From 2008 to 2014 Catarina de Albuquerque became the first United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation, having played a pivotal role in the recognition of water and sanitation as human rights by the UN General Assembly in 2010. Her work helped ensure the rights to water and sanitation were incorporated into the formal Sustainable Development Goals 2015-2030 document approved by the UN General Assembly. The only human rights explicitly mentioned.
This followed a four-year period during which she presided over the negotiations of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights at the United Nations – a treaty allowing people to bring complaints regarding human rights violations against their governments to the UN.
After successfully completing her second and final term as UN Special Rapporteur in December 2014, Catarina de Albuquerque was appointed Executive Chair of Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) global partnership which has the objectives of achieving universal access to clean water and adequate sanitation for all, always and everywhere. Catarina de Albuquerque is continuing her work to implement the human rights to water and sanitation.