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The 2020 Social Forum


08 - 09 October 2020

In 2020 the Social Forum took place on 8 and 9 October in Room XX at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. In accordance with resolution 41/24 of the Human Rights Council, it focused on "Good Practices, Success Stories, Lessons Learned and Current Challenges in Combating Poverty and Inequalities".

The 2020 Social Forum brought together stakeholders at all levels to identify the human rights obligations and responsibilities of all actors, both States and non-State actors, across the whole chain of causes that lead to condemning people to poverty.

Outcome documents

Videos from the Forum

  • Opening remarks (Video)
  • Keynote panel (Video)
  • General discussion (Video)
  • Community level: Factors perpetuating inequality and intergenerational transmission of poverty, and how to overcome them. Interactive dialogue (Video)
  • Cultural performance "Play for Freedom: The Transformative Power of Capoeira" - Short documentary by Capoeira4Refugees (Video)
  • Global-local interlinkages I: Obstacles to realizing the right to development and to addressing poverty and inequality (Video)
  • Global-local interlinkages II: Productive capacity, public budgeting, tax justice and participation (Video)
  • Musical performance "Seasons in the Time of Corona", Music video by the UN Music Club (UN.Ensemble.Virtuel) (Video)
  • The role of the state and public policies to address poverty and inequalities (Video)
  • International level: The global economy, financing for sustainable development and the right to development (in collaboration with UNCTAD). Interactive dialogue (Video)
  • Towards transformation: A matrix for breaking the cycle of poverty and inequality and ensuring accountability (Video)
  • Closing remarks (Video)


The 2020 Social Forum was convened as the world faces the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, following the COVID-19 pandemic. In all countries, low-income earners and people in poverty are the first victims: particularly at risk are workers in the informal sector or in precarious forms of employment (respectively 1.6 and 0.4 billion workers globally), who have no or only weak access to social protection. Following the crisis, the figures of extreme poverty are expected to rise significantly: using a baseline of 3.20 USD/day in PPP, it is estimated that 176 million more people may fall into extreme poverty.

The forum was also organized against the backdrop of a time of worldwide protests against racism, racial discrimination, structural and systemic inequalities and injustices as well as climate change and other major challenges. Climate change, racial discrimination and other persistent challenges are likely to aggravate poverty and inequality both within and among countries.

While the multiple challenges are both profound and unprecedented, the crisis also provides an opportunity to expand and strengthen social protection floors and to guarantee living wages for all workers, as a means to support the economic recovery and to build more resilient societies in the future. To eradicate poverty, however, a range of actions should be taken at different levels. At the international level, trade and investment, the alleviation and restructuring of external debt and official development assistance should enable and support efforts at the domestic level to effectively reduce poverty. At the national level, governments should be held accountable to adopt progressive taxation schemes to mobilize domestic resources, and public budgets that give priority to social protection, as well as to other forms of social investment (in education, health and housing in particular). They should ensure that social protection schemes and public services effectively reach people in poverty. This requires removing a variety of obstacles in accessing such services, including corruption, discrimination, lack of remedies, and other factors leading to a non-take-up of rights by those who need most to be supported.

Finally, national governments should address factors that perpetuate poverty and lead to the intergenerational transmission of poverty, including institutional and social maltreatment, discrimination on grounds of socio-economic status, disempowerment of people in poverty, poor nutrition, and limited educational opportunities.

Considering the matrix of poverty

The unique feature of this year's Social Forum lies in the space it creates for participants to consider and converge on a poverty "matrix": a complex but unified scheme examining the interrelatedness of different causes of poverty, from the micro level causes to the more macro-level and international causes rooted in communities and households, through the meso-level causes in governmental policies, in particular in their fiscal and budgetary choices.

This approach should increase awareness of all actors of their role in the fight against poverty. It should improve accountability, by ensuring that no actor evades its obligations and responsibilities by simply pointing at other factors that also contribute to the perpetuation of poverty. It should help to identify the feedback loops in which poverty breeds poverty -- leading to what the Guiding Principles on extreme poverty and human rights, adopted by consensus by the Human Rights Council on 27 September 2012 in resolution 21/11, calls the "vicious cycle of powerlessness, stigmatization, discrimination, exclusion and material deprivation [experienced by people in poverty], which all mutually reinforce one another" (para. 4).

Further information

  • Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights
    العربية | 中文 | English | Français | русский | Español
    Italian Italiano | Polish polski | Portuguese Português
  • Leaving No One Behind: Equality and Non-Discrimination at the Heart of Sustainable Development - A Shared United Nations System Framework for Action
  • The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
    العربية | 中文 | English | Français | русский | Español
  • UNDG: Coordinating the design and implementation of nationally-defined social protection floors
  • Causes and Responsibilities behind Poverty: Infographic prepared by the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights
    English | Français
  • Reports of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights
    • Looking back to look ahead: A rights-based approach to social protection in the post-COVID-19 economic recovery (2020, English)
    • The "just transition" in the economic recovery: eradicating poverty within planetary boundaries (2020, A/75/181)
    • Climate change and poverty (2019, A/HRC/41/39)
    • Extreme inequality and human rights (2015, A/HRC/29/31)
    • The right to social protection (2014, A/69/297)
    • Taxation and human rights (2014, A/HRC/26/28)
    • Unpaid care work and women's human rights (2013, A/68/293)
  • Human Rights and Poverty Reduction: A conceptual Framework, 2004 (OHCHR Publication)
  • Three Perspectives to Poverty and Inequality: Examining Unilateral Coercive Measures, Access to Healthcare, and Grassroots Initiatives (IHEID Capstone Project especially prepare to support the Social Forum)