Our Rivers, Our Life
Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam
Rivers in South-East Asia constitute the main source of livelihood for millions of people. The pollution of water, construction of dams and climate change directly threatens this source and therefore the health and income of the people as well as the nature and its biodiversity.
The project was conceptualised around the establishment of a Regional Working Group on Biodiversity, consisting of 7 partner organisations (one per country) with coordination by a Secretariat.
The Working Group was responsible for the overall development, implementation and monitoring of the regional project goals. Each one of the 7 organisations were responsible for the implementation of projects locally, at the national level.
The project’s main aim was to promote the protection of 15 rivers and its natural ecosystems across 7 countries, to address climate change related consequences as well as to foster implementation of environmental children’s rights.
The target group for this project was mainly children and young people aged 13-15.
The Our Rivers, Our Life project included three key areas of intervention:
- Promoting advocacy for the rights of children and young people across regions and countries
- Promoting sustainable development and alternative models of growth
- Developing locally designed children’s environmental rights education
Several activities were organised with the aim to raise awareness among children, young people and communities at large on their right to a healthy environment, biodiversity and the protection of water basins, especially rivers. These included the organisation of workshops for children, a photo exhibition, a film festival as well as training courses for teachers.
The creation of ‘River Watch Groups’ is also worth mentioning. These were originally youth groups whose objective was to gather and process data on water pollution and to concretely protect their rivers from over-fishing; however, with the start of the project, they were consolidated and further expanded to improve cross-country collaborations and exchanges on river protection.
The project also established good relations with the media: press conferences, media workshops and media youth groups are just a few of the initiatives promoted within the scope of Our Rivers, Our Life.
Children, young people and partners managed to influence policy-making processes on the protection of the right of the child to a healthy environment as they participated in national and international meetings/conferences about land rights, human rights, environmental rights protection, and broadly development projects.
Results / M&E
By the end of the project, 11.571 children, young people, teachers and members of local communities took active roles to protect rivers and their local natural resources and biodiversity. Indeed, the project has largely contributed to the protection of rivers’ ecosystems across different countries.
The children-led ‘River Watch Groups’ successfully developed and established an environmental programme for natural resources conservation. They also created 11 learning methods and 19 curricula for environmental education activities.
This project constitutes a good practice with regards to inclusion: Internally displaced persons (IDPs) and indigenous people participated in media data collection processes and were given a platform to share their concerns regarding the environment.
In terms of influencing policy and law-making processes, this project was extremely successful. Activists managed to get in touch with lawmakers via extremely effective campaigning. Moreover, the project reached not just children and youth but also villagers and community members along 15 rivers. The far-reaching scope of the programme allowed effective access to local, regional and eventually national lawmakers. A total of 319 new lawmakers and decision-makers were reached and committed to support the young people’s involvement in a participatory mapping exercise led by indigenous young people. In addition to that, decision-makers also committed to the promotion of child and youth participation on issues regarding environmental justice.
Regarding M&E, this programme represents a good practice as it was evaluated at different stages of its implementation. This enabled an in-depth analysis and understanding of underlying problems/issues which allowed for the prevention of future challenges in Phase 2. The 7 partner organisations involved in the project were also assessed and deemed to be well-established in the local communities where they operated.
However, a point for improvement for future M&E processes was identified. It was difficult to design an evaluation model that allowed for an external evaluation team to assess all activities and interview the total of project stakeholders. Coordination among the partners in order to feed inputs from the countries into a common transnational advocacy was a challenge as well.