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Freshwater as a phenomenon in international law is notoriously multifaceted. Water appears as a public good, and also as an economic good; it appears as a human right and also as a state’s right; it is addressed by the principle of sovereignty over natural resources and it also figures in the common heritage discourse.

At the level of practical application there are different usages of water -including domestic use, food production, industry, hydropower-, and multiple legal regimes applying to one or more of these usages. The combination of variables yields a fantastically wide-ranging picture, both in normative substance and procedure.

This is visible for example in the variety of legal discourses used amid tensions over the Nile basin. It also emerges from the manifestation of water both as a public good and as an economic good (cf e.g. CETA Article 1.9 and General Comment 15, 2002 ICESCR Ctee), at issue for example in the episodes of privatization of water services in Latin-America and South Africa.

This project focuses on the -unwieldy- points of intersection between water usages, doctrinal categories and normative regimes. The driving question is how these can best be tackled in the light of increasing local water scarcity and the ensuing need for global (re)distribution of water resources.


  • European Society of International Law Reflection, ‘Sustainable Development Goal 6 as a Game Changer for International Water Law’, Reflection Vol. 7, Issue 5, 2018.
  • Paper – ‘Regime complexes in international water law’, presented at An-Najah National University, conference Recent developments of International Water Law: Implications for the Palestinian case 24 October 2018, Nablus.
  • Panellist in “The Implementation Committee of the UNECE Water Convention”, University College London and Bologna University, 22 April 2021
  • Speaker and participant in the Expert Roundtable on the Geneva List of Principles on the Protection of Water Infrastructures During and After Armed Conflicts organised by the Geneva Water Hub’s Platform for International Water Law of the University of Geneva, Geneva 13-14 December 2018.
  • Closed expert consultation for the preparation of the 2018 UN General Assembly Report by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, OHCHR Geneva, 14-15 May 2018.


Since 2018


Catherine Brölmann

Regarding the aspects of natural resources and human rights, the present project is linked to that of Corina Heri The Emerging Human Rights of Peasants

Mr. dr. C.M. (Catherine) Brölmann

Faculty of Law

Public International Law