Small is Bountiful: From Words to Action: Using the SSF Guidelines and Human Rights for Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries

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A live webinar on From Words to Action: Using the SSF Guidelines and Human Rights for Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries” as part of the Small is bountiful series of webinars from 1-8 June.

Date: Thursday, 4 June 2020

Time: 18:00 PM – 19:15 PM (UTC+8)

Lead organizations: FAO, ICSF

Supporting organizations: DIHR, TBTI, WorldFish, IPC Fisheries, Working Group/SSF-GSF Advisory Group

Click here to watch the event recording

The Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication (SSF Guidelines) were adopted in 2014 by the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI). They are based on internationally accepted human rights standards and are to be interpreted and implemented in accordance with those standards and by using a human rights-based approach (HRBA).

This approach sought to ensure the participation of small-scale fishing communities in non-discriminatory, transparent and accountable decision-making processes by putting particular emphasis on the needs of vulnerable and marginalized groups and on gender equality. While the HRBA is a recognized practice, there is still a need to further explore how applying human rights standards can advance the implementation of the SSF Guidelines.

Accordingly, this webinar discussed what the HRBA means in the context of small-scale fisheries. Good practices were showcased and concrete examples presented by those directly involved and driving change.

Key discussion points:

  • Using the SSF Guidelines to address human rights issues: a way for a “soft law” such as the SSF Guidelines to change things starts with documenting human rights issues, then using the documentation for advocacy and dialogue with governments. Filing formal complaints to governments through national and international human rights institutions is another avenue;
  • The role of grassroots organizations: these organizations need to help raise awareness on how to use the SSF Guidelines. They need to form a strong sense that this is their tool, and that it is a win-win for women and men to take on this tool. Grassroots organizations can use the SSF Guidelines when they know better about them, feel that they are applicable to their situation and see that they can be used to effectively address their needs; and
  • Securing access for women: in the shift from local landing sites to big harbours, women risk losing access to fish for processing and selling. At the same time, positive examples have emerged where women are able to secure continued access through collective bargaining.

Some take-home messages:

  • Improving support and education: there is a need to go beyond usual fisheries partners and expand networks and collaborations, while raising knowledge and awareness about SSF and human rights;
  • A buy-in from fishing communities: local fishing communities must take collective action to put the SSF Guidelines to use. For this to happen, the SSF Guidelines need to resonate with them, which typically happens once communities become familiar with them;
  • Towards a binding legal instrument: the SSF Guidelines need to shift from voluntary to becoming binding legal instrument at the national level. First step in this process is to assess existing policy and regulatory frameworks; and
  • Linking the SSF Guidelines & SDG 14.b: Stronger link needs to be fostered between these two instruments as Target 14.b asks the governments to have an enabling framework supporting the implementation of the SSF Guidelines.

Read the event proceedings