Social Justice Snapshot
A strategic objective of M-POWER has been to increase awareness of social justice norms, including notions of fairness, equality of treatment and opportunity, and on this basis redress and transform gender, class, ethnic and other inequities through both research and action on water governance.
Analysis of policies and practices by M-POWER often identified and highlighted the impacts, risks and opportunities of water infrastructure development projects on disadvantaged social groups. One important lesson from several M-POWER studies is that public participation programs are not a panacea. Governments and other actors in the Mekong Region often take an instrumental approach to participation and, as a consequence, being included can be a cost not a benefit. Participation can also legitimize otherwise flawed processes and decisions. The terms and conditions of participation need to be examined critically.
Another insight from several studies is that many water projects continue to be evaluated and promoted in terms of their benefits with insufficient attention given to their costs, burdens or risks. Reducing these differences in opportunities, rights, risks and benefits is an outstanding political challenge requiring more intense engagement by researchers and those at a disadvantage. Protests and advocacy directly by and on behalf of small-scale fishers and farmers already or potentially affected by infrastructure projects and policy changes has often been important for change and should not be discounted as an important impact pathway.