Assistance programme adopted to implement global small-scale fishery guidelines

A Global Assistance Programme to help with the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines for Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication (VGSSF), which was heralded as a major step forward for small scale fishers globally, was recently adopted at the 32nd Session of the Committee on Fisheries (COFI).

The 32nd Session, or COFI 2016, met recently in Rome under the auspices of the Food and Agricultural Organisation, an organisation of the United Nations that looks at food security and industries involved in the harvesting and production of food.

COFI, a body of FAO and representing all governments on the planet that are part of the United Nations (UN), also have a structure made up of civil society organisations, known as the Civil Society Organisations (CSO).

In another significant development, the State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture report (SOFIA) compiled by the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) was distributed at the start of the COFI gathering. It is a globally recognised report that contains up to date information regarding the fisheries sector.

It is the official go to guide used by governments, private sector and civil society organisations affected by and within the fisheries sector. SOFIA 2016 specifically recognises the important contributions and the roles global small scale movements such as the World Forum of Fisher Peoples (WFFP), the WFF and ICSF have made towards the implementation of the small-scale fisheries guidelines. To read more about SOFIA 2016 follow the link:

Small scale fishers around the globe together with other civil society organisations involved in fisheries are members of the COFI CSO.

The World Forum of Fisher Peoples (WFFP) represents South African fishers through Masifundise Development Trust and Coastal Links South Africa (CLSA) at COFI through the CSO.

After many hours of discussions and deliberations, COFI 2016 ended on a high, and significant decisions that will propel small scale fisheries forward, were adopted.

The Committee agreed on the proposed Global Strategic Framework (GSF) as part of the implementation of the VGSSF.

For the VGSSF (adopted at COFI 2014) to make a significant impact, was the need to develop and adopt a Global Assistance Programme which will be key to implementing the SSF Guidelines.

CSO’s such as WFFP proposed the GSF as the way forward. This would mean further close collaboration between COFI, FAO and CSO’s.

The 32ND Session, also for the first time included developed countries in the context of the VGSSF; this is significant as the VGSSF speaks exclusively to developing countries.

This decision which is subsequent to COFI 2014 where the VGSSF was adopted now extends to include developed nations. This means that countries located within the Global North such as Norway, Canada and Spain, are now also covered by the Voluntary Guidelines.

WFFP and various other CSO’s have for years campaigned to have developed nations included within the frame of the Voluntary Guides, referring to marginalised communities within those societies.

Another significant decision that was taken was to have an International Year of Artisanal Fisheries, and COFI has adopted the decision to consider all the legal processes and implications of having such an International Year.

The International year is in recognition of the great importance of SSF and the contribution and position of women and men in the sector, and considers an International Year of Artisanal Fisheries to consolidate attempts to improve small scale fisheries.

CSO foot soldiers from WFFP, World Forum of Fishers (WFF) and International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF) amongst others, lobbied governments to adopt the decision which will see regional inter-governmental bodies and CSO’s involved in some of the consultations regarding the Global Work Programme (GWP). The latter which is a FAO initiative was going to run in parallel to the GSF, but will now be an inclusive programme.

World Forum of Fisher Peoples representative, Mitchell Lay, who is from Antigua and Barbuda in the Caribbean, said: “COFI was quite encouraging in regards to widespread support for small-scale fishers. The favourable response by states and others (NGOs) to the CSO’s interests, including the side even is notable.


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