The Committee on Fisheries (COFI) will be hosting its 35th session this year from 5 to 9 September in Rome, Italy. This is the first in-person event since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020.

The COFI process is a subsidiary body of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) Council. Every 2 years, member states of the United Nations come together to discuss fishery management and trade at a global level.

In 2020, after the COVID19 pandemic struck, the world went into a global lockdown. Small-scale fishers (SSF) and civil society were not able to travel to Rome for COFI and therefore, did not have influence on decisions made during the process.

What makes this COFI process significant is the fact that, SSF movements and civil society can now lobby, advocate and inform states on issues that impact the small-scale fishing sector.

Naseegh Jaffer, Director at Masifundise, says, “during the COVID-19 lockdown period, the only fishing information that COFI received was from the commercial sector.  This time round, small scale fishers and movements can be physically present and express the voice of the small-scale sector globally.”

In this light, it was agreed upon, that all SSF movements that are in support of the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication (SSF Guidelines) will take part in a preparatory workshop.

The workshop will be led by the International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty (IPC). This workshop will allow them to plan and coordinate how SSF will make contributions to COFI so they speak with one voice. This will take place 31 August to 4 September.

“A key request we will be taking to COFI, and is also part of the preparatory process, is how can the guidelines become part of public policy in all states across the world.” says Jaffer.

The Socio-Economic Rights Project (SERP), a project led by Masifundise, is specifically designed to implement the SSF guidelines.

Masifundise will present SERP during the COFI process as an example of how other countries can move forward to implement the guidelines. Mr Jaffer explains how the project will be presented during the COFI process in September,

“Masifundise has made advances of how the guidelines can be implemented through the SERP project. The example we will present is, the relationship we have with Coastal Links at a national level. And how that relationship takes on the challenges of small-scale fishers with government.”