Exploring the way forward from IYAFA on small-scale fishers’ human rights

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has invited the Hub to contribute to the closing events of the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture (IYAFA) in Rome on 31 March 2023, building on our intense collaboration on the protection of the human rights of small-scale fishers as a way to achieve multiple Sustainable Development Goals together with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  

Specifically, FAO has invited Hub Director Elisa Morgera to contribute to the high-level closing event of IYAFA, with a view to offering reflections and suggestions on next steps. In addition, the Empatheatre play Lalela Ulwandle (Listen to the Sea) will be performed after the high-level closing event, on Friday 31 March at FAO headquarters. As already explored at the 2022 Climate COP, Empatheatre provides an opportunity for international decision-makers, UN officers and international civil society to experience the multi-generation experiences, knowledge and concerns of a small-scale fishers, as well as all the other cultural, scientific and economic connections to the ocean of other characters in the play. 

The day before the Empatheatre performance (Thursday, 30 March), Hub researchers involved in Empatheatre and in the Coastal Justice Network in South Africa, as well as Hub researchers involved in legal research, will hold a workshop on art-based research approaches and solidarity network-building for the protection of the human rights of small-scale fishers. The workshop will provide an opportunity to explore a variety of art-based research approaches pioneered under the Hub (theatre, animation, radio, documentary, photo stories, music, poetry) and the lessons learnt in the creation and support for the Coastal Justice Network with a view to co-identifying with participants in Rome transferable practices that could be adopted in development projects and the practices of civil society organisations involved in the fisheries sector and beyond. 

Furthermore, the Hub and the Danish Institute for Human Rights will organise two events during the same week in Rome. The first will be a training event on the international and national avenues for the protection of the human rights of small-scale fishers (29 March). This will build on two webinars co-organised by the Danish Institute and the Hub in February with various international and national human rights bodies. The Rome training session will aim at supporting more collaboration between fisheries specialists, environmental NGOs and human rights practitioners to contribute. It is also hoped that the event and the connections made around it will contribute to the planning of the second SSF Summit in 2024. A key area for discussion will be knowledge gaps and capacity-building needs of fisheries and environmental experts interested in working more closely with human rights bodies.  

On the same day, the Hub and the Danish Institute will also hold a roundtable with FAO colleagues and government representatives in Rome on the relevance of the WTO Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies for protecting small-scale fishers’ human rights, based on a 2022 Hub research paper and a Danish Institute report. The event will consider the documented negative impacts on small-scale fishers’ human rights of harmful fisheries subsidies, as well as potential negative impacts on them of subsidy removal The event will also explore the need to consider the human rights implications of re-investing the funds that will become available from the elimination of fisheries subsidies towards supporting the transformative change needed to address biodiversity loss and the full realisation of small-scale fishers’ human rights. It is expected that key messages from the event will feed into the meeting of the FAO Sub-Committee on Fisheries Trade scheduled in September 2023. 

We hope to meet many colleagues and new partners in Rome. Please contact Senia Febrica if you are interested in: 

  • participating in any of these events in person in Rome;  
  • suggest/offer venues for additional performances of the Empatheatre play in Rome (27–31 March), so as to allow other members of the public to participate in it; and/or 
  • wish to meet the Hub team (Elisa Morgera and Stephanie Switzer, University of Strathclyde, and Mitchell Lennan, University of Aberdeen, UK; Dylan McGarry and Buhle Francis, Rhodes University, Kira Erwin, Durban University of Technology; Philile Mbatha, University of Cape Town, South Africa and Empatheatre actors. 

Photo by Jacki Bruniquel