UNESCO at WSSF in Durban: key input to tackle inequality and justice within the Post-2015 Agenda

The third World Social Science Forum (WSSF), was held at the International Convention Centre, Durban, South Africa, from 13 to 16 September 2015 on the theme of 'Transforming Global Relations for a Just World'.

Over 1000 people from 84 countries shared their research on injustice and inequality to analyse their impact and consider ways of addressing them.

UNESCO's Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences, Ms Nada Al-Nashif addressed the opening session of the Forum.

UNESCO’s Management of Social Transformations (MOST) Programme organised 3 main events: a Ministerial and Research session on the contribution of social science within the Post-2015 Agenda, a panel on gender equality and the Arthur Lewis Centennial Panel.

The main panel "Contributing to a just world within the Post 2015 agenda: Which role for Social Science?" gathered Ministers and high-level representatives from Argentina, Ecuador, Kenya, Malaysia, Nicaragua, Oman, South Africa as well as Heads of regional and global social science organizations– Codesria, ISSC, ACSS, CLACSO - and members of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the MOST programme. They discussed the challenges and policy responses to achieve a more just world, including providing national and/or regional experiences with a focus on ending poverty and reducing inequalities as key issues in the Post 2015 agenda.

Participants underlined the need to bring social science knowledge into the policy process and its key role in informing social policy. National examples highlighted successful solutions in reducing inequality: including social investment, redistribution and the human capacities approach (Ecuador), high-level commitment to gender equity (Oman), emphasizing social rights as human rights (Argentina), harnessing innovation to promote inclusive growth (Malaysia).

There was a consensus that fundamental social transformations are crucial to reducing inequalities. Among the priorities identified by research leaders to support such transformations are: better understanding of the multidimensional nature of inequality, of the structural conditions that contribute to it, and of the scope for ambitious policies at national level. Even in a globalized world, WSSF participants stated very strongly that political will can make a difference.

UNESCO will work closely with its governmental and non-governmental partners, through its MOST programme, to take forward the dynamic of the WSSF. MOST Schools and MOST Ministerial Forums in every region will be considering the conceptual and practical challenges of promoting social justice, and UNESCO will support the publication of the 2016 World Social Science Report, which will set a global social science agenda on these issues.

 

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Background information

The WSSF is organized by the International Social Science Council (ISSC), the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) and the Human Sciences Research Council (South Africa), along with a consortium of academic and research institutions, African think-tanks and related science policy organizations. The UNESCO Director General granted her patronage to the event.

The Forum is the most significant gathering of social scientists, policy-makers and other stakeholders to drawn from all the regions of the world and across different disciplinary interests in the social sciences and humanities.

Participants addressed the trends, magnitude, nature, causes, manifestations and drivers of inequalities and injustices. This encompassed not just issues such as access to basic services including water, sanitation, health, education, and housing, relations among peoples, and overall quality of life, but also the national and international processes that generate inequality. The Forum provided a platform for seeking solutions to and effective strategies for these injustices and sharing experiences among people from the different countries.