Notre Dame faculty present water access and human rights expertise at UN


Diane Desierto Un

Diane Desierto, professor of law and global affairs, chairs the side event “Water and

Human Rights Unlocked: A Guide for Water-intensive Industries” at the UN Human

Rights Council’s Social Forum in Geneva on November 4, 2022.

Five Notre Dame experts recently presented new research at the United Nations that offers guidance on how industries can sustainably manage water resources and preserve human access to safe, clean water.

At the UN Office of Geneva, Ellis Adams (EIGH affiliate), Diane Desierto, Elizabeth Dolan, Leonardo Bertassello, and Marc Muller presented the framework “Water and Human Rights Unlocked: A Guide for Water-intensive Industries” at a side event during the UN Human Rights Council’s 2022 Social Forum on November 3-4, 2022. The social forum convened special rapporteurs and other human rights experts, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, executive directors of intergovernmental organizations, and government representatives from relevant ministries.


The framework, which was commissioned by the global mining company BHP and developed by an interdisciplinary team of academics and practitioners at Notre Dame, builds industry’s capacity to diagnose water-related human rights risks and incorporate human rights concerns into their project designs. Housed and managed at the Keough School’s Pulte Institute for International Development, it is especially relevant to water-intensive sectors such as beverage, garment, mining, and agriculture. 

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Left to right: Marc Muller, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering

and earth sciences; Elizabeth Dolan, innovation and practice research associate,

Pulte Institute for Global Development; Ellis Adams, assistant professor of geography

and environmental policy; Leonardo Bertasello, postdoctoral associate, Notre Dame

Environmental Change Initiative.

First presented at 2022 World Water Week, the leading international conference on global water issues, “Water and Human Rights Unlocked” aims to provoke conversation on the importance of an implementation-based, human rights strategy for water stewardship in industry; the necessity of an interdisciplinary approach to the human right to water; and the opportunities for the private sector to contribute to the sustainable management of water resources. 

Moving forward, the team of scholars and practitioners aims to maximize influence on water and environmental stewardship practices in water-intensive industries by establishing a longstanding laboratory. The team also plans to apply the framework to global case studies; pilot the framework as proof of concept; explore linkages between the right to water and interrelated rights (such as the right to health and to the environment); and further establish partnerships at Notre Dame and with end users in business enterprise, government, intergovernmental, and regulatory organizations.

All photos by Marina Cavazza.

Originally published on on December 1, 2022.