Karel Callens from FAO’s Food and Nutrition Division opened the panel, introducing the issue of small-scale fisheries and highlighting the role of such communities in delivering nutritious food. Small fishing in poor countries is crucial for employment, as many people (especially women) are involved in such practice. However, small fishing communities are often marginalized, and more inclined to suffer from shocks.
He then pointed out the importance of fish for what concerns food security and nutrition in low-income populations, as fish is an important protein source for many people.
Anne Wetlesen, from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), deeply focused on this issue, stressing the importance of fish for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and young children, who can rely on an improved and varied diet.
Securing a sustainable use of fishing resources is therefore essential to reach SDG 2, leaving no one malnourished. It is important to recognize that small-scale fisherfolk supply more than 60% of fish destined to direct human consumption, about 660-820 million people depend wholly or partially on fishing, and 58 million of those are engaged in the primary sectors of capture fisheries and aquaculture.
SDG 5 (Gender Equality) was also a major issue during the panel. Since women are recognized to have a vital role in small-scale fisheries, equal rights and opportunities have to be fostered.
As a matter of fact, gender equality in the fishing sector is important for economic growth and food quality since around half of those who work in this field are women.
Reaching SDG 14 (Life under water) requires a huge effort for people, and more knowledge on fish resources is needed. Indeed, activities such as oil drilling, energy installations and construction of ports must be developed with great care and with the awareness of possible negative impacts on life under water.
Concerning SDG 16 (Peace, justice and strong institution), Anne Wetlesen stressed the need for international cooperation in order to achieve sustainable fisheries management.
Serena Pepino, Right to Food Officer at FAO, recognized that there is enough food to end world hunger today, but a great amount is totally wasted. The achievement of SDGs must therefore be reached through an intersectoral approach with guidance tools which can help to increase efficiency and enhance participation.
The international community must recognize the importance of food security and combine its effort to adopt effective solutions. Parliaments, governments and civil society must all focus on coherence and on a people-centered approach to recognize the need of poor communities in order to deliver better aid.
Working together may really make a difference if everyone can make progress to achieve food security.
Naseegh Jaffer, World Forum of Fisher Peoples (WFFP) Secretary General, pointed out how actually the right to food is the right to feed our family with dignity, to provide the entire community a better future.
Governments must take into account how people feed themselves, ensuring good policies which do not obstruct the right to food and mostly the right to safe food.
At the same time, though, fishing communities must be able to self-organize and valorize themselves.
Sidibé Aboubacar, from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), stressed the importance to monitor the progress of small-scale fishing communities by data collection and by reporting what is found out.
Monitoring mechanisms support progresses made by the parties, and it is evident that the availability of information is vital to enhance efficiency.
The last speaker, Alison Graham, from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), pointed out the paramount importance of human rights.
Human rights have to be secured and discrimination is inadmissible. The obligation to respect people’s rights is a huge issue nowadays, as not all governments manage to secure such inviolable rights.
The right to food must not be violated nor undermined and ensuring adequate food is a priority as it also entails the right to health and education, and to protection as well.