Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy

Our Mission

The Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy (PHRGE) at Northeastern University School of Law was founded in 2005. Our mission is threefold:

  • To promote human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights, within the Northeastern community;
  • To support cutting-edge scholarship on human rights with a particular focus on economic, social, and cultural rights;
  • To work to implement human rights norms and sound economic development approaches worldwide.

2023 World Water Day

For World Water Day 2023, PHRGE collaborated with the University of Miami Human Rights Clinic and the Indigenous Safe Housing Center on two new, accessible fact sheets on the human right to water. One fact sheet  provides general information about the right, including government obligations to ensure access to water. The other fact sheet addresses issues relating to indigenous water rights, including access to water for spiritual and cultural uses. These publications join PHRGE’s series of briefing papers on water rights, available on PHRGE’s Right to Water webpage.

2023 US Visit of UN Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice

PHRGE and the Center for Race, Equality, and the Law (CLEAR) co-authored a report, The Absence of Accountability for Police Violence towards People of African Descent in the United States of America, and submitted it to the U.N. Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice and Equality in the Context of Law Enforcement in anticipation of its visit to the United States from April 24 to May 5, 2023.

2022 CERD Review of the United States

PHRGE submitted two shadow reports for the review of the United States conducted by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination: (1) with the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel, Race and Representation in the United States: Civil Right to Counsel as a Human Right, and (2) with the International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies, Toward An Effective National Human Rights Institution for the United States of America.

Professor Martha Davis and PHRGE Co-op Student Jennifer Wakefield '23 attended the CERD Review in Geneva, where they advocated for the civil right to counsel as a human right and for the importance of establishing a national human rights institution in the United States.

Featured Publications

Recognizing the Human Right to a Healthy Environment: Annotated Bibliography

This article appeared in Extra Legal, a publication of the Northeastern University Law Review, on January 27, 2023. It is co-authored by Solène Kerisit, a master’s degree student in public economic law at Sciences Po Law School, and University Distinguished Professor of Law Martha F. Davis, co-director of the Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy (PHRGE) at Northeastern University School of Law. The article, which was developed during Ms. Kerisit’s PHRGE internship in the summer of 2022, provides important resources for advocates and scholars interested in the newly recognized right to a healthy environment.


Legal Mapping for Resilience: Navaho Nation, May 2022.

This report on the human rights to water and sanitation was prepared by Keely Lovato ’23 as part of an independent study with Professor Martha Davis.


PHRGE Marks “Imagine a Day Without Water Day” with Report on Ways to Assist Renters

The Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy has released the latest publication in its series on water and human rights in the US, “How Five Creative Water Utilities Are Assisting “Hard-to-Reach” Renters as Water Rates Rise.” The briefing paper examines innovative water assistance programs that reach renters and its release coincides with Imagine a Day Without Water,  a national day of action that brings together diverse stakeholders to highlight how water is essential, invaluable and in need of investment.

“Renters have long been excluded from many assistance programs aimed to help low-income consumers with rising water costs, even though they pay for water either directly or indirectly,” said Professor Martha Davis, PHRGE’s faculty director. “This briefing paper highlights five water utilities that have recognized the equity and human rights issues created by renters’ exclusion, and have taken creative steps to ensure that renters get the assistance that they need. We hope that the information in this briefing paper will encourage other water utilities to likewise think outside of the box.”

This is PHRGE’s seventh publication in a series on the human right to water. The other publications are: (1) “The Human Right to Water: A Research Guide and Annotated Bibliography”; (2) ”The Human Right to Water: Using Freedom of Information Laws to Understand Rising Water Rates;” (3) “The Human Right to Water: A Primer for Lawyers and Community Leaders;” (4) “A Drop in the Bucket: Water Affordability Policies in Twelve Massachusetts Communities;” (5)  “Disconnected: How Household Water Shutoffs in the United States During the COVID Pandemic Violate the Human Right to Water;” and (6)  “Voluntary Local Reviews and the Human Right to Water.”

Roshni PatelChampioning Water Rights as Human Rights

In conjunction with her participation in Professor Martha Davis’ Human Rights in the United States seminar, Roshni Patel ’20 is the lead author of a new chapter on the water and human rights, supplementing the 2014 edition of Human Rights in the US: A Handbook for Legal Aid Attorneys. The chapter reflects an ongoing collaboration between the Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy (PHRGE), co-directed by Davis, and Maryland Legal Aid (MLA). Frank Vitale ’14, senior attorney for human rights at MLA, worked closely with Patel as she developed the chapter and expects to put it to use in MLA’s practice.

A Drop in the Bucket: Water Affordability Policies in Twelve Massachusetts Communities
As part of a research team at Northeastern University that is studying water unaffordability and its impacts in 12 Massachusetts communities including Boston, Brockton, Cambridge, Lawrence, Lowell, New Bedford, Springfield, Somerville, Quincy and Worcester, Professor Martha Davis was lead author on PHRGE's fourth publication in a series on the human right to water.
(Released July 2019) 


The Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy provides many opportunities for faculty, law graduates, and current students to work on promoting and implementing human rights, particularly economic, social, and cultural rights. It is also the center of human rights research and scholarship at Northeastern University School of Law.

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