direction in Asian APFIC member countries

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3. Overall conclusions

This paper has reviewed policy in 14 Asian countries to assess policy content, trends, and drivers. Under different sections on the use of targets, natural resource management issues, financial/ economic and marketing issues, and socio-economic and poverty issues, the extent to which particular issues are included in policy has been reviewed to assess the extent to which different issues are included in policy in the region. The analysis has allowed for a regional synthesis to be presented, and for some key observations and discussion points to be proposed in Section 2. In addition some more general conclusions can be drawn as follows:

  1. For most issues considered, a surprisingly large number of national policies include them. Of 31 issues considered, 27 of them are included in 50 percent or more of policy documents, and 19 in more than 70 percent of policies;
  2. Most countries have what might be termed “good policy content” or “best practice” contained with policy. It is clear that donor projects and support, along with recent international action on key issues, have been helpful in important issues finding their way into policy. But this can only happen with governments being receptive. Governments in the region have in their own right, and based on their own initiatives, increasingly recognized and formulated ‘good’ policy. Drivers for good policy come partly from internal national experience, but also from the sharing between policy planners and managers of their experiences and lessons learned, both within a regional context, and internationally;
  3. Many policy issues are inter-related, sometimes in a complementary way, and sometime in a conflictual way. Few policies are very specific about potential trade-offs in policy objectives and content e.g. policy may contain references to sustainable management of capture fisheries as well as increasing production and employment, or to maximizing exports and food security;
  4. While policy content is crucial as the starting point for good planning and management of the sector, this paper has not reviewed the extent to which policy is being implemented. Certainly within the region there are clear challenges and constraints in terms of budgets, human and institutional capacity, political will, and social and cultural constraints, many of which are likely to be raised by others during the APFIC forum. What the policy review does suggest is that some policy objectives and content may be based more on an ideal situation than on a realistic assessment of potentials. Examples raised earlier include a) greater exploitation of offshore resources when resources themselves may not be as significant as hoped, and b) plans to increase aquaculture production, which may be more difficult than thought given issues of disease and land availability;
  5. The level of detail in policy documents varies considerably between countries. This is not surprising as there is something of a gray line between where policy stops and planning for implementation begins. For policy to be implemented successfully, policy goals, objectives, strategies and activities must be linked in a coherent manner, and where possible planning for implementation should feature time-bound responsibilities and indicators of success, not just for high-level policy goals but for all proposed activities. Cambodia and Pakistan are two countries that provide good examples of where such detailed planning is taking place;
  6. Finally, policy is reviewed relatively often in most countries, typically every five years with an associated annual planning process. While legislation may take longer to change, formal planning processes, as well as the ability to make informal policy and planning decisions, provide considerable scope for countries to continue their progress towards policy containing ideas/issues representing best practice but which fit the specific needs of the individual country concerned.

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