RIVER COMMONS projects receives INREF grant for collaborative research on river co-governance

February 22, 2021

Together with an inspiring alliance of scientific, policy, activists and grassroots organizations in Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America, the RIVER COMMONS project will work on equitable and participatory co-governance of river systems.

The five year research programme is about understanding and supporting innovative river co-governance initiatives around the world, and thereby contributing to equitable policies and sustainable socio-ecological river systems. This WRM-led research project received an INREF grant of € 1.2 million complemented by € 0.5 million co-funding from partners.

About the project

In the programme nine PhD researchers will investigate cases of river commons in Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America, where local multi-scale organisations co-govern their riverine environment. The project’s aim is to learn from their experiences in situ and translocally (successes, problems and creative solutions), and build new conceptual and methodological tools for research, education and stakeholder interaction. In particular, River Co-governance Labs will be organised in the case study sites to investigate river governance by actively involving stakeholders and mobilising their ideas for change.

The project’s framework encompasses four dimensions of river systems: River- as-Ecosociety, focusing on biophysical, ecological and use aspects; River-as-Territory, focusing on river governance rules and institutions; River-as-Subject, focusing on environmental justice issues and rights of the river; River-as-Movement, looking how riverine communities and allies organize and advocate for river co-management.

Parties involved

The project will be led by WRM’s Prof. Rutgerd Boelens and Dr. Jeroen Vos. It involves collaboration with other WRM staff and WUR chairgroups ELS, GEO, HWM, AEW and AFI. National partner organisations are CEDLA-University of Amsterdam, Dutch Water Authorities, Deltares, WWF Netherlands, Foundation Het Wantij, Drinkable Rivers Foundation and three waterschappen. International partners include: UNESCO, UNEP, IPBES, UN Harmony with Nature, IWMI, World Fish Migration Foundation, WWF Zambia, and universities in South Africa, Colombia, Uruguay, UK, USA, Canada, France and Spain. The research will be conducted jointly with local partner organisations like SOPPECOM, New Water Culture Foundation, KESAN and Fundación Alma.

RIVER COMMONS starts in September 2021 and will be led by WRM’s Prof. Rutgerd Boelens and Dr. Jeroen Vos. It will be implemented in close collaboration with the ERC Consolidator Grant research project Riverhood, which studies New Water Justice Movements (NWJM) in Ecuador, Colombia, Spain and the Netherlands.


To prepare and conceptualize the project with partners in all places of the globe, RIVER COMMONS partners made the following cross-cultural discussion video: