International Summer School on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

January 21, 2011



The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: From Paper Rules to Action

 Centre for Disability Law, National University of Ireland, Galway & Harvard Project on Disability


School Directors, Professor Gerard Quinn (NUI Galway, Ireland) & Professor Michael Stein (Harvard Program on Disability, USA)

 Dates: 6 June – 11 June 2011 inclusive


Venue: Centre for Disability Law & Policy,

National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland


The purpose of this six day Summer School is to equip participants with the insights and skills necessary to translate the generalities of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities into tangible reform for persons with disabilities.  

The participants will include persons with disabilities, their families, civil society groups of persons with disabilities as well as advocates for disability law reform, lawyers, policy makers and policy analysts and others.  

The Faculty includes senior academics, practitioners and policy makers from around the world who have been directly and actively engaged in drafting and implementing the Convention. 

They include Professor Michael Stein (Harvard Law School Project on Disability), Professor Gerard Quinn (NUI Galway, Ireland), Michael Bach (Inclusion International), Eric Rosenthal (Disability Rights International), Andrea Coomber (Interights, London), Gauthier de Beco (Associate Researcher at University of Louvain), Christian Courtis, (Office of the UN High Commission for Human Rights), Dr Eilionoir Flynn (NUI Galway), Sir Michael Wood (Essex Street Chambers, London, Member of the International Law Commission).

The Programme will introduce participants to the nature of the convention, to treaty interpretation in general, to the general concept of equality in the convention (and some of the relevant innovations in the CRPD).  It will draw out the differences between obligations of immediate effect (non-discrimination) and obligations of conduct (to ‘progressively achieve’) social and economic rights and how to identify which provisions in the convention create which kinds of obligations.  It will focus on certain core rights such as the right to legal capacity, the right to independent living, and the right to inclusive education.  It will also focus on important provisions in the convention protecting people with disabilities against violence, exploitation and abuse.  It will look at the practical institutional changes needed to give effect to the convention at national level (the obligation to create a ‘focal point’, etc).  And it will explore the implications of the CRPD for development aid programmes throughout the world.

A key feature of the Summer School will be its emphasis on imparting practical skills in using the convention – no matter your region or country.  There will be sessions on how to interact with the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (the relevant treaty monitoring body), how to draft Shadow Reports, how to craft effective Complaints under the Optional Protocol and how to influence the drafting of Questions by the UN Committee to the States Parties. 

In keeping with the practical orientation of the Summer School there will be a Participatory Exercise based on a problem disseminated at the beginning of the Summer School and culminating in a hearing at the end.   All participants are expected to be involved at some level.  Prior legal knowledge or experience is not required.  The aim is to provide the participants with a forum to sharpen their argumentative strategies based on the CRPD and to identify weaknesses as well as strengths in the different argumentative approaches.  They will be mentored throughout the week in crafting their arguments by the international Faculty.



Monday 6th  June – Context & Background.

am.       Registration.  Welcome.

Introduction to the CRPD

  • Introduction to the Convention.
  • It’s Place/Interaction among other HR treaties.

Instructor: Gerard Quinn, NUI Galway, Ireland.


pm.      Interpreting the Convention

  • Interpretive Approaches. Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.
  • Criteria for the Acceptability of Reservations.
  • How to understand Interpretive Declarations & Understandings.

Instructor:  Sir Michael Wood, Member, United Nations International                Law Commission


  • Introduction to Participatory Exercise: assignment of tasks.  [Oral presentations to be heard on the concluding Saturday].
  • Introduced by Professor Michael Stein.  Harvard Project on Disability.

 Tuesday 7th June – Foundational Elements

 am.       Core Values, Principles, General Obligations

  • The recitals to the Convention.
  • The Principles of the Convention– Art 3.
  • The Overarching Concept of Equality in the Convention (Article 5).
  • The General Obligations of the Convention.
  • The Concept of multiple discrimination & intersectionality.

 Instructor:    Professor Michael Stein, Harvard Project on Disability.


pm.      The Boundary between Economic, Social & Cultural Rights (ESCR), Civil & Political Rights & the bridge of Non-Discrimination

  • ESCR & the Notion of Progressive Achievement.
  • How to tell when a right creates obligations of immediate effect or obligations to be progressively achieved.
  • The ‘stretch’ of non-discrimination into positive action and ESCR.

         Instructor: Christian Courtis, Office of the UN High Commission for      Human Rights, Geneva.


Wednesday 8th June – Core Rights (1)

am.       Centering People over their own lives.

  • The paradigm shift of Article 12 – equal recognition before the law.
  • Restoring full Legal Capacity – Art 12.
  • Notions of Supported decision-making.
  • The fate of the insanity defence.


   Instructor: Michael Bach, Inclusion International.

 pm.      Living Your Own Life.

  • Living Independently – Art 19.
  • Deinstitutionalisation.
  • Choice in living arrangements.
  • Implications for person-centered services.


  • Instructor: Janet Lord, Bluelaw, Washington.


Thursday 9th June – Core Rights (2)

am.       Preparing for a Life of Inclusion

  • The Right to Inclusive Education – Art 24.
  • The concept of inclusion.
  • The fate of segregated education.
  • The concept of ‘reasonable accommodation’ in education.
  • Does Article 24.3. create an ‘exception’ for certain impairment groups?
  • Making it happen –legal, policy and budgetary implications.

 Instructor: Rosemary Kayess, University of New South Wales. Australia.


pm.      Protecting People with Disabilities: The Right to be Free from Violence, Exploitation and Abuse (Article 16), Freedom from Torture, protection of the integrity of the Person.

  • Vulnerability in institutions – link to the community care/deinstitutionalisation agenda.
  • Vulnerability in the community – tracking vulnerability to where people actually live.
  • Restraints – physical & chemical.
  • Redress.

 Instructor: Eric Rosenthal, Executive Director, Disability Rights International, Washington DC, USA.

Friday 10th June - Interacting Effectively with the with the CRPD Processes and with Domestic Processes of Reform

am.       Interacting with the CRPD Processes at the international level

  • How to draft a Shadow Report
  • How to influence the drafting of the ‘List of Questions’ put by the UN Committee to States Parties.
  • How to craft a Complaint under the optional Protocol.

 Instructor: Andrea Coomber, Interights, London, UK.


pm.       Interacting with the new Institutional Architecture for Change at National level

  • Focal Point – what is it, how do you interact with it.
  • Coordination Mechanism – what is it, how do you interact with it.
  • Framework with Independent Monitoring Mechanisms – what is it/are they and how do you interacting with it/them.
  • National Disability Strategies – how to connect them with the UN CRPD.

 Instructor: Gauthier de Beco, Associate Researcher at the University of Louvain & Dr Eilionoir Flynn, senior researcher on national disability strategies, NUI Galway.


 Saturday 11th June – CRPD and the World

 am.       Development aid and the CRPD

  • The need for development aid programmes to be inclusive of and accessible to persons with disabilities.
  • Models for inclusive development aid.

         Instructor: Janet Lord. Blue Law, Washington DC


 pm.      Participatory Exercise

  • Hearing of the Arguments.
  • Judgment/s delivered by a Tribunal of the Faculty.
  • Award of Certificates.
  • Award to best Advocate.
  • Close of Summer School.