9 June 2014
31st Session of the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI)
Mr. Johan Williams, Chairperson of the 31st Session of the FAO Committee on Fisheries
Your Excellencies Ministers,
Your Excellencies Vice-Ministers, Deputy Ministers and State Ministers
Mr Koji Sekimizu, Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization
Colleagues from FAO and the United Nations
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honor to welcome you to this session of COFI, one day after the celebration of Oceans Day.
First of all, let me begin by saying that I have just met this morning the Secretary-General of IMO. We discussed how to strengthen our collaboration, in particular, the implementation of the Torremolimos Protocol and the Cape Town Agreement of safety on fishing vessels.
I agreed with the Secretary General that although this instrument is an IMOconvention, FAO and the fishing industry can help a lot in its implementation.
Ladies and gentlemen,
COFI is a privileged forum for a high-level debate on fisheries and aquaculture. This is a needed discussion to ensure that we work together towards food security and nutrition for all and a sustainable development.
When this Committee last met in 2012, FAO was embarking on a strategic thinking process.
This was part of a broader effort to transform FAO into an organization that is fitter, leaner, more focused and responsive to its Members, and better prepared to help you overcome today’s challenges.
Two years ago, I explained why we needed this change. We presented our proposals. We heard your guidance. And we brought your inputs into the wider discussion that took place in all Governing Bodies of FAO to review our Strategic Framework and build our current Program of Work and Budget.
Today, I am pleased to say that last year´s FAO Conference gave its consensus approval of the framework and our PWB.
And all five Regional conferences we had in 2014 endorsed the PWB, including 15 regional initiatives that are its main delivery instruments.
There are two points that I would like to highlight to you about this process.
First point: we sharpened our focus on five strategic objectives. Let me list them:
First, ending hunger and malnutrition;
Second, promoting sustainable food production and natural resources management;
Third, reducing rural poverty;
Fourth, improving food systems;
And, fifth, building resilience in rural areas.
An additional sixth objective guarantees the technical quality of our work and the delivery of our normative functions.
Second point that I would like to highlight: we are focusing on results. Our PWB is built to deliver concrete results and services to our Members.
The importance of fisheries and aquaculture is reflected throughout our program of work. It is an integral part of our efforts to achieve food security and sustainable development.
Fisheries and aquaculture give a central contribution to food security and nutrition. In average, it provides 17 percent of the animal protein that we consume.
This share can exceed 50 percent in some Small Island Developing States (the SIDS) and Asian countries. In these countries, for centuries fish has been a central element of local diets and their economies.
And, especially in the SIDS, food security and sustainable development depend on the vitality of our oceans and fish stocks.
Overfishing, pollution and climate change are putting this vitality at risk. The impacts are already evident. And the world’s poor, in rural and coastal areas, are among the most affected.
I want to stress the urgency of individual and collective action to address climate change, one of the most pressing challenges the world faces today.
FAO is already engaging countries at the national, regional and international levels to respond. And, in this context, we welcome and support the process launched at the Rio+20 Conference to define the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Blue Growth-Blue Economy concepts featured prominently at Rio+20. This debate has gained momentum and will be high on the agenda of the UN Conference on SIDS, next September, in Samoa, and that I plan to attend.
FAO has been an active participant in this debate. We have also incorporated this issue in our work through the Blue Growth Initiative within the Members-approved strategic framework.
The Blue Growth Initiative falls within our Second Strategic Objective, which focuses on sustainability.
However, it is designed in a way that contributes to reaching all five strategic objectives you have defined as priority for FAO.
This initiative aims to ensure the contribution of fisheries and aquaculture to food security and nutrition in a sustainable way. That is: preserving our natural resources and their ecosystems, respecting local needs and realities, and being socially inclusive.
We will help countries scale up successful initiatives and identify solutions that can be customized to respond to similar challenges in other contexts.
This is important because there is no one size fits all solution. Action needs to respond to local needs and realities.
The Blue Growth Initiative will help us realize the full potential that fisheries and aquaculture play in global, national and local economies.
Livelihoods of 12 percent of the world’s population depend on this sector. In particular, small-scale fisheries are the source of employment for more than 90 percent of the world’s capture fishers and fish workers, about half of whom are women.
Small-scale fisheries also contribute more than half of the world’s marine and inland fish catches.
However, at the same time that small-scale fishers supply most of the fish consumed in the developing world, many of their families are food-insecure themselves.
This is a paradox that we are working together to overcome and that does not affect only small-scale fishers.
Throughout the world, poor farmers, peasants, indigenous peoples, traditional communities, fisher folk, pastoralists, wood collectors and many others face the same precarious situation.
For a long time they were considered part of the hunger problem. But that could not be further than the truth. They are an integral part of our efforts to reach sustainable food security. They are not part of the problem; they are part of the solution.
That is why we are shining the spotlight on them in 2014, which has been declared the International Year of Family Farming.
And in this context, this week you have the opportunity to give an important boost to small-scale fisheries.
I am hopeful that you will be able to overcome your differences, finalize and endorse the draft text of the Voluntary Guidelines on Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries, that follow the spirit of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure approved in 2012 by the Committee on World Food Security.
I am confident that you will not leave the small-scale fishers without this important tool that will help a lot in the implementation of national policies that can guarantee their survival in the coming years.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The current state of world fisheries and aquaculture that will be presented shortly will set the stage for your discussions.
You have a full agenda this week. Among the important issues you will discuss are the implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and its related instruments.
You will also address aspects on combating Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing and counter piracy measures.
To end, I want to mention again the importance of the guidelines for small-scale fisheries. And make a plea for you to endorse the text. It will be a well-deserved gift in this International Year for Family Farming.
I wish you all every success in your work today.
Thank you for your attention.