Re: Implementing the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries

Mr. gilles van de walle FARNET Support Unit, Belgium

Key for the successful implementation of these guidelines is to foster ownership by local stakeholders. Benefits and added value of these guidelines have to be made clear to the final beneficiaries which in turn will be able to push their respective governments into action. At the same time, there is a need to secure political will in support of the implementation of the guidelines through highlighting potential political gains. The type of implementation will of course depend very much on the resources available, which will determine the possible levels of intervention.

1  Partnering for implementation

The European network for fisheries areas (FARNET, has been facing similar challenges for the past few years in the implementation of the local development initiative of the European Fisheries Fund (Axis 4). The main tasks of the network have been to on the one side build capacity of administrations and local stakeholders at various levels (national, regional, local) to help understanding and effective implementation of the initiative. On the other side, FARNET has been instrumental in sharing experiences across the various local development projects, in order to avoid the downfalls of localism (isolation, duplication of initiatives and reinventing the wheel) and facilitate peer learning. Networking at various levels should be considered as a key element of the implementation of SSFG as it allows for mutual learning while fostering a sense of belonging to a wider change making effort thereby increasing the legitimacy of all actors of the delivery chain. 

2 information and communication

Informing and communicating effectively on the benefits and added value of the guidelines for the small scale fisheries sector will be key to its success. Effective communication has to start early in the process as reaching out to any communication target takes time, let alone SSF which present specifically acute communication challenges. Given the wide diversity of the communities targeted in terms of culture, languages, level of education, beliefs, customs,… the communication strategy will have to be careful designed to allow for passing on a common message despite this diversity. One option could be to give specific importance to visual communication tools (infographics, videos) backed up with limited text to avoid translation costs becoming too heavy a burden (as all texts would need to be translated in local languages) and as well allowing to reach out to parts of the communities which present lower levels of literacy. These tools can be used to raise interest in local communities in the adoption of the SSF guidelines which should be a first step in the implementation process. Videos would be made for example on small scale fisheries communities which already benefit from following the SSSFG. Different angles and added value could be particularly stressed using different examples of sustainable small scale fisheries communities around the world. Place local people at the heart of these videos, avoid government officials and donors showcase.  As mentioned in Malta, one element all these communities have in common is that they have fishing at their heart and that fishermen from all over the world speak the same language. So if you want these SSFG to be understood in different fishing communities, use that language to convey the powerful message contained in these guidelines.  Another tip to ensure successful SSSFG implementation is to try to brand them into an “elevator speech” which can explain what they are and their added value in a limited timeframe in different contexts. A useful tool for coining effectively a message is to select a 3 words combination to describe what you are trying to do. Example of videos are available on our website (check particularly the intro video on Axis 4).

In terms of participatory monitoring and evaluation, again any system has to be designed before the start of the implementation process, and be designed around the main objectives of the programme. Robust yet simple indicators, with associated monitoring needs and possible methods for data collection should be devised from the onset. The rureval network of DG AGRI and the WorldBank CDD programme both have extensive experience in programme evaluation. Participatory evaluation requires strong capacity building at local level to be effective.

3 Challenges and opportunities

Implementation challenges will lie at different levels. The first challenge mentioned already under point 2 is to foster ownership at local level. Information and communication needs linked with this have been discussed above. Other needs relate to capacity building and improvement of social capital at local level for which a strong outreach component has to be built into the implementation process. The people in charge of the capacity building will need to have the local knowledge both in terms of cultural and linguistic skills to adapt to the very different local context and allow for the development of trust with the community. Training the local trainers will allow for ensuring some degree of coherence in the implementation process while ensuring the  adaptation of needs to the local context. Once local communities will have acquire the tools to start implementation of the SSFG they will be able to exert bottom up pressure on  their different levels of administrations in accepting the SSSFG as enabling framework for the SSD of fishing communities.

Second challenge will be to generate political uptake of the SSFG. Ideally as mentioned in the preceding paragraph the political level will respond to the demands stemming from the local level. But this is likely not to be sufficient with a clear need to actively work towards convincing decision makers of the added value of the implementation of the SFFG. Some specific outreach tools could be developed as well, which would put forward the elements which are closer to decision makers interests. Possible political gains such as the capacity of the SSFG to reduce/resolve conflicts at local level, to alleviate poverty , improve livelihood and well being,.. should therefore be highlighted.

Capacity building should also reach the administration in charge of managing the SSF issues in the various countries to avoid these officials being squeezed between the pressure from the political level and the demands from the local level. Basically technical assistance should be provided to all levels of the delivery chain, adapting the method and expertise for each level.

Third challenge is linked to the timeframe of the implementation of the guidelines which will require to dispose of a long term horizon perspective. Improvement in social capital at local level and generation of  political support takes time and efforts and requires trust to be build along the delivery chain. There is little point in initiating the process if the initial efforts cannot be sustained as all these efforts, capital and more importantly trust risks to be lost. To ensure as well that implementation is going in the right directions periodic reviews should be carried out to allow for adjustment of the intervention. 

Given the wide diversity of contexts and acute challenges faced by the implementation process of the SSSFG (reinforced by the economic crisis limiting the availability of funding sources), an option could be to start with sub regional programmes, targeting efforts on a few countries/regions which would allow to test implementation possibilities while limiting the initial risks. A certain critical mass still has to be ensured to allow for mutual exchanges and for experimenting with the implementations in a number of different contexts.

These were some initial throughts, condensed in a few paragraphs, happy to discuss further,

All the best