The Right to Food

Small-scale fisheries and the right to food: a path towards ending hunger

News - 28.10.2020

28 October 2020, Rome - In Angola, Honduras and Peru, fish is incorporated into national school feeding programmes, through national policies and strategies for public procurement schemes, offering small-scale fishers a chance to contribute to their community’s socioeconomic development.

This is an example of how countries put in practice principles and standars that acknowledge the importance of fisheries for food security and nutrition. But this recognition should not be taken for granted. Rather, it is largely the result of policy negotiations that aim to implement the right to adequate food and to support small-scale fisheries. The Right to Food Guidelines and the Small-Scale Fisheries Guidelines (SSF Guidelines) are two unique international policy instruments dedicated to advancing the rights of the most vulnerable groups in national food security contexts.

According to a new brief published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), these Guidelines were negotiated under the same premises: contributing to the progressive advancement of the right to food, hence pursuing the fulfilment of other basic human rights. Similarities go further. In addition to their explicit focus on the most vulnerable, including women and indigenous peoples, these tools offer vast policy guidance at all levels (to grassroots and local groups to government and international organizational).

Going hand in hand

Why do these two Guidelines share basic principles and objectives? The reason lies on ensuring food security and nutrition. Over 90 percent of small-scale fishers live in poor countries where the sector represents over half of global catches, provides a valuable source of micronutrients and proteins, and generates income for families and communities. There is no doubt that small-scale fishers are fundamental for the progressive realization of the human right to adequate food for millions of people around the globe.

On the other side, the small-scale fisheries sector is at risk due to climate change and insecure access to natural resources and markets. Still, fishing communities are often located in remote rural areas with often weak transport infrastructure, difficulties to trade and limited access to health systems, which exposes communities to a lack of dietary diversification.

These challenges are acknowledged in Guideline 4 and 8 of the Right to Food Guidelines, which are expanded in the chapter 7 of the SSF Guidelines.

Fishers will enjoy more and better their right to food if parliamentarians, civil society organizations, international organizations, academia and private sector, through policy dialogue and agreement with national governments, adopt the recommendations of these two set of Guidelines, and ensure their coherent implementation by building knowledge and raising awareness on their normative and policy linkages.

About the Right to Food and the Small-Scale Fisheries Guidelines

The Right to Food Guidelines were endorsed by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) and adopted by FAO Council in 2004.  It was the first attempt by the international community to interpret an economic, social and cultural right.

Ten years later, the SSF Guidelines were endorsed at the 31st Session of the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI).

The SSF Guidelines, together with other policy tools such as the Voluntary Guidelines on Tenure (VGGT), Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture (CFS-RAI) or the upcoming Voluntary Guidelines on Food Systems and Nutrition, are rooted in the Right to Food Guidelines. They all contribute to FAO mandate to eradicate hunger and malnutrition, and encourage all stakeholders to take immediate action and forever change the way policies for food security and nutrition are designed, implemented and monitored.

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