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The Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy (PHRGE) is at the center of the School of Law’s human rights efforts and works closely with scholars, institutions and advocates nationally and internationally to address issues of human rights and economic development. Reflecting our faculty's interests, PHRGE is particularly engaged with the international movement to promote economic, social and cultural rights.

Statement on Human Rights and Racial Murders

The persistence of systemic police violence against Black people in the United States, exemplified by the unredressed killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, and state-sanctioned murders of many others, is inexorably linked to the permanence of racist structural inequality and human rights violations reflected in the food desserts, lead-tainted water, substandard housing and homelessness, double-prevalence of almost every infectious and non-infectious disease, including COVID-19, chronic unemployment, and “cancer” alleys and other environmental degradations imposed on African-Americans and others of African descent. 
>> Read PHRGE's Statement on Human Rights and Racial Murders

Featured Publications

Disconnected: How Household Water Shutoffs in the United States During the COVID Pandemic Violate the Human Right to Water
DisconnectedTo mark Human Rights Day on Wednesday, December 10, 2020, the Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy released a new publication, Disconnected: How Household Water Shutoffs in the United States During the COVID Pandemic Violate the Human Right to Water.” Linnea Brandt ’22 is the lead author of the report. Additional comments and feedback were provided by Martha F. Davis, University Distinguished Professor of Law, Northeastern University; Sharon L. Harlan, Professor and Chair, Department of Health Sciences; Laura Senier, Associate Professor of Sociology and Health Sciences; and Roger Colton, J.D., of Fisher, Sheehan, and Colton.

This is PHRGE’s fifth 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; and (4) A Drop in the Bucket: Water Affordability Policies in Twelve Massachusetts Communities.

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"Drop in the Bucket
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) 

Recent Highlights

  • August 28, 2020: Alfred Brownell, PHRGE Distinguished Scholar in Residence and Goldman Environmental Prize winner, joined the Living On Earth podcast to talk about the importance of protecting the remaining Liberian tropical rainforest. (more)
  • August 6, 2020: Professor Martha Davis has teamed up with Rajat Khosla, human rights advisor for the Department of Reproductive Health Research at the World Health Organization, to author a new article that explores evolving human rights norms and standards relating to infertility. (more)
  • June 22, 2020: Elizabeth Ennen ’08, director of Northeastern Law’s Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy (PHRGE), is one of the leaders of the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission's COVID-19 Task Force Pro Bono Committee. The Committee has just launched a new online tool connecting attorneys and law students to pandemic-related pro bono opportunities that serve low-income residents of the Commonwealth. (more)
  • July 24, 2019: Professor Martha Davis writes about the impact of rising water prices on the state’s low-income residents in an article for WBUR's Cognoscenti
  • April 17, 2019: Alfred Brownell,  a Distinguished Scholar in Residence in Northeastern University School of Law’s Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy (PHRGE), delivered the 25th Annual Valerie Gordon Human Rights Lecture. 
  • March 8, 2019: Professor Margaret Woo, PHRGE Faculty Co-Director, was interviewed by China Global Television Network about the gender discrimination faced by Chinese women in the workplace.
  • January 23, 2019:  Alfred Lahai Brownell, PHRGE Distinguished Scholar, delivered a masterclass at the School of Law. The lecture focused on Brownell’s recent victory against Golden Veroleum, an oil palm developer, in which the Appeal Panel of the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil denied the company’s appeal against complaints that Brownell and his colleagues filed in 2012 on behalf of communities and indigenous peoples in Liberia. 
  • November 27, 2018: PHRGE Legal Fellow, Mariah McGill, has co-authored an article, “Engaging Human Rights Norms to Realize Health Care in Massachusetts, USA,” which is featured on the Health and Human Rights Journal website.

  • November 2018: PHRGE Senior Fellow Maria Green was among the civil society representatives at the plenary session of the 8th Meeting of the UN Inter-Agency and Expert Group on SDGs Indicators in Stockholm, Sweden. Maria was an invited participant in the subsequent UN IAEG-SDGs Working Meeting on Data Disaggregation.
  • November 1, 2018: The Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy is pleased to announce five new appointees to its prestigious fellowship program: Meskerem Demese LLM '19, Mariane Tokarski Pereira Lousa 19, Hakeem Muhammad 20, Kathleen Thaete 19 and Emma Winkler '19. 
  • October 15, 2018: The Institute of International Education Scholar Rescue Fund (IIE-SRF) has selected Alfred Brownell, PHRGE Distinguished Scholar in Residence, to receive its inaugural Beau Biden Chair. Dr. Jill Biden, former Second Lady of the United States, 2009–2017, presented the award to Brownell at the IIE’s annual gala in New York City on October 15.

>> See all news


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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