Unlike formal conventions and declarations of the UN, voluntary guidelines provide an integral role for civil society actors and communities in shaping them. Focusing on the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries (SSF Guidelines), this article underscores the importance of local-level implementation, given the significant contribution of small-scale fishing communities to national economies. It suggests that democratization requires active community participation, meaningful consultation, as well as identification of relevant indicators and participatory actions. Ultimately, successful implementation of the SSF Guidelines requires contemporaneous empowering of communities at the local level and recognizing the true value of small-scale fishing worldwide.

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