Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page

Executive summary

International concern over the widespread nature of food insecurity and poverty in the developing world has increasingly manifested itself in recent years. These concerns have been reflected in the programmes of multilateral donor institutions, most notably the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank who, since 1999, have made concessional lending (and eligibility for Heavily Indebted Poor Country [HIPC] debt-relief initiatives conditional upon countries submitting Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers [PRSPs]) prior to funds being released. PRSPs are expected to emerge through a highly participatory and transparent consultation process, prescribing a combination of macroeconomic and sectoral policies consistent with poverty reducing outcomes. Presently (December 2003), fifty countries have completed either a full or interim PRSP, the majority of whom (26) are from Sub-Saharan Africa. The obligation to produce and submit PRSPs has served to strengthen donor coordination around the national policy concerns identified. Country Assistance Strategies (CAS), which describe the World Bank's strategic objectives and lending policy to a country, are now expected to be coincident with nationally produced PRSPs. Similarly the European Union (EU) development policy and aid, as detailed in the respective Country Strategy Papers, is expected to be complementary to, and based upon, the underlying PRSP.

For those other low- and middle-income developing countries which do not qualify for debt relief under the HIPC initiative and/or are unable to take advantage of multilateral concessional lending facilities, national development plans (NDPs) are the order of the day. Countries producing NDPs (or their equivalent) include Mexico and Peru in Latin America, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean, Gabon and Egypt in Africa, and Thailand and the Philippines in Asia. Although poverty reduction may not necessarily be the overriding policy objective in the case of NDPs, in practice the majority commit themselves to tackling the theme.

Yet, with current projections suggesting a reduction of less than 30 percent (at best) in the numbers living in poverty by 2015 and, with over 60 percent of the poor still likely to be found in the rural sector by 2025 (FAO, 2002), particular attention is now being directed at resolving rural poverty. The keynote address, delivered by the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Kofi Annan, at the 2003 annual session of the UN Economic and Social Council, for example stressed the need for;

"... an enabling macroeconomic policy environment that is conducive to poverty eradication and sustainable development in rural areas... according high priority to incorporating broad integrated rural development strategies designed to reduce poverty into the national planning and policy framework (Annan, 2003)."

Although the fisheries sector was not explicitly addressed as a distinct part of the rural economy by Annan, regional activities such as the Support to Regional Aquatic Fisheries Management (STREAM) in South-East Asia and the Sustainable Fisheries Livelihoods Programme (SFLP) in West Africa are currently applying various fishery and aquaculture development and management approaches to reduce poverty and tackle local food security issues. Yet, whilst these and similar fisheries projects and programmes have delivered notable welfare-enhancing outcomes, most developing country governments appear to ignore the potential contribution the sector could make to the achievement of national food security and the reduction of poverty.

This circular seeks to redress this oversight. First, it examines the national policy-making process in order to identify potential avenues for advancing the interests of the fisheries sector when determining national budget priorities ("How the sector can be incorporated"). Second, it outlines two key reasons why the sector should not perhaps be peripheralized in development thinking and planning - what we term the "growth and equity" argument. The resulting framework allows us to draw up a global typology showing the importance of the sector within developing countries ("Why the sector should be incorporated"). Third, it examines the extent to which the sector is currently included in PRSPs, NDPs and donor strategies ("Has the sector been incorporated? - and, if so, to what extent"). Finally, it identifies those countries in which the fisheries sector is relatively large in socio-economic terms - but is presently failing to insert itself effectively/substantively in either NDPs and/or poverty reduction strategies, and those countries which are currently "punching above their weight" in this respect.

Section Two of this circular argues that macro-economic policy formulation is the outcome of the interplay between the interests of domestic national stakeholders and international stakeholders, the influence of each depending on particular historic (economic, social and political) circumstances. For much of the developing world, the debt crisis of the 1980s heralded growing external involvement in domestic policy formulation. First through the adoption of structural adjustment programmes - and the accompanying conditionalities - demanded by the IMF and World Bank, and more latterly via the obligation to produce and submit PRSPs before multilateral concessional lending is now approved. The participative process underpinning the preparation of a PRSP cuts across traditional discourse channels and offers new avenues for civil society groupings - including those arraigned in the fisheries sector - to inform the decision-making process, lobbying for the insertion of their desired goals and strategies into the final diagnostic policy document.

In contrast, the opportunity for the fisheries sector to insert itself into the national development dialogue in developing countries that are not dependent upon concessional multilateral lending will be conditioned by its ability to capture/influence key channels of traditional discourse within the policy formulation process. These opportunities are - however - likely to be more muted when the interests of the sector are submerged within a much larger ministry of agriculture and/or environment, fisheries simply being one of a competing number of intraministerial voices when it comes to mainstreaming natural resource strategies into national development planning. Opportunities still exist - it is simply a case of identifying the most optimal entry points for raising the profile of the sector in the strategic planning process.

Having noted the opportunities for sectoral inclusion in policy-making processes, Section Three then makes a case why the sector may merit mainstreaming into PRSPs, NDPs and donor support programmes by highlighting the manner in which fisheries can contribute to poverty reduction strategies. First, in terms of its value as a motor of growth. The establishment of 200-mile exclusive economic zones (EEZs) following the 1982 United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) Agreement saw extensive fisheries growth in many developing countries - to the point where developing economies now supply more than 70 percent of total fish for food production (IFPRI, 1997). As fisheries exports now generate more foreign exchange (either through export earnings or licence receipts) than the revenues earned from any other traded food commodity such as rice, cocoa, coffee or tea (FAO, 2003b), this provides a firm foundation for integrating fisheries into the national policy formulation process for some countries.

Second, in terms of underpinning national nutritional standards, as fish products presently account for 15-16 percent of global animal protein intake (FAO, 2003). The greater the domestic reliance upon fish protein, the greater the opportunity to insert the fisheries sector into national food security strategies (as in many Asian countries, for example). Third, the sector stands to benefit from the new poverty-oriented development programmes in those instances/countries where individuals, groups and communities linked to the sector are identified as inherently poor and/or latently vulnerable (as in Viet Nam, for example) - and therefore deserving of support. Finally, the potential for poverty-reducing, fisheries-specific, policies grows in line with the numeric size of the sector. The more [poor] fishers there are, the greater the potential for mobilization - and the more difficult it is for policy-makers to ignore such voices in the participatory dialogues that are increasingly informing national development processes. These four measures are then applied to identify the relative importance of the sector across 129 developing countries.

Section Four analyses a total of 281 of the most recent PRSPs, NDPs and donor support documents to ascertain whether the sector has been incorporated (and, if so, to what extent) in national development discourses. We apply a content analysis methodology derived from Oksanen and Mersmann's (2002) study of forestry sector inclusion in Sub-Saharan African poverty reduction strategies which evaluates inclusion against four criteria (fisheries issues, causal linkages, responses and processes) on a discrete four-point scale. Findings are discussed on a regional basis - regional averages suggesting that the sector has been most effectively mainstreamed in Asia (case of PRSPs, NDPs and World Bank donor support strategies) - closely followed by the African economies and the Small Island Developing States (SIDS). In contrast, Latin America, home to two of the top six global fishing nations (Chile and Peru), scores extremely poorly on the PRSP/NDP front.

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page