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Background
Since the first meeting of FAO and Non-FAO Regional Fishery Bodies (RFBs) or Arrangements took place in February 1999, four others have been held biennially adjacent to the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI). These meetings have provided unique opportunities for all RFBs established both within and outside the framework of FAO.

During the 2005 meeting of RFBs, participants agreed to change the meeting title to "RFB Secretariats Network". This change would emphasize informality, yet convey the notion of ongoing intersessional work during the two years between formal meetings. Based on this agreement, the first meeting of the Regional Fishery Body Secretariats Network (RSN) was held in March 2007 as the fifth biennial meeting among RFBs.

Objective
The RSN, in name and in spirit, was established to acknowledge and underscore the broad and continuous consultations among RFBs as a virtual group even during the intersessional periods. As such, the RSN is expected to function as the common and standing platform among RFBs to exchange views and information. In order to enhance this role, a dedicated RSN Web site would be created as a tool to facilitate and coordinate information sharing. Through the Web site, the RSN can avoid duplication of members' activities, promote the RSN's visibility or activities and provide information on the biennial meetings such as schedules, agendas and documents.

RSN and FAO
RFB meetings should be considered as autonomous initiatives among RFBs rather than formal FAO meetings although FAO provides the venue and secretariat services in order to help strengthen the function of RFBs. FAO's role is, therefore, as a facilitator only. The main organizer of the meetings is the Chair, currently Mr. Andrew Wright, Secretary of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Living Resources (CCAMLR). The Chair proposes a draft agenda to RSN Members, based on areas of interest indicated at the previous meeting, and makes meeting arrangements with the support of the FAO secretary of the RSN. There are two Vice-Chairperson posts which are currently held by Mr. Kaitira Katonda, the Secretary of the Lake Tanganyika Authority (LTA) and Mr. Yugraj Yudava, the Secretary of the Bay of Bengal Program – Intergovernmental Organization (BOBP-IGO).

All inquiries should be made directly to the Chairperson, and/or the Secretary.

RSN/RFB Meetings
Since the inaugural session in 1999, the biennial RFB meetings have facilitated discussion and information sharing among all bodies. These meetings address the outcomes of COFI and focus on issues of major importance to the RFBs, including the role of RFBs in global fisheries governance. A major thrust with respect to strengthened cooperation among FAO and non-FAO RFBs and arrangements was provided by the 1998 High-Level Panel of External Experts in Fisheries, appointed by the Director-General of FAO to consider, inter alia, future challenges in fisheries governance. The panel addressed FAO's role in working to encourage more coherent management approaches among RFBs, and recommended that FAO should, inter alia, convene a special meeting of FAO and non-FAO bodies in order to:

  • identify and address common problems and constraints;
  • develop strategies and mechanisms to address constraints;
  • share experiences and lessons learned; and
  • improve the effectiveness of the RFBs.

In addition, the 1998 Progress Report on the Implementation of Conference Resolution 13/97 (Review of FAO Statutory Bodies and the Strengthening of FAO Regional Fishery Bodies) noted that, despite a need for effective RFB cooperation, there was no formal working relationship between COFI and non-FAO RFBs. And while the report acknowledged significant improvements in the performance of RFBs over the last decade, it stated that many factors hinder these bodies from being more effective. The report also noted the recommendation made by the High-Level Panel of External Expert above mentioned. The Twenty-third COFI in 1999 commended FAO for conveying a meeting of FAO and Non-FAO RFBs and recommended that such meetings be held on regular basis.

 

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From RFB meetings to the Regional Fishery Body Secretariats Network (RSN)
 
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