The Social Forum of the Human Rights Council
The Social Forum is a unique space for open and interactive dialogue between the representatives of Member States, civil society, including grass-roots organizations, and intergovernmental organizations on issues linked with the national and international environment needed for the promotion of the enjoyment of all human rights by all. The Social Forum meets once a year. The Chairperson-Rapporteur is appointed for each Forum by the President of the Human Rights Council from candidates nominated by regional groups. In setting the theme and focus of discussion for each Forum, the Human Rights Council underlines the importance of coordinated efforts at national, regional and international levels for the promotion of social cohesion based on the principles of social justice, equity and solidarity as well as of addressing the social dimension and challenges of the ongoing globalization process, including based on sharing best practices. Since its operation in 2002, the issue of poverty in all its aspects has dominated the theme and agenda of the Social Forum.
The Social Forum is open to the participation of representatives of United Nations Member States and all other interested stakeholders such as intergovernmental organizations, different components of the United Nations system, especially mandate-holders of thematic procedures and mechanisms of the human rights machinery, regional economic commissions, specialized agencies and organizations - in particular the United Nations Development Programme, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, as well as representatives designated by human rights national institutions and non-governmental organizations in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council, representatives of other non-governmental organizations, whose aims and purposes are in conformity with the spirit, purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, in particular newly emerging actors such as small groups and rural and urban associations from the North and the South, anti-poverty groups, peasantsโ and farmersโ organizations and their national and international associations, voluntary organizations, youth associations, community organizations, trade unions and associations of workers, as well as representatives of the private sector, regional banks, and other financial institutions and international development agencies, based on arrangements, including Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31 of 25 July 1996, and practices observed by the Commission on Human Rights, through an open and transparent accreditation procedure, in accordance with the Rules of Procedure of the Human Rights Council, while ensuring the most effective contribution of these entities.
BackgroundThe Social Forum was originally an initiative of the former Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (the Sub-Commission) which was the main subsidiary body of the Commission on Human Rights (see resolution 2001/24 http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/E/SUBCOM/resolutions/E-CN_4-SUB_2-RES-2001-24.doc). 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.
Thus, apart from Member States, Sub-Commission members, global and regional intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council, participants included grass-roots organizations, in particular those of the poorest and most marginalized groups, and the private sector.
As a forum on economic, social and cultural rights, the initial meeting of the Social Forum was held in 2002 prior to the annual session of the Sub-Commission, and two-day meetings were held annually between 2004 and 2006 with the participation of ten members of the Sub-Commission taking into account regional representation.
After the Commission on Human Rights was replaced by the Human Rights Council in 2006, the latter decided to preserve the Social Forum (see resolution A/HRC/6/13 http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/E/HRC/resolutions/A_HRC_RES_6_13.pdf).
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;
Email from: OHCHR Civil Society Section