On International Human Rights Day, which marks the adoption on 10 December 1948 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, we celebrate the achievements by all members of the international community – States, organizations, companies, civil society, researches, individuals, etc. – towards reinforcing the recognition, protection and promotion of the human rights of all persons. Equally, we reflect on new evidence of human rights challenges for groups who have historically suffered from discrimination, unfair and/or inadequate treatment, inequitable access to natural and financial resources and means to fully realize their human rights, and who are therefore entitled to heightened protection. Small-scale fishers and their communities are among these groups, as emphasized in 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), through its Development and Law Service of the Legal Office and the Equitable and Livelihoods Team of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Division, has been collaborating with the One Ocean Hub, a research-for-development programme, to support the implementation of the SSF Guidelines and the promotion of a human rights-based approach to sustainable small-scale fisheries in Ghana, Namibia and South Africa through a joint virtual training on the Small-Scale Fisheries Legislative Guide, contributions to the development of a policy and legal diagnostic tool, and the co-development of an eLearning course to be hosted on FAO eLearning Academy.
In the context of the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture – 2022, launched last month, FAO, the One Ocean Hub and the UN Environment Programme are reaching out to other potential partners – including the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Development Programme – to organize a series of engagements to strengthen the recognition and protection of human rights of small-scale fishers and their communities. The proposed programme of work is meant to advance understanding of the multiple threats to the rights of small-scale fishers to have a voice in decisions affecting their lives, health, culture and livelihoods, and garner further support for small-scale fishers that act as environmental human rights defenders. In addition, the collaboration will explore good practices in ensuring the direct participation of small-scale fishers in engagements at different levels (see the FAO-Hub event at World Ocean Week 2021 here).
To celebrate this partnership on International Human Rights Day, Elisa Morgera (Director of the One Ocean Hub), Blaise Kuemlangan (Chief of the Development Law Service of FAO Legal Office), Margret Vidar (FAO Legal Officer) and Nicole Franz (Leader of the Equitable and Livelihoods Team, FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Division) emphasized the importance of linking international research collaborations and UN initiatives for better protecting the human rights of small-scale fishers and their communities:
“Small-scale fishers are being negatively impacted by ocean pollution, the impacts of unsustainable ocean uses, and climate change, but their needs, cultural heritage, unique knowledge and customary laws are often disregarded in decisions on the ocean. There is a pressing need to mainstream the human rights of small-scale fishers in ocean governance”.Elisa Morgera, Hub Director
“The protection of the human rights of small-scale fishers can be strengthened through strong legal frameworks that are consistent with international law and standards. FAO, in collaboration with other organizations and research partners, can support governments and stakeholders in the alignment of national legislation with those international standards, which would contribute to strengthening countries’ legal frameworks for protecting the human rights of small-scale fishers and their communities”.
Blaise Kuemlangan, Chief of the Development Law Service of FAO Legal Office
“Small-scale fishers provide an essential source of protein to local populations, thus helping to realize the right to adequate food for everyone. Their own human rights should be respected, protected, promoted and fulfilled, including their right to an adequate standard of living”.
Margret Vidar, FAO Legal Officer
“The SSF Guidelines provide an agreed framework grounded in a human rights-based approach for all of us. And small-scale fisheries organizations play a key role in ensuring awareness of their members about their rights, and in being able to claim them and to take on the responsibilities that come with those rights”.
Nicole Franz, Leader of the Equitable and Livelihoods Team, FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Division