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The McDermott Scholars Award covers all expenses of a superb four-year academic education at The University of Texas at Dallas, in concert with a diverse array of intensive extracurricular experiences, including internships, travel, and cultural enrichment.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Attending the UN Commission on Human Rights

Geneva is stunning. Green parks, trees, flowers everywhere. Clean, wide roads, buses that run on electricity, an extensive metro system. Sparkling blue lake with the magnificent Jette d’eau spraying into the air; in the distance Mont Blanc draped in fog. The population is young, dynamic, and their energy is reflected in the clean, contemporary art exhibits, in the modern plays, in the laughter on the lake front, in the clip of heels against the sidewalk—a city not afraid of living.

Le Palais des Nations is amazing. From the moment I opened the door and stepped inside, my heart began to quicken. All around me were tables loaded with documents and leaflets and booklets recording violations of international human rights, describing measures being taken to rectify the situations of atrocity, calling for help. All around me were women and men of all languages, of all skin colors, of all backgrounds—all with that clip to their step, with that set to their jaw, with that light in their eye that says they are moving forward, accomplishing something bigger than themselves. All around me were rooms of discussion, briefings on issues that bare upon people’s lives today. I could not read fast enough, could not move quick enough—there was too much that I wanted to engulf at once; and my heart beat faster. I was so hungry for all that was happening around me that it was 8pm before I remembered to eat lunch.

In the plenary sessions, member states generally just deliver five minutes of good political rhetoric. They all say about the same thing, from China to the Ukraine to Chili. They believe in the necessity for the active observation of international human rights standards, and their country is of course seeking to realize these rights….Although the NGOs have only three minutes to speak, their speeches tend to be more varied, perhaps a little less political show. But I still see little purpose in a three-minute speech. It is in the assembly room and in the briefing rooms that I find the real hope that this Commission represents: Draft resolutions on the rights of the child and on arbitrary detention, open forums on the prevention of violence against women, a special European Islamic Conference on Human Rights and the Muslim Woman… The discussions are endless, they are stimulating, and above all, they are hope-infusing.

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