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Social security as a human right

The second meeting of the Social Forum of the Human Rights Council stressed the need to reaffirm linkages between poverty and human rights when developing and implementing strategies for recovery from the global economic meltdown.

More than 150 representatives of 55 NGOs attended this year’s Social Forum. © OHCHR“The current economic and financial crisis threatens to wipe out the relative progress made in poverty eradication in the past. More than half of the world is likely to see an increase in individuals living in extreme poverty”, said Deputy High Commissioner Kyung-wha Kang at the Social Forum. “In this context, the linkages between poverty and human rights must be clearly acknowledged. Poverty is as much a cause as it is a consequence of human rights violations.”

The Human Rights Council, foreseeing the worsening of the crisis for the most vulnerable parts of the world’s population, decided in a March 2009 resolution to address the issue of poverty alleviation in this year’s Social Forum. The forum was yet another step taken by the international community to address the challenges posed by the current economic context.

The resolution requested that the Social Forum focus on analysing the negative impacts of economic and financial crises on efforts to combat poverty, best practices of States in implementing social security programmes from a human rights perspective, and international assistance and cooperation in combating poverty.

Acknowledging the Council’s capacity to anticipate the issue, Kang further said it was “time to take the discussion on poverty and human rights from the margin of policy debates and development strategies to the forefront. We must collectively accept that poverty affects us all and demands action from us all.”

Talk of creating such a forum began over a decade ago when the United Nations felt the need for a new space for dialogue which could profit from the international community’s diversity when formulating new proposals to respond to human rights challenges.

The three-day Forum was originally an initiative of the former Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights under the former Commission on Human Rights. It soon confirmed its purpose as a unique space for discussion that could bring together Member States and grass-root organisations, thus demonstrating the importance of coordinating efforts to address the social dimension and challenges of globalization. Some 55 non-governmental organisations participated this year, and an online discussion platform was established for participants to enhance their interaction.

Notwithstanding signs of economic growth noticed recently in developed countries, the spectre of poverty looms over vulnerable groups within those societies, as well as on the world’s weaker economies. “Despite international efforts to mitigate the negative impacts of the economic and financial crises, there have already been and will continue to be devastating consequences for the most vulnerable persons in our societies”, Kang added.

She concluded by expressing her hope that the Forum would “contribute to the strengthening of national and international political commitment to integrate human rights into social development policies in times of crises, with a view to take immediate measures to protect the rights of the poor and the disadvantaged, including through safety nets and social protection interventions, and empower them so that they can participate in related decision-making processes.”

4 September 2009