Social Forum

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The Social Forum


The Social Forum is an annual interactive dialogue on issues linked with the national and international environment needed for the promotion of the enjoyment of all human rights by all. The dialogue is held between representatives of Member States, civil society, including grass-roots organizations and intergovernmental organizations. Small associations from the North and the South, anti-poverty groups, farmers’ organizations, as well as different components of the United Nations system, especially mandate-holders of thematic procedures and mechanisms of the human rights machinery are also strongly welcomed.

The Chairperson-Rapporteur is appointed for each Forum by the President of the Human Rights Council from candidates nominated by regional groups. Since its operation in 2002, the issue of poverty has dominated the theme and agenda of the Social Forum. However, in setting the theme of discussion for each Forum, the Human Rights Council emphasizes the importance of coordinated efforts at national, regional and international levels in the promotion of social cohesion. This is based on the principles of social justice, equity, solidarity and challenges brought about globalization.


The Social Forum was originally an initiative of the former Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (the Sub-Commission). The idea of a Social Forum had been discussed since 1997 in response to concerns about the impact of globalization on the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights. It was meant to serve as a new space in the United Nations system for the exchange of diverse views and concerns from many regions, professions and cultural backgrounds to formulate new ideas and proposals for action to address the global challenges facing human rights. As a medium for the discussion on economic, social and cultural rights, the initial meeting of the Social Forum was held in 2002.

After the Commission on Human Rights was replaced by the Human Rights Council in 2006, the latter decided to preserve the Social Forum (Resolution A/HRC/6/13).


The renewed Social Forum has a number of distinguishing attributes, compared with its predecessor:

  • It is not linked to the Advisory Committee, which replaced the Sub-Commission, but to the Human Right Council
  • Its Chairperson is no longer a member of the Advisory Committee, but a government representative
  • It will meet for 3 days instead of 2 days
  • Four mandate-holders of thematic procedures (in particular the independent expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty and the independent expert on human rights and international solidarity) have been asked to assist the Chairperson as resource persons

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