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Engaging closely with stakeholders early on and involving them in the process of developing the Guidelines is prerequisite for arriving at a final product that is accepted, respected and applied. The Guidelines will only become useful and have an impact if they are implemented. By working closely with stakeholders from the outset, the development of the Guidelines and their implementation will overlap. It is important that the preparation of the Guidelines is not seen as a separate event but as an integral part of other initiatives. The discussions taking place during the preparation of the Guidelines will influence national and regional policies, strategies, plans and actions and strong stakeholder buy-in will ensure that the instrument becomes an integral part of ongoing governance and development processes.

A consultative process with regard to good practices in the governance of small-scale fisheries has been ongoing during the last few years. This has given a better understanding of the needs of the sector and of those dependent on aquatic resources for their livelihoods. In addition to recommending that an international small-scale fisheries instrument would be needed, the process has also given good indications of its key elements.

These elements now need to be elaborated further into statements and advice that can form part of the Guidelines. The Guidelines should be a document that is agreed by governments, regional organizations and civil society organizations, and that small-scale fishers, fish workers and their communities across the world feel ownership of and can relate to. The Guidelines should be both inspirational and practical. To achieve this, they have to be anchored in the day-to-day reality of small-scale fishing communities at the same time as taking a long-term perspective with a view to ensure sustainability of aquatic-based livelihoods and the environment they depend on. This requires extensive consultations with all parties concerned, sound technical advice and good negotiation skills – to allow for effective compromises when required.

Discussion Document: Towards Voluntary Guidelines on Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries has been prepared as an input into the consultations and the development of the Guidelines in accordance with the COFI recommendations. It draws on the outcomes from the recent consultative process as well as other work and discussions by and among FAO and its partners. The document takes its basis in recent information presented to COFI under the small-scale fisheries agenda item, in particular the one for the 29th Session outlining the potential contents of an international small-scale fisheries instrument. The purpose of this document should be well noted – i.e. a basis for discussion. Hence, neither the text nor the structure proposed in the document should be considered as a draft of the Guidelines. The document is meant to be used as a tool for facilitating inputs and contributions to the important process of developing a widely accepted and useful international instrument on small-scale fisheries. Countries and stakeholders who wish to engage in a consultation and capacity development process to inform national policies and practices and contribute to the development of the VG-SSF may benefit from a Concept Note for Stakeholder Consultation Process on Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries developed by FAO.

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