In 2021 the Social Forum will take place on 11 and 12 October in Room XVII at the Palais des Nations in Geneva and online. In accordance with resolution
44/22 of the Human Rights Council, it will focus on “good practices, success stories, lessons learned and challenges in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, with a special focus on international cooperation and solidarity, and from a human rights perspective”.
The Social Forum will bring together multiple stakeholders across the world to engage in a constructive dialogue on the above theme, to contribute to a resilient recovery to build better together.
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The 2021 Social Forum will be convened as humanity faces the profound, unprecedented and multiple crises from the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to pose a threat to the social and economic fabric of countries worldwide, in addition to the immediate health crisis. Alarming statistics providing insights into the extent of the damage are routinely released by the WHO, including updates of the massive number of people infected and of COVID-19 related fatalities.
The COVID-19 pandemic is exposing and exacerbating longstanding social and economic inequalities and patterns of discrimination in the enjoyment of human rights. Collapsing global trade, falling remittances, sharp reversals of capital flows, and currency depreciation pose particular challenges to poorer nations. Within countries, the poor, as well as marginalized and vulnerable groups such as older persons, women and girls, members of ethnic and other minorities, indigenous peoples and LGBTI persons are particularly affected. The devastating impacts of the pandemic further exacerbate the forces of conflicts and climate change, which were already slowing down the progress made so far in reducing world poverty. The World Bank expects that in 2021, the estimated COVID-19-induced poor is set to rise to between 143 and 163 million.
These challenges are occurring in a context of globalization, population growth and demographic shifts, shedding light on the world’s interdependency and interconnectedness. International cooperation and solidarity are indispensable to effectively responding to the pandemic and related global crises, and to realizing peace, human rights and sustainable development. As United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet put it:
“The COVID-19 pandemic is a test to us all and to societies and systems. To come out of it stronger we need to show solidarity. To be most effective, measures to stop the spread of the virus need to include actions to protect the most vulnerable […] It is precisely in times of crisis that human rights values can help us steer the best course. We need to come together and continue working for the common good with conviction and determination.”
Local, national, regional and international responses to the crises must match their unique nature and scale. Many States have had to take extraordinary measures to protect the health and well-being of their populations, often at great cost to their societies and economies. It is of vital importance that socio-economic responses to COVID-19 are human rights-based. The international community, both States and non-state actors have a critical role to play in preventing and mitigating the human rights impact of the crisis and in ensuring that the measures taken to support the economic recovery comply with human rights standards.
COVID-19 is a test of societies, of governments, of communities and of individuals. It is a time for solidarity and cooperation to tackle the virus, and to mitigate the effects, often unintended, of measures designed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Respect for human rights across the spectrum, including economic, social, cultural, and civil and political rights, will be fundamental to the success of the response and recovery from the pandemic.