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David Blake

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Review for International Rivers Network dba International Rivers, Berkeley, CA, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

International Rivers (or IRN as it was formerly known) is a non-govt. organisation that in my opinion is exemplary in its approach and gets to the heart of the problem. By this I mean that in terms of its approach and philosophy towards confronting the very real threats that face the world's rivers, it has always led the way in getting the right balance between public information and pragmatic lobbying and advocacy work behind the scenes. No other organisation that I can think of manages to achieve the same amount of public awareness of environmental issues, while still keeping its original values and visions to protect human rights of communities along with free-flowing rivers. I can speak from my experience of working in the countries of the Lower Mekong Basin, that International Rivers has consistently been vocal and ubiquitous in speaking out for the rights of affected communities in the face of devastating impacts caused by hydropower dams and ill-conceived development projects. As a result, they are widely respected and have achieved much progress in raising thorny issues concerned with individual dam projects and wider development programmes with a variety of actors on all sides of the debate, which might otherwise have been brushed under the carpet. Furthermore, I can vouch for the integrity and selfless commitment of the IR staff members I've had the pleasure to meet and work with over the past eight years, who are totally dedicated to fighting for the interests of rivers and the people that rely on them for lives and livelihoods. This was brought home most clearly by the incredible feat of organising the Rivers for Life meeting of dam affected people from across the world at Rasi Salai in Thailand in 2003. Despite difficult conditions and limited budgets, the staff and local people involved managed to pull off a fantastic conference without the need for a fancy hotel so beloved of more profligate organisations that claim to act on behalf of the environment, that really cemented solidarity amongst the hundreds of people involved to fight on against bad dams, ill-conceived policy, corruption, human rights abuses, poor governance, etc. To sum up, International Rivers encapsulates for me everything that an environmental NGO should embody and I hope it never loses sight of the principles and goals on which it was founded. It deserves praise for the struggles it engages in and light it shines on often hidden issues in the Global South.

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

meeting the staff and seeing the dedication and enthusiasm they put into their work, even under very testing circumstances.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

dedicated, hard working, knowledgeable, practical, adaptable and good humoured.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

After a quick celebration, start spending some of it to fight the destructive dam building projects springing up across South and East Asia, by establishing good and relevant research to challenge the claims of the dam lobby, and empowering local communities to carry on local struggles and build resilience.

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2008

Role:  Professional with expertise in this field & I cooperated with International Rivers on several reports in SE Asia, to highlight environmental and social issues surrounding hydropower projects.