GNHRE-UNEP School for Human Rights and the Environment

2022 Summer/Winter School:

Water from Oceans to Taps

The Global Network for Human Rights and the Environment (GNHRE) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) will host their second annual online School on Environmental and Human Rights from 20-24 June 2022. This year the Summer/Winter School will focus on the theme Water – from oceans to taps. From inner-city infrastructure to hydro-dams, from spiritual waterways to transnational rivers, from exclusive economic zones to the depths of the oceans, the whole interconnected water cycle and the lives it supports are increasingly under threat.

You can read more about the School for Human and Environmental Rights here:

In February 2021, the Magpie River in Canada was recognized as a legal person. Later in 2021, devastating floods damaged, destroyed and displaced communities in Brazil, Turkey, the Philippines, Germany, Australia, and Malaysia among others. In this same past year, the world continued to face unprecedented levels of drought, with dire drought conditions affecting the US, Chile, Madagascar, Brazil, and South Africa among others. Also in 2021, US President Biden launched an infrastructure plan that included US$80 billion in critical water investments, Chilean lawmakers started a process to reform the almost entirely privatized water rights system, while the UAE began work on three new desalination plants to meet demands for potable water that far outstrip fresh water supplies in the area. In the past year, courts have been called on to adjudicate disputes about state versus private rights to groundwater (US), the increasing costs of potable water and sanitation services (South Africa), the injustice of intermittent water supply to rural communities (India), First Nation’s rights to clean water (Canada) among many other matters. 2021 saw another year of countries being devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, exacerbated in areas where limited access to clean water facilitates viral spread. At the same time, the pandemic resulted in an additional 26 000 tons of plastic waste entering the oceans. The IPCC’s 2021 6th Assessment report stated that continued sea level rise was projected to be “irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years.” 2021 was also the year the World Bank released its Ebb and Flow report, highlighting the link between water crisis and rising levels of migration.

Water is intimately connected to every aspect of our lives, to every part of the environment and to all of our human rights. However, research into water is often seen as a highly specialized area. However, our goal for the Summer/Winter School is not only to engage with cutting edge work in the field, but also for environmental & human rights scholars, practitioners and activists who have not worked on water, to begin to think about the water system in relation to their work.

The insights arising from ongoing research, as well as from Global South-North and rightholders-researchers collaborations, under the One Ocean Hub have contributed to identify themes and approaches for the call for panels, in order to help address disconnects between areas of expertise and practice on human rights and the environment. With special thanks to Prof Elisa Morgera, Advisor to the School for Human Rights and Environment.

The 2022 Summer/Winter School is organized by Angela Kariuki and Dina Lupin and hosted in partnership with Southampton School of Law.

Astrid Milena Bernal

By Astrid Milena Bernal

Astrid Milena Bernal Rubio is a Colombian LL.M student at Pennsylvania State University (concentrations in International Law and Energy and Environmental Law). She is a lawyer from the Universidad Católica de Colombia, Magister in Environmental Law from the Complutense University of Madrid and Specialist in human rights and critical legal studies from the Latin American Council of Social Sciences (CLACSO) Latin American School of Public Policy- ELAP.

As part of the technical team of GFLAC (climate finance group for Latin America and the Caribbean), she supported the creation of the MRV system (monitoring, reporting and verification) for climate finance in Colombia. In addition, she has been a consultant for the WRI (World Resources Institute) and The Access Initiative (TAI), working as the National researcher for the Environmental Democracy Index (EDI). Also, she has worked as a consultant for AVINA Foundation, The Bogotá’s drainage and sewerage company (EAAB). She has worked as a lawyer and researcher on issues associated with public participation, access to information, forests, carbon markets, rights of indigenous peoples and rural communities in Colombia.

Astrid was a volunteer for the Network for Environmental Justice in Colombia and promoted the creation and growth of the climate justice division at the Environment and Society Association (AAS) of Colombia. She worked as the Climate Justice division coordinator for five years. Astrid was a senior research coordinator in a joint research project with UNICEF to contribute to the fulfilment of the SDGs (6), focusing its work on guaranteeing the rights of access to sanitation for rural, indigenous and Afro-descendant populations in Colombia. She is also part of the founders of the Colombian NGO- CAMBIUM (Climate, Environment and Research-Action Uniting Worlds). This organization aims to, directly and indirectly, influence processes carried out by civil society and decision-makers related to climate change.

Currently, she works at the Global Forest Coalition as an associate for the Unsustainable Livestock Campaign. Astrid also supports the work of Pivot Point and the CLARA group (Climate, Land, Ambition and Rights Alliance), promoting the understanding and participation of CSOs to ensure higher ambition of NDC (Nationally Determined Contributions) in Spanish speakers countries.

Astrid is a research assistant at Penn State University identifying how different kinds of transboundary river basin organizations have written and used dispute resolution mechanisms in both the bilateral agreements between the US, Mexico and Canada (NAFTA-USMCA) and the Autonomous Binational Authority of the Basin of Lake Titicaca (Bolivia, Peru).

Astrid is member of the core team in the Global Network for Human Rights and the Environment (GNHRE), she is part of the global network of environmental lawyers (ELAW) and collaborates as a volunteer for The Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition- CAIR coalition.