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11.11.2013 - 03.12.2013

Implementing the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries

Following the recommendation of the 29th Session of the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI), FAO engaged in a consultative process to support the development of an international instrument for small-scale fisheries. The text of this instrument, the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication (SSF Guidelines), is now being negotiated by FAO member states with the intention to present a final document to COFI in 2014 for approval.

While the official endorsement of the SSF Guidelines of course is of critical importance, the real challenge lies in their implementation: the SSF Guidelines will only become effective if their provisions are put into practice. Accordingly, the 30th Session of COFI ‘agreed on the need to develop implementation strategies for the SSF Guidelines at various levels’. The SSF Guidelines implementation will be a collaborative undertaking that requires concerted efforts by all to be successful.

The FAO SSF Guidelines Secretariat is committed to continue the promotion of collaboration and engagement by all stakeholders. We would hence like to invite you to this e-consultation to share your experiences and views on how the SSF Guidelines could be implemented effectively following their adoption by the FAO Committee on Fisheries in June 2014. The outcome of the e-consultation will provide inputs for the FAO Secretariat to draft a holistic and inclusive global assistance programme taking your lessons learnt, best practices, plans and expectations into account. The e-consultation will also allow for a broad based sharing of knowledge and experiences among partners and stakeholders to support effective implementation of the SSF Guidelines. 


We would like to hear your experiences and views with regard to three related topics:

  1. Partnering for implementation – roles of different actors and stakeholders
  2. Information and communication – promoting experience sharing and collaboration
  3. Challenges and opportunities – needs for support and interventions

With a view to inspire discussion, some questions and initial thoughts and guiding questions on these three topics are presented below. Background information and links to relevant documents related to the SSF Guidelines, their context and the process by which they have been developed, are also given.

We look forward to your insights and contributions and thank you in advance for your time!

The FAO SSF Guidelines Secretariat


  1. Partnering for implementation

The implementation of the SSF Guidelines will require engagement and partnerships across different institutions, organizations and actors as the SSF Guidelines implementation does not only require the involvement by fishers but takes into consideration also the role and needs of those around them. Fishing communities, CSOs, academia, NGOs, governments, regional organizations, donors and international agencies and organizations all need to work together - but different actors may have different roles to play to address issues in relation to fisheries governance, gender, post-harvest, consumer interests, wider societal interests, etc. Please share any experiences, both good or bad as well as lessons learned related to partnerships in the implementation of international instruments

  • How do you see the role of your organization and others in the implementation of the SSF Guidelines?
  • How can partnerships be fostered and strengthened to include the ‘voices of the marginalized?
  • What will be required at local, national, regional and global levels to ensure effective and efficient partnerships?
  1. Information and communication – promoting experience sharing and collaboration

Continuous learning and sharing of experiences will be of utmost importance for effective implementation. Available lessons learnt, best practices and tools should be used and reinventing the wheel avoided, but at the same time the local context may differ to such a degree that specific tools and solutions must be developed. Monitoring of progress will be important to keep track of what is working (and what is not) and participatory monitoring and evaluation systems and relevant statistics can help making information available and shared.

  • What best practices with regard to communication would you recommend for SSF Guidelines implementation at local, national, regional and global level?
  • What are your experiences from participatory monitoring and evaluation?
  • How can progress in implementing the SSF Guidelines be measured and reported in a useful way?
  1. Challenges and opportunities – needs for support and interventions

There will be implementation challenges (e.g. financial, political, institutional, cultural) to address but also opportunities to capitalize on. These may vary from one context to another and also differ between the global, regional, national and local levels. Understanding these challenges and opportunities will be important for identifying and designing support activities. The implementation of the SSF Guidelines will need a mix of different types of interventions, including – but not necessarily limited to – the strengthening of political commitment and awareness raising, changes in policies, revisions of legislation and/or regulations, development of capacity and empowerment, improving and sharing information, and strengthened research and communication.

  • What do you think the main implementation challenges are, generally as well as in a specific country context, and how could they be overcome?
  • What are your experiences of addressing these types of challenges and what have been successful or unsuccessful strategies and approaches?
  • How would interventions vary, depending on the time frame (e.g. what can be done within the next 12 months, in the next 5 years, in the long term) and depending on the existing resources (e.g. small/medium investments or large/transformative investments)?

This discussion is now closed. Please contact for any further information.

Lena Westlund Facilitator of the discussion, Sweden
FSN Forum

Dear colleagues/forum participants,

It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you to this e-consultation on the important issue of the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication – or the SSF Guidelines as they are called for short. Writing this welcome note makes me realise how far we have come – but also how much there still is to do.  We have come far because of the increased recognition of the importance of small-scale fisheries and because we are now close to having an international instrument in their support (still subject to another session of negotiations and formal approval by the FAO Committee on Fisheries – COFI – next year but I feel confident that the remaining process will go well). At the same time, there is still a lot to do because a document does not automatically change the world, even when it is an international instrument having been developed through an extensive consultation process and negotiated at a high level. The SSF Guidelines need to be put into practice to have a positive impact on the lives  of all those who depend on fisheries and aquatic resources for their livelihoods and well-being. This of course includes small-scale fishers, fish workers and their communities but also others who depend on fish for their nutritional needs as well as all of us who enjoy eating fish and who believe in equitable development and a sustainable use of our global resources. Hence, we all have a stake in the future of smalls-scale fisheries – let’s work together to ensure that they have a secure and sustainable future! I look forward to your contributions, feedback and ideas during this e-consultation that will take place until 3 December. Your inputs will be vital for the continuation of the process towards a comprehensive and effective implementation of the SSF Guidelines and will feed directly into the the work of the FAO SSF Guidelines Secretariat to draft an inclusive global assistance programme. At the same time, I see this as a great opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences – not only with the FAO SSF Guidelines Secretariat but also among yourselves and between different stakeholder groups and disciplines. So, I wish us all an interesting and fruitful discussion – enjoy!

With best wishes,

Lena Westlund