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The 24th Session of the Human Rights Council reaches its end with still-standing issues and new challenges.

The 24th Session of the Human Rights Council, which started 9th September in Geneva, reached its end. For the Council, whose mission is to promote the respect of the human rights and to monitor the violations in all the UN Member States, it’s time to review and evaluate the results that were reached in this session.                                 
In this session, Syria sadly played the protagonist, with millions of civilians forced into mass displacement by gross violations of humanitarian law, at a time where international balances are at a critical moment. This session hosted a general debate on Israel and the Occupied Territories, reminding us that in the West Bank, Palestinians are still inhumanly treated. Other ever-hot topics were also addressed, including the rights of children in armed conflict, the rights of children of parents sentenced to the death penalty or executed, the treatment of indigenous people, the condition of women and gender discrimination, and contemporary forms of slavery. Interactive dialogues with the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia and with the Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Somalia and Sudan took also place.

Cambodia is hanging in balance between its first steps towards democracy and continuous limitations to fundamental freedoms by the Phnom Penh Government. Somalia made important strides to move forward from a situation of hopelessness toward a semblance of normalcy, fully committed to implementing the recently adopted post-transition road map, even though the road to establishing Human Rights in the State is still long. While the never ending humanitarian emergency in Sudan and the human rights violations in Darfur speak for themselves.
When the session of the Council ended on 27th September, Room XX at Palais des Nations was overcrowded. Ambassadors and  delegations from Missions of the States, members and non-members, as well as NGOs representatives were all present. After HRC President Henczel declared the session open, they continued the implementation of Item 3, 5 and 9, defining the proposals and the co-sponsorships and voting for the adoption or rejection of the resolutions or related amendments. Then they ended the session by considering Item 1 and going through the closing procedures of the Council.
The Human Rights Council Session represents an occasion for analysing and critically reflecting upon the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, which states, “The recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” The Declaration describes disregard and contempt for human rights as “barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind.” The document is still bitterly necessary, since too many times it’s not observed.
The Governments and civil society as a whole emerged from the 24th session with a concrete commitment to promote democracy and the rule of law, by carrying it out through efficiently acting together. In Room XX they confront opinions, they take part in dialogues, sometimes they create tension, they make decisions and they defend and secure their own positions. But it’s also a meeting place. That’s the “miracle” by the Council. It’s like a huge geographic map spread under the aegis of the United Nations: men and women representing their own State, with its political lines, historical leanings, and value systems. They represent alliances and enmities of the World. However, gathered in the Council, they have the chance to declare themselves as individuals committed to proving that dialogue is possible.
In Room XX, voices otherwise unheard resounded once again. They are the voices from freethinking individuals who refuse to stay silent. Unfortunately, the path to entrench human rights in our global society is still long. Discrimination, intolerance, injustice, oppression, and slavery continue to persecute people around the world and they are forced to suffer many different abuses.
“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin?” Eleanor Roosevelt once asked. Maybe we never thought to give a definition, since we take them for granted. They belong to us solely because we are human beings, and they should be valid absolutely and for everyone, everywhere. Sadly, this goal has yet to be realized.
The words of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon addressing the Council in March 2007 are still powerful: “All victims of human rights abuses should be able to look to the Human Rights Council as a forum and a springboard for action.” Maybe in March 2014, when the next session of the Human Rights Council is to take place in Geneva, new stories about further steps towards the recognition of human rights will be heard, as evidence for them should not be just for a History class or some ink on a piece of paper, but a responsibility that all the people share, looking for equality, justice, and dignity without discrimination.

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