Gillian MacNaughton, PHRGE Senior Fellow, and Ford Foundation Fellows, Mariah McGill and Angela Duger, are working on several projects to develop and document the use of human rights frameworks, strategies and tools to advance economic and social rights through human rights monitoring and policymaking processes. Human rights practitioners have traditionally relied upon a limited toolbox, including litigation and letter-writing campaigns, which adress violations of human rights. Today human rights practitioners are using a variety of proactive human rights strategies and tools - including human rights impact assessment, indicators and benchmarks, and budget analysis - to analyze government performance, guide legislative reforms and build social movements for economic justice.

Current projects in the area include:

  • Health Care is a Human Right Campaign: A Project with the Vermont Workers’ Center Ford Foundation Fellow Mariah McGill has investigated and documented the Vermont Workers’ Center’s “Health Care is a Human Right Campaign.”  This four-year campaign achieved ground-breaking results in May 2011 when the Vermont Legislature adopted a bill that provides a framework for universal, single-payer health care in Vermont based on human rights principles.  The campaign continues to work to hold lawmakers accountable to ensure the success of a universal health care system.  Ms. McGill has published several articles on the grassroots movement for universal health care, as well as on Vermont health care law.
  • Project on the Right to Health Care in the USA PHRGE Senior Fellow Gillian MacNaughton and Mariah McGill embarked on a project examining the right to health as currently recognized in the United States. Following up on her presentation at the University of Connecticut in April 2011, Ms. MacNaughton published an article in the Clearinghouse Review September/October 2011 issue analyzing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act from a human rights perspective.  The project continues in 2012 by examining the right to health recognized in many state constitutions and various grassroots movements for universal health care around the United States.  Ms. MacNaughton and Ms. McGill are currently working on an article based on this most recent research.
  • Right to Food Project Ford Foundation Fellow Angela Duger is exploring the right to food and its application in the United States.  Based upon the groundbreaking report by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier de Schutter, issued in March 2012, Ms. Duger has written for the IntLawGrrls and Health and Human Rights blogs documenting the potential of the right to food framework for combating obesity and non-communicable diseases.  Ms. Duger is also exploring the right to food language currently utilized in federal food programs, which will be the basis for an article she is co-authoring with Ms. MacNaughton for the Clearinghouse Review special issue on food in September/October 2012.  Together with Program Coordinator Nizhum Shaikh, Ms. Duger collaborated to create an educational wall presentation on the Right to Food at the School of Law.
  • Implementation without Ratification Project Though the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has not been ratified by the United States Senate, many of these rights are being implemented at the federal, state and local level in a myriad of ways.  This project examines the ways in which governments at the federal, state, county and municipal level are implementing economic and social rights. Ms. MacNaughton presented the initial research for this project at the annual meeting of the Law & Society Association in June 2011 in San Francisco.  Based on further evidence of local government initiatives to implement economic and social rights, Ms. McGill and Ms. MacNaughton co-authored an article to be published in a special issue of the Northeastern University Law Journal in the summer of 2012.
  • Towards Closing the Inequitable Drug Gap: Validating and Implementing a Right to Health Impact Assessment of Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights in Low and Middle Income Countries. Gillian MacNaughton (co-investigator) is collaborating on a research project with Lisa Forman, University of Toronto (principal investigator), Aboubakry Gollock and Ronald Labonte, (co-investigators). This project is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. In 2011, the project investigators carried out case studies on the health impact assessments done in Thailand and Peru during their bilateral negotiations with the United States.  The project investigators are currently working on an article for a human rights special issue of the Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal Journal.  PHRGE hosted an informal workshop with the project investigators in February to consider further collaborations. Annual Right to Education Panel Each year, PHRGE hosts a panel discussion on an issue relating to the right to education. The panel provides an opportunity to analyze a trend in modern education through the lens of human rights.  In 2011, the panel explored the issue of school “pushout” and discussed the various ways that schools in the United States and the United Kingdom encourage students to leave school before graduation.  In 2012, the panel explored the charter school movement and the human rights principle of universality.  Speakers focused in particular on the experience of students with disabilities, English language learners and other vulnerable groups.  The panelists were Elizabeth Sullivan, Education Program Officer of the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative, Kathleen Boundy ’76 of the Center for Law and Education and Marilyn Segal of Citizens for Public Schools.


  • Gillian MacNaughton, "A Human Rights-Based Approach to Social Impact Assessment," co-author Paul Hunt, chapter in New Directions in Social Impact Assessment: Conceptual and Methodological Advances edited by Frank Vanclay & Ana Maria Esteves, Edward Elgar Publishing (2012).
  • Mariah McGill, “Everybody In, Nobody Out: Vermont’s New Plan for Universal Health care” Clearinghouse Review: Journal of Poverty Law and Policy, Special Issue on Human Rights. (2011)
  • Gillian MacNaughton “The Right to Health Care in the United States” Clearinghouse Review: Journal of Poverty Law and Policy, Special Issue on Human Rights (September/October 2011)
  • Mariah McGill, Vermont Health Campaign Success, IntLawGrrls, May 8, 2011.
  • Mariah McGill, "The Human Right to Health Care in the State of Vermont", Vermont Bar Journal, (2011).
  • Mariah McGill, Vermont Reform and the Human Right to Health, IntLawGrrls February 19, 2011.  
  • Mariah McGill, "Using Human Rights to Move Beyond the Politically Possible" 44 Clearinghouse Review: Journal of Poverty Law and Policy 459 (2011)
  • Gillian MacNaughton, "Human Rights Frameworks, Strategies and Tools for the Poverty Lawyer's Toolbox," 44 Clearinghouse Review: Journal of Poverty Law and Policy 437 (January/February 2011).
  • Gillian MacNaughton, "Health Impact Assessment: The Contribution of the Right to the Highest Attainable Standard of Health," co-author Paul Hunt, 123 Public Health 302 (2009).
  • Gillian MacNaughton, "A Human Rights-Based Approach to Health Indicators," co-author Paul Hunt, chapter in Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Action edited by Mashood Baderin & Robert McCorquodale, Oxford University Press (2007).
  • Gillian MacNaughton, "Impact Assessments, Poverty and Human Rights: A Case Study Using the Right to the Highest Attainable Standard of Health," co-author Paul Hunt, Health and Human Rights Working Paper Series No 6, World Health Organization and UNESCO (2006).


  • Mariah McGill moderated PHRGE’s second annual panel on the right to education, “Charter Schools and the Universal Right to Education, on April 25, 2012.
  • Gillian MacNaughton, “Mainstreaming Human Rights into Impact Assessment” paper presented, Annual Conference of the International Association of Impact Assessment, 28 May - 4 June 2011, Puebla, Mexico.
  • Gillian MacNaughton, “Human Rights Toolkit” Session on the Human Rights Track, panelist invited by Maryland Legal Aid Bureau, “Partners for Justice” Symposium hosted by the Maryland Pro Bono Resource Center, Baltimore Convention Center, May 26, 2011.
  • Gillian MacNaughton, “The Peru Health Impact Assessment 2005: A Case Study” workshop presentation, “Toward Closing the Inequitable Drug Gap: Validating and Implementing a Right to Health Impact Assessment Tool of Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights in Low and Middle Income Countries” Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto, 5-6 May 2011.
  • Mariah McGill moderated PHRGE’s first annual panel on the right to education, “Realizing the Right to Education at Home and Abroad,” which explored school discipline and school pushout, on March 28, 2011.
  • Gillian MacNaughton, “New Tools and Techniques: Focus on Indicators and Impact Assessment,” invited speaker, workshop at the Symposium on “The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to the Highest Attainable Standard ofHealth: Looking Back and Moving Forward,” British Medical Association, London, 25-27 Sept 2008.