Leading social scientists from around the world to gather in Durban, South Africa, for the World Social Science Forum


On the eve of the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit, leading social scientists and influencers will meet in Durban, South Africa, to advance knowledge on how research can
contribute to transforming global relations for a just world.

The World Social Science Forum, which opens today, will gather over 850 delegates from 57 countries worldwide to bring to bear global social science knowledge on topics of poverty and inequality, governance, human rights and social justice, big data and the role of civil society action. The Forum takes place at an unprecedented moment for sustainable development worldwide, following the launch of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing for development, and as attention turns to the adoption and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and COP21. Discussions will highlight how global social science and humanities research can help provide solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges.

The World Social Science Forum is a flagship activity of the International Social Science Council (ISSC) and is hosted by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and the Dakar-based Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA).

ISSC activities and programmes at the World Social Science Forum 2015:

Sunday 13 September

Climate change, environmental degradation and pressure on resources have created unprecedented societal challenges worldwide. Technological advances alone are not adequate to deal with the challenges of sustainability in ways that are at once ecologically sound, economically viable, culturally acceptable and socially just; what is required in addition is profound social transformation. This session will concentrate on how social science research can advance knowledge on social transformations worldwide and make progress in systemically addressing the drivers of environmental change and social injustice, with contributions from researchers involved in the Transformations to Sustainability Programme and from audience discussion.

The majority of the World’s population now live in cities. During this session, a number of talented early career researchers who have participated in the ISSC’s World Social Science Fellows Programme will give their perspectives on the transitions brought about by  rapid urbanisation – particularly in the Global South – in a context of a global environmental crisis.

Monday 14 September

This session will critically explore the extent to which good governance can deliver the promise of growth with equity, taking as a starting point the proposed Sustainable Development Goal 16 (Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels). Discussion with the audience and rapid-fire case studies by talented early career researchers who have participated in the World Social Science Fellows Programme will explore if Goal 16 is achievable and whether its progress can be measured.

Climate variability is predicted to bring about significant changes to our agricultural production and production systems, with a decrease of up to 10% in crop yield projected for parts of Asia and as much as 50% in Sub-Saharan Africa by the 2020s. The impacts of a warming climate on food and nutrition security will be felt most by those who are least responsible for causing it, and there is an onus of responsibility for developed nations with high emissions to assist developing nations deal with the impacts of a changing climate. However there is increasing recognition that pathways out of poverty for most developing nations will require an increasing use of energy, whether high or low carbon. Panel members will discuss climate justice and injustice with a focus on achievable initiatives and case studies of success.

Speakers will include Ministers and representatives from South Africa, Kenya, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Argentina, Sultanate of Oman, Malaysia. The roundtable will be followed by commentaries by Professor Michael Woolcock (Harvard Kennedy School), Ebrima Sall (Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, Senegal), Pablo Gentili (Latin American Council of Social Sciences), Seteney Shami (Arab Council for Social Sciences), and Mathieu Denis (International Social Science Council, France).

Tuesday 15 September

The 2016 World Social Science Report will focus on the critical contemporary issues of inequalities and social justice. It will be prepared in partnership with the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Sussex in the UK. This session will discuss why inequality research is back in the news, the drivers and consequences of inequalities in different world regions and policy responses.

In addition to the sessions outlined above, ISSC members, programmes and partners will organize and take part in plenary and panel sessions throughout the conference. The ISSC is immensely grateful to all our partners who have contributed to the success of the conference, and who have made it possible for speakers, World Social Science Fellows and other early career social scientists to participate in the Forum.

The programme can be found online here, and can be viewed as a pdf here.