Realizing Human Rights for Water in Industry

Funded by: BHPCountry: WorldwideDate Range: 2021- presentProject Lead: Pulte InstituteNotre Dame Collaborators: Environmental Change Initiative, Keough School of Global AffairsContact: María Chacón

The Pulte Institute, in partnership with faculty from Notre Dame’s Environmental Change Initiative and the Keough School of Global Affairs, has produced a groundbreaking rights-based approach to water stewardship that empowers actors in water-intensive industries to promote and protect the human right to water and interrelated human rights. The Realizing Rights for Water (RRW) Framework uniquely combines hydrological, political, and legal considerations into a series of questions that allow industry actors to assess how a proposed set of industrial processes could impact human rights within the areas of operation. These questions aim to capture the right to water's multi-dimensionality and intersectionality with other critical economic, social, and cultural rights. Ultimately, the RRW Framework allows state and non-state industrial actors to proactively mitigate risk and prevent abuse when conducting water-intensive operations. 

The framework builds from established paradigms of water scarcity, hydrological cycles, and water governance, as well as emerging trends in jurisprudence globally. The multi-disciplinary team validated the framework's flexibility and comprehensiveness by applying it to a series of case studies differing in hydrological, political, and industrial contexts. In addition, in 2022, the multi-disciplinary research team had the opportunity to present the RRW Framework at World Water Week, as well as at the United Nations during the 2022 Social Forum, which focused on Water for Sustainable Development. The Framework was highly regarded at both conferences and has led to additional presentation and funding opportunities. 

In the current phase of the project, the team is looking to expand the framework to consider the water-food-energy nexus more broadly and to establish a database of case studies documenting the relationship between hydro-industrial operations and the human right to water. The team also aims to partner with a private-sector company to pilot the framework in one or more operational settings to further validate its feasibility and responsiveness to context-dependent understandings of the right.

The research team is being led by Marc Muller, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences, Diane Desierto, Professor of Law and Global Affairs, and Ellis Adjei Adams, Assistant Professor of Geography and Environmental Policy. The project is managed by María Chacón of the Pulte Institute, and benefits greatly from the guidance of Ray Offenheiser, the William J. Pulte Director of the Pulte Institute, Tom Purekal, Director of the Innovation and Practice Division at the Pulte Institute, and Georges Enderle, the John T. Ryan Jr. Professor Emeritus of International Business Ethics.


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