The Commission for Social Development has been the key UN body in charge of the follow-up and implementation of the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action.

The 59th session of the Commission for Social Development (CSocD59) will take place from 8th to 17th February 2021 in a hybrid (in-person and digital) format and will address the following Priority Theme: ”Socially just transition towards sustainable development: the role of digital technologies on social development and well-being of all.”

About the Civil Society Forum

During the UN Commission for Social Development, the NGO Committee is dedicated to raising awareness on the Priority Theme and bringing the voices, experiences, and recommendations from the grassroots. The NGO Committee holds a Civil Society Forum and other capacity-building and network events on the occasion of the Commission.

Live interpretation in French and Spanish will be available.

The NGO Committee runs on a full volunteering program and all events, website & social media platforms are voluntarily managed.

Orientation and Networking Session

5th February, 2021 | Friday | 08:30 am – 10:30 am EST | 01:30 pm – 03:30 pm GMT

The 59th session of the UN Commission for Social Development will be held online for the first time, making it the first Virtual Commission in its history. This gives civil society organizations an opportunity for broader participation as its members need not travel to New York City to make their voices heard. 

8:30am to 9:30am: Orientation Session

The objective of the Orientation Session is to introduce participants to the Commission’s organization of work, as well as the Priority Theme that will shape the debate of its 59th session. Presentations will be made by UN DESA representatives and Chairs of the NGO Committee for Social Development, followed by time for Q&A from the audience.

Audience: this digital Orientation session is open to all NGOs (members of the NGO Committee for Social Development and non-members alike) participating in the 59th session of the UN Virtual Commission for Social Development Commission.

9:30am to 10:30am: Networking Session

Following the Orientation Session, the Networking Session will continue on a Remo platform for a new, fun, and dynamic way to interact with one another ahead of the official start of the Virtual Commission for Social Development. Ice-breakers and introductions between participants will alternate with videos and reflections around the Priority Theme.

Audience: this Networking Session is free and open to all NGOs, Member States and UN agencies.

If you want to get familiar with Remo before the Orientation and Networking Session, please click below: 

Session Facilitators (We invite you to click on the speakers’ images for their biographies)


Monica Jahangir-Chowdhury

Co-chair at NGOCSocD

Gillian D’Souza Nazareth

Vice chair at NGOCSocD

Maria Fornella-Oehninger

Co-chair at NGOCSocD



Grassroot voices for Networking Session

Digital Inclusion in Education and Social Protection for All

Thematic Session 1

9th February, 2021 | Tuesday | 08:30 am – 10:00 am EST | 1:30 pm – 3:00 pm GMT

Rapid advancement in digital technologies provides unparalleled opportunities for innovation across education, health care, and social sectors. Yet, over three billion individuals are deprived of these advantages, lacking even the most basic access to the internet particularly among women, indigenous peoples, the impoverished, the elderly, and other vulnerable groups.

Government emergency responses to COVID-19 rely on digital technology to assist with needs regarding health and social welfare. Such digital technologies have been utilized in affluent communities, overlooking the fact that many communities do not have access  to the internet. This emphasizes the need for such measures to be built into permanent and integrated social protection systems, such as housing, health, education, and public services.

Digital technology is not neutral. Big data, algorithms, and artificial intelligence are informed by existing human biases and reinforce stereotypes, perpetuating discrimination, and inequity. Disparities are also pervasive among existing users of digital technology. Gender biases contribute to compromised technological literacy in women, resulting in fewer women in STEM fields and less participation in innovation. Access and literacy are inextricably linked and together have the power to connect the most vulnerable communities to social benefits, culture, healthcare, and education, among much more.

Meet Our Panelists (We invite you to click on the speakers’ images for their biographies)

Houry Geudelekian

Chair at NGO Committee on the Status of Women (Moderator)

Germán Rueda

Vice Minister of
Transformation |
Republic of Colombia

Rachel Cooper

Education Specialist at UNICEF

Nayla Fahed

Malala Fund & Lebanese Alternative Learning (LAL)

Christiaan Van Veen

Director at Digital Welfare State and Human Rights Project, NYU

Grassroot voices for Thematic Session 1

Digital Technology and Financing for Development: Eradication of Poverty and Promotion of Equality at Global and National levels

Thematic Session 2

10th February, 2021 | Wednesday | 08:30 am – 10:00 am EST | 1:30 pm – 3:00 pm GMT

Financial systems affect all economic activities, from international trade and financial flows to national and local business to personal banking transactions, remittances, and savings. The Addis Ababa Financing for Development process initiated in 2015,  as an integral part of the SDGs and Agenda 2030, must now take into consideration the profound effects of both digital technology and COVID-19 on financial markets, public finance, and sustainable trade and investment. The time to act is now if we are to mitigate the global economic crisis to follow in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Poverty reduction has slowed down in the last five years, and the level of global growth is well below that needed to eradicate poverty everywhere and in all its forms. Investments that are critical in achieving a Socially Just Transition to Sustainable Development remain underfunded just as systemic risks are increasing: inequality is on the rise within and among countries, and debt burdens and capital flow volatility jeopardize earlier gains. Voluntary financial contributions and technical assistance between the Member States are insufficient to ensure the full and effective implementation of previously established commitments to social development priorities: social inclusion, non-discrimination, creation of new opportunities for jobs, and re-training for inclusion in the labor market.

The disruptions created by the pandemic, coupled with rapid technological change create an unprecedented opportunity to reshape and advance the Financing for Development process through resolute collective action so that no one is left behind.

Meet Our Panelists (We invite you to click on the speakers’ images for their biographies)

Stefano Prato

Managing Director of Society for International Development

Sonia Jorge

Executive Director at Alliance for Affordable Internet

Hamzat Lawal

CEO at Follow the Money and Connect Development

Shantanu Mukherjee

Chief of Policy and Analysis Branch at UNDESA

Grassroot voices for Thematic Session 2

Digital Technology and Good Governance: Creating a Legal Environment that Protects Human Rights, Respects Privacy, and Prevents Abuses

Thematic Session 3

11th February, 2021 | Thursday | 08:30 am – 10:00 am EST | 01:30 pm – 3:00 pm GMT

Global digital governance must be guided by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the design, development, and implementation stages, to protect both people and the planet.

Effective and responsive digital governance emerges from input, active public participation and accountability to multiple stakeholders, including persons at the grassroots. Values such as inclusion, equity, security, and transparency are the underpinnings of digital governance. Continual education and skill-building to ensure meaningful participation in governance and knowledge of human rights and labour protections is of great importance moving forward.

Meeting constituents’ needs calls for governments to upgrade infrastructure, upskill staff, and ensure data is readily exchanged, in order to inform decisions and deliver services efficiently. The new era of digital governance should be regulated in a way that protects human rights, privacy, and prevent abuses and discrimination.

Meet Our Panelists (We invite you to click on the speakers’ images for their biographies)


Executive director of IT for Change (Moderator)

Emeline Siale

Executive Director at Pacific Islands Association of Non- governmental Organizations (PIANGO)

Gert Auväärt

Deputy Permanent Representative of Estonia to the UN

Wietse Van Ransbeeck

CEO of Citizen Lab | Digital Democracy

Leah Dienger

Government Industry Advisor for IBM

Grassroot voices for Thematic Session 3

Closing Session

12th February, 2021 | Friday | 10:00am – 11:30 am EST | 3:00pm – 4:30pm GMT

After three days of Thematic Sessions, the Civil Society Forum 2021 comes to an end with a Closing Session gathering voices from civil society organizations, the United Nations, Member States and other key stakeholders such as the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and the Club de Madrid. After reports from each Thematic sessions, interactive elements (online polls and videos) will illustrate learnings and takeaways from this Civil Society Forum 2021. Make sure not to miss our final keynote speaker, Mr. ‘Gbenga Sesan, tech inclusionist from Nigeria, who will offer his vision for a future where digital technologies act as a main driver for social development.

Meet Our Panelists (We invite you to click on the speakers’ images for their biographies)

Gbenga Sesan

Executive Director at Paradigm Initiative
(Keynote Address)

Maria-Francesca Spatolisano

Assistant Secretary – General, UN DESA

Maria Del Carmen Squeff

Ambassador and Permanent Representative Of Argentina to the UN

Dr. Michael Bröning

Executive Director at Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung ( FES)

Maria Fornella-Oehninger

Co-chair at NGOCSocD

Monica Jahangir-Chowdhury

Co-chair at NGOCSocD

Gillian D’Souza Nazareth

Vice Chair at NGOCSocD

Club De Madrid

Grassroot voices for Closing Session

Civil Society Declaration

We invite you to share the Declaration in your networks! All signatures received by NGOs and individuals around the world will be shared with Governments and the United Nations at the opening of the 59th session of the Commission for Social Development on February 8th, 2021.