The Social Forum - Background

The 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). 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).

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

1. The Social Forum is linked to the Human Rights Council;
2. The Chairperson is appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council from candidates nominated by regional groups;
3. The Forum meets annually for 3 working days;
4. Several experts are invited to contribute to the discussions and to assist the Chairperson-Rapporteur as resource persons;
5. The Social Forum addresses all human rights, and issues linked to the national and international environment needed for the enjoyment of all human rights by all.

The High Commissioner (as opposed to members of the Sub-Commission) is asked to present a report as a background contribution for the Social Forum dialogue and debates.