Droit à l'alimentation

New handbook offers practical guidance on the joint implementation of the Small-Scale Fisheries and the Right to Food Guidelines

News - 15.06.2021

15 June 2021, Rome - Aimed at guiding the complementary application of the Right to Food Guidelines and the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication (SSF Guidelines), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has released an online handbook.

The new publication, entitled “Small-Scale fisheries and the human right to adequate food - Making the connection”, guides the reader through the elements of commonality between the two voluntary instruments and includes examples and approaches to transform these tools into sound policies and programmes.

In many parts of the world, fish is the main affordable and sufficient source of nutrients and proteins. For many families in poor countries, fishing means much more than just a meal, it is the way to survive and earn a living. 

But despite the substantial contribution to food security and nutrition, many small-scale fishers continue to be marginalized. Their contribution to sustainable development goes unrecognized, just as do many of their human rights.

“Small-scale fishing communities play an important role in food security and poverty eradication, particularly in rural areas”, FAO Right to Food Policy Expert, Serena Pepino, said. “We will not achieve the 2030 Agenda if their human rights are not respected and protected”, she added. 

“Unequal power relations, lack of access to services or limited participation in decision-making are only some of the constraints the sector faces”, FAO Fishery Planning Officer, Nicole Franz explained. “All of which, if unaddressed, can hinder the ability to feed oneself and wider society in dignity”, she added.

Elements for making connection

The first common entry point presented in the handbook for the implementation of both human rights-based Guidelines is identifying who is who and who does what in the small-scale fisheries sector, from civil society organizations to right to food observatories and legislators. It is also important to analyse the power relationships and potential conflicts between all relevant stakeholders.

The second common feature is to run the appropriate human rights assessments (legislation, policy, programmes, etc.). Some of the relevant questions at this stage are whether accountability and redress mechanisms have been established, or to what extent there is right to food awareness among state officials and right holders. It is about understanding the who (who are the most vulnerable?), the where (where are the most vulnerable located?) and the why (why are the most vulnerable most food insecure?) of food insecurity and malnutrition in any given context. This will provide an essential know-how to advance any meaningful and sustainable legal and policy action.

Third, tracking the impact of policies on human rights, particularly the right to food. This enables to see which measures are yet needed to achieve the results and how far policies are from reaching their objectives.

Forth, empowering stakeholders through capacity development, such as training courses or networking. This should be carried out hand in hand with awareness raising, so that all those involved in the implementation are familiar with the content of the Guidelines and understand their role.

Fifth, gender considerations have to be embedded in policy action. There are several measures than can contribute for this, like recognizing women’s customary rights to fisheries resources or encouraging their participation in fisheries governance. 

Two unique normative tools

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 by the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI). The SSF Guidelines are the first rights-based international instrument dedicated entirely to the small-scale fisheries sector.

They go both beyond theory to offer concrete guidance to all stakeholders to design, monitor and implement policies. These tools were formulated through bottom-up consultations and pursue the fulfilment of all human rights.

The SSF Guidelines, together with other policy tools facilitated by the CFS, including the recently adopted Voluntary Guidelines on Food Systems and Nutrition, the Voluntary Guidelines on Tenure (VGGT) and the Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture (CFS-RAI) are rooted in the Right to Food Guidelines. They all make explicit reference to and are backed by a series of binding and non-binding instruments, such as International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESC).

Key facts about small-scale fisheries

  • 120 million workers depend on commercial capture fisheries value chains for their livelihoods.
  • 97% (116 million) of these people live in developing countries. Among them, over 90% work in the small-scale fisheries subsector and almost 50% of the total workforce is women.
  • Small –scale fisheries supply two-thirds of catches destined for human consumption.
  • An estimated 5.8 million fishers in the world earn less than $1 per day.
  • Large industrial fleets dominate fisheries management efforts and political interest. Policies need to refocus on addressing the needs and challenges of small-scale fisheries.