JSIS/LSJ Rome: Human Rights and Social Inclusion: Disability, Age, and Gender

Next Offered
Spring 2025

Program Description:

Dates: Spring Quarter, March 31 – June 6, 2025 (Applications due November 15, 2024)

Email Professor Stephen Meyers (sjmeyers@uw.edu) if interested!


Social inclusion has become a central organizing principle for advancing human rights and development. Under the motto “Leave no one behind,” the 2030 United Nations Agenda for Sustainable Development included gender equality as a key goal (SDG 5) and specifically obligated the international community to ensure that “children, youth, persons with disabilities, people living with HIV/AIDS, older persons, indigenous peoples, refugees and internally displaced persons and migrants,” and other historically marginalized groups are included. International human rights instruments have also made significant progress in advancing the right to inclusion. The UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing have all created new obligations for states to promote an inclusive society.

Italy represents an important context for applying an intersectional approach to human rights and social inclusion. As a European Union member state, it is States Party to the EU Gender Equality Strategy, EU Framework on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the EU Charter of Human Rights, which specifically recognizes “the rights of the elderly.” Yet, Italy continues to struggle with gender, disability, and age inclusion. Within the EU, Italy ranks the lowest among on the Gender Equality Index, Western EU states on the Gender Equality Index and dead last (27th) among all EU states for gender equality in education and employment. In regards to disability as recently as 2022 Italy was found guilty of violating the rights of persons with disabilities by the UN for failing to promote the right to independent living. Finally, after Japan and Korea, Italy has the fastest aging population in the world, yet has made little preparation to ensure the rights of older people.

Over the quarter, students will complete three five credit seminars for 15 credits. The courses include:

  • LSJ 490/JSIS 478: International Human Rights Advocacy,
  • LSJ 490/JSIS 478: Disability and Aging in Europe and Italy,

And choice of one of the following:

  • JSIS 495/LSJ 491: Task Force/Legal Clinic: "Making Rights Real": Realizing the right to health for older women and girls with disabilities; or
  • JSIS 495/LSJ 491: Task Force/Applied Research Seminar: "A City for All?" Action-based Evaluation of Access and Inclusion in Rome.


Stephen Meyers PhD is an Associate Professor in Law, Societies & Justice; and International Studies and core faculty in Disability Studies. He is the Director of the Center for Global Studies and the Chair of the MA in International Studies program in the Henry M Jackson School of International Studies. 

Megan McCloskey J.D. and (forthcoming) PhD is a lecturer in Law, Societies & Justice; International Studies; Disability Studies; and the Honors Program. She is an experienced international human rights consultant and coauthor of reports for the UN Secretary General’s Office, UNFPA, and UNESCO.

Course Descriptions:

LSJ 490/JSIS 478: International Human Rights Advocacy (5 credits)

The purpose of this course is to build on interest in human rights generally and provide students with an opportunity to explore the mechanisms through which advocates push for human rights at the international and national level.  The course will focus on the human rights mechanisms within the United Nations, particularly the human rights treaties and treaty bodies and consider how advocates can and do use the law in different ways to pursue transformational change. This international human rights law course examines how intersectionality as a theoretical and critical approach has been integrated into international and regional human rights practices.  It adopts a critical lens and encourages students to think both of the opportunities and limits of intersectional approaches to human rights and examines ways in which the rights of people from historically socially marginalized groups are made more (and less) visible within institutional spaces.

LSJ 490/JSIS 478: Disability and Aging in Europe and Italy (5 credits)

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the UN Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing obligate States to promote the right of persons with disabilities and older persons to participate in society on an equal basis with others. Despite these important steps, social exclusion persists at both the global and local levels, especially for those with intersectional identities. Italy represents an important context for understanding the cultural history of disability and aging and the legacy of past laws and policies and persistent social practices that continue to violate the rights of persons with disabilities and older persons.

JSIS 495/LSJ 491: Task Force/Legal Clinic: "Making Rights Real": Realizing the right to health for older women and girls with disabilities (5 credits)

This Task Force/Legal Clinic will invite students to select an issue of contemporary concern such as violence against women, humanitarian assistance, poverty alleviation, or access to sexual and reproductive health care and, working in assigned groups, develop: A research summary of the issue that identifies how and when gender, age, and disability play a role; an analysis of legal and policy responses taken by States as well as by the international community, particularly international human rights mechanisms, to address the issue; an analysis of how social movements and civil society actors have addressed the issue; and a set of policy, program or practice recommendations that are addressed both to State and civil society actors and identify ways in which responses to the given issue can be more inclusive and representative of women of all ages and abilities.

JSIS 495/LSJ 491: Task Force: "A City for All?" Action-based Evaluation of Access and Inclusion in Rome (5 credits)

The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) is mandated by the UN General Assembly to promote transformative change in cities and human settlements through knowledge, policy advice, technical assistance and collaborative action. Creating "Cities for All" that are inclusive of persons with disabilities, older persons, and others are central to its human rights strategy to promote the right to the city. Students will take Rome as a case study for an action-based assessment and analyze all aspects of access and inclusion to public spaces, including sites of both political and economic importance and cultural significance, to provide a set of recommendations. Special attention will be placed on Rome’s green spaces (Rome is considered one of the Greenest Cities of Europe), and students will co-author and contribute a chapter to the upcoming edited volume Disability & the Outdoors: Access and inclusion in nature.



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