IBON International welcomes the High Level Panel of the Committee on Food Security’s (CFS HLPE) recognition that fisheries play a crucial role in food security and nutrition (FSN) — a recognition which has been lacking in many international FSN reports, as the CFS itself acknowledges — and offer some comments on this zero draft.
For instance, food sovereignty includes the right to fight the power of corporations and other forces that destroy the people’s food production systems and deny them food and life. This is a key concept that could help to reframe the discussion of the relationship between small-scale fishers and large-scale, corporate fisheries. Under a food sovereignty framework, the discourse is not limited to a weighing of the pros and cons of both sides, but moves beyond, to recognizing the need to take a stand that would best serve the end of FSM for all.
“So, does international trade reduce or accentuate food insecurity? Two recent comprehensive reviews conducted independently converged towards the same findings (Allison et al., 2013; Arthur et al., 2013). Their conclusion is: at best, the evidence is unclear and contradicting, and at worse no strong / rigorous evidence exists to substantiate either of the two narratives.”
The draft goes on to cite a study that “can help clarify the situation.”
“While there is little doubt... that international fish trade has positive effect on trade revenues and possibly on job creation, these revenues don’t seem to translate into positive outcome in terms of food security... In other words, depending on the criteria used to assess the ‘success’ of international fish trade, the conclusions may differ quite dramatically, even when one is looking at the same case.”
On the contrary, this vacillation in the draft is indicative, not of confusion between “pro-trade” and “anti-trade” narratives, but of a hesitancy to honestly criticize the international trade system.
The CFS should take a firmer stand in its document. After all, the CFS itself cites numerous studies explaining the ways in which the present structure of the international trade system, including the fisheries and aquaculture global value chain, has made fish products inaccessible or unaffordable to the most marginalized sectors of society, even small-scale fisherfolk.
IBON International notes that very manner in which the CFS zero draft frames the issue is flawed. The dichotomy should not be between pro and anti-trade stances; instead, it should be a discussion on how to reshape trade in a way that is more beneficial to more people around the globe.
Trade in fish products does not occur in a vacuum, but within the existing international trade system, with all its problems and weaknesses. Thus, to address the negative impacts of international fish trade requires a study of context and root causes. By recognizing that entirety of the present international trade system is structurally flawed, the dialogue can shift to the establishment of a just trade system, as a necessary requisite for making sure that fish trade, in particular, supports or complements the goal of food security for all.
In this light, we add that the abovementioned points should be raised in the ongoing drafting process of the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries. Genuine moves to consider these issues would aid in formulating the VG as an active tool in stemming the ongoing destruction of small fishing communities which are being displaced or replaced by corporatized large-scale fisheries or aquaculture industries .
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