defense of the Right to Water)

La Red VIDA is a campaign in defense of water as a public good and a fundamental right. The network consists of consumer associations, women’s organizations, environmentalists, labour unions, human rights activists, religious groups, indigenous groups and social organizations.

Additional Readings & Resources on Water Democratization:

Way Forward 3:

Implementation of Land Reform and Defense of Territories

Food production has tripled over the past half-century. The technological advances have accelerated mass productions leading to a disproportionate accumulation of wealth, power and injustices. The capitalist regime operates by maximizing land use rights to destroy the environment in order to accomplish profits over sustainability. The key driver is the underlying logic and operation of capital and the biophysical requirements of capital accumulation. In addition, the top two key drivers of water grabbing are changing patterns in global food markets and rise in agrofuels. Both these factors are linked to the food system which is fueling the new wave of water grabbing. The legal complexity surrounding water rights is used as a tool for water grabbing in many regions of the global south.

One of the most prominent forms of strategy to accumulate power and exploitation of land is through ‘land grab’, which allows for the capacity to decide how and for what purposes the land and water can be used now and in the future. In the past few years, the land rush has spiked due to the recognition that there is a limitation to the agricultural system. Another key dynamic that has played a role in this phenomenon is the impacts of climate change in agricultural yields which is adding an unprecedented pressure on the global food system.  Therefore, as long as state systems exist, a critical tool to adopt is to promote policies to protect and support local farmers, or the peasant food web which feeds 70% of the world population.

Organizations leading the way:

Focus on the Global South

Focus on the global south’s works emphasize peoples’ alternatives to build and sustain better lives, societies, economies, and environments, while converging these activities towards re-articulating a paradigm that Focus believes is both timely and crucial: deglobalisation. The current work has three broad thematic areas: 1) Political economy of development, 2) Power and Democracy, 3) Peoples’ Alternatives, each of which are interrelated and interdependent.

Global forest coalition

The Global Forest Coalition (GFC) is an international coalition of NGOs and Indigenous Peoples’ Organizations defending social justice and the rights of forest peoples in forest policies.

Yes To Life, No To Mining

YLNM was founded in 2014 by communities, organisations and networks from Africa, Europe, North and South America. Their network exists to support those communities who have decided to say NO to mining, in recognition of their right to say no, their right to Free Prior and Informed Consent and the unique challenges they face in defending land, water and life.

GAIA Foundation

Environmental Justice Organizations, Liabilities and Trade (EJOLT)

World Rainforest Movement

The World Rainforest Movement (WRM) is an international initiative that aims to contribute to struggles, reflections and political actions of forest-dependent peoples, indigenous, peasants and other communities in the global South. WRM is part of a global movement for social and environmental justice and respect for human and collective rights.

Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID)

AWID is a global, feminist, membership, movement-support organization working to achieve gender justice and women’s human rights worldwide.

Global Witness

Global Witness’s mission understands that many of the world’s worst environmental and human rights abuses are driven by the exploitation of natural resources and corruption in the global political and economic system. Global Witness is campaigning to end this.

Additional Resources: