Graduate Alumni Update: Ute Reisinger


Ute Reisinger studied at the University of Connecticut as a Fulbright Scholar in 2015. Before moving to the United States she worked in the private sector and in international development in Europe, China and Mozambique. Since completing her Master’s degree in International Studies, Ute works for the Inter-American Development Bank.

Even before I finished my MA degree in International Studies at UCONN, I got a job at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in Washington DC. As a social specialist in the Environmental and Social Safeguards Unit I support our borrowing countries in identifying, avoiding and mitigating negative impacts and risks of development projects. These range from building highways or geothermal plants to national investment programs for green innovation. Specifically, I monitor the resettlement and adequate compensation of affected populations, facilitate meaningful stakeholder consultation or ensure the socio-culturally adequate integration of indigenous peoples and other vulnerable groups into development programs.

Just last week I visited a project on Colombia’s northern coast, where the IDB financed access to drinking water for Indigenous Communities. The national and regional Colombian authorities designed and implemented the program in response to a report from the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights highlighting their obligations to realize economic, social and cultural rights. The IBD supports the government to ensure that the public service providing access to water be accessible, sufficient, safe, culturally appropriate and affordable.

Throughout my professional career and my research at UCONN, I used human rights, especially economic and social human rights, as a tool to advocate for sustainable development. Now, the IDB’s safeguards policies fulfill the same purpose for me.

While Development Finance Institutions like the IDB have traditionally been silent on human rights, the Sustainable Development Goals have shifted the global discourse highlighting the responsibilities of international financial institutions in international development. Moreover, increased transparency, better access to information and the work of their own accountability mechanisms, have raised awareness of the potentially harmful impacts of development projects financed by multilateral development banks.

In this context, the IDB is currently updating its safeguards policies. This is an exiting time to be part of the team and offers plenty of opportunities to learn more about and advocate for human rights in development projects.

Apart from work, I am still contributing to the Human Rights Measurement Initiative, the research initiative I worked on at UCONN that has now become the first global initiative to track the human rights performance of countries and produces metrics for the full range of human rights listed in the International Bill of Human Rights: https://humanrightsmeasurement.org

I chose to use my Fulbright scholarship to study at UCONN because the university is a member of a research consortium that is dedicated to the extraterritorial application of human rights obligations: https://www.etoconsortium.org. So, I knew that there would be professors working in the field I was interested in. My academic research at UCONN perfectly combined my background in economics and human rights with my experience working in development, which uniquely qualified me for my current position – working for an international organization and the realization of human rights beyond national borders.

Bio:

Ute Reisinger studied at the University of Connecticut as a Fulbright Scholar in 2015. Before moving to the United States she worked in the private sector and in international development in Europe, China and Mozambique. Since completing her Master’s degree in International Studies, Ute works for the Inter-American Development Bank.