Indigenous Peoples

At its tenth session, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) made several recommendations.

At the 34th (Brasilia, 2010), 35th (UNESCO, 2011) and 36th (St Petersburg, 2012) sessions of the World Heritage Committee, representatives of the UNPFII were present as observers and provided statements.

The World Heritage Committee developed a vision and strategic action plan for the 40th Anniversary of the World Heritage Convention.

It noted that UNESCO is in the process of preparing a policy with regard to its programmes on indigenous peoples and encouraged these considerations to be included in the theme of the 40th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention in 2012 on “World Heritage and Sustainable Development: the Role of Local Communities.

A specific issue on world heritage and indigenous peoples has been published as World Heritage Review No. 62 to draw the attention of the international community to this important topic.

It is available online in English, French and Spanish at:

An international expert workshop on the World Heritage Convention and Indigenous Peoples was held in September 2012 in Denmark, hosted by the Danish Agency for Culture, the Government of Greenland and the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) as part of the 40th Anniversary of the World Heritage Convention.

Source: UNESCO




Water and Biodiversity

The theme of next year’s International Day for Biological Diversity 2013 is “Water and Biodiversity. Water sustains all life on Earth. It is vital for all people and ultimately determines our way of life. Providing and sustaining water for the needs of people around the world is already well recognized as a major challenge for sustainable development in most areas in both developed and developing countries. The ecosystems of our world, but particularly forests and wetlands, ensure that clean water is available to human communities. Water, in turn, underpins all ecosystem services.

Wetlands can help reduce risks from flooding. Restoring soils can reduce erosion and pollution, and can increase water available for crops. Protected areas can assist in providing water to cities. These are but a few examples of how ecosystem management can help us solve water-related problems.

Waterthe source of all life on earthis a cross-cutting topic and requires partnerships for its management. Solutions to water management issues are included in the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and its Aichi Targets.



Shade trees and mangroves: climate change in the South Pacific

The Pacific island nation of Vanuatu is running out of time. The indigenous inhabitants are already suffering from floods, cyclones, coastal erosion and water shortages. And climate researchers say the extreme weather will increase and sea levels will continue to rise.

Most members of the indigenous population depend on natural resources from farming, forestry and fishing. Now climate change is endangering the livelihoods of the islands’ inhabitants. Since 2009, Germany has been funding educational measures for politicians and journalists, and has kick-started several projects for the local rural population. On the main island, Efate, for example, new more robust vegetable varieties are being cultivated, as well as shade trees with nitrogen-fixing properties.

Source: Deutsche Welle




Central American Confederation of Artisanal Fishermen (CONFEPESCA)

CONFEPESCA, founded in 1997, is an umbrella organization for various artisanal fishermen’s federations in Central America, namely, FENAPESCA (Guatemala, where the organization has its headquarters), FACOPADES (El Salvador), FENAPESCAH (Honduras), FENICPESCA (Nicaragua), FENAPESCA (Panama) and CoopeTarcoles (Costa Rica), which has an observer status.

As part of the Central American Integration System (CCSICA), CONFEPESCA undertakes advocacy work on issues of interest for its constituency. It was the first civil society organization to present a position paper on the European Union-Central American Association Agreement, which it followed up at many meetings and forums.

CONFEPESCA is also involved in managing seasonal fishery closures for spiny lobster in the Caribbean and shrimp in the Pacific Gulf of Fonesca. It has also promoted exclusive artisanal fishing zones, and has drawn attention to the damaging impacts of trawling and intensive shrimp aquaculture on the environment and natural resources.

CONFEPESCA has disseminated the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and has participated in discussions on its proposed International Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-scale Fisheries. It also promotes development projects for fishermen in its member countries, either on its own or through CCSICA. To aid management at the regional and national levels, CONFEPESCA draws on the expertise of a Technical Body, which consists of fisheries specialists from each member country. The organization is now involved in a project to collect data on fisheries production in selected fishing communities in the region.

The management board of CONFEPESCA meets at least once a year and its General Assembly mandate is renewed annually. The organization’s current chairman is Félix Paz Garcia from Honduras, and the secretary is Cairo Roberto Laguna from Nicaragua.




Fisheries and the Right to Food

Excerpts from the report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food to the 67th session of the UN General Assembly:

1. A general assessment

Global marine and inland fisheries provide food security to millions of people. They do so through two channels. First, fish consumption accounts for 15 per cent of all animal protein consumed worldwide, and this proportion is even higher in low-income food-deficit countries (LIFDCs) (20 per cent), or in certain regions such as Asia (23 per cent) or West Africa (50 per cent). There are at least 30 countries where fisheries contribute over a third of total animal protein supply, and 22 of these are LIFDCs. Second, the fisheries sector provides 54.8 mn people with employment in capture fisheries and aquaculture and an estimated 150 mn people in upstream and downstream activities. In developing countries, many of those involved in fishing are small-scale fishers, and women are strongly represented in this sector, especially in the pre- and post-harvest sector, while many others depend on the revenues drawn from these activities.

Small-scale fishing is a highly labour-intensive and productive sector, although its importance is sometimes underestimated because of the volume of unreported catch and because some of this small-scale fishing is purely occasional, functioning as an essential safety net for coastal communities in times of crisis. Aquaculture has developed rapidly over the past few decades. Between 1980 and 2010, global fish-food production from aquaculture expanded twelve-fold, and it now may provide up to 45 per cent of all fish for direct human consumption. Asia is by far the leading region in this regard, accounting for 88 per cent of all aquaculture production (62 per cent in China alone). The growth of aquaculture has led to a shift of fishmeal feed from livestock farming to aquaculture uses. But recent reports highlight extensive overfishing and negative ecosystem impacts caused by the fish-feed reduction industry. Policy initiatives, therefore, should reduce the competition between fishmeal and fish-food availability for human consumption, as well as look to encourage direct human consumption of species of smaller fish, and to impose limits on what proportion of these fish can be diverted to fishmeal.

3. The globalization of fishing and licence and access agreements

The fishing industry is increasingly globalized. International trade of fish products has risen from 8 mn tonnes in 1976, with a value of about US$8 bn, to 57 mn tonnes in 2010, worth an estimated $102 bn . Roughly 40 per cent of all fish production is traded internationally, which is more than other foods such as rice (5 per cent) and wheat (20 per cent). For many LIFDC/developing countries, fisheries has become an increasingly important, but undervalued, economic sector, both as a source of export revenues and as a source of State revenues from selling access to distant-water fishing fleets. But various new concerns emerge with the globalization of the fishing industry through trade and access arrangements.

First, this trend may lead to decreased fish-food consumption by those who face food shortages and malnutrition; and competition for marine resources increases between populations with widely diverging purchasing power. The growth of export-led fishing may also encourage overfishing, and sharpen the competition for resources between industrial and small-scale fishing, leading to the loss of jobs over time for fishers in the small-scale sector.

Second, although small-scale fishers in developing countries may benefit from the opportunities created by the increased demand in foreign markets, middlemen or fish-processing factories may pay relatively low and only marginally higher (or even the same) prices than those paid by local markets and consumers. Small-scale fishers also generally face considerable obstacles, such as competition from larger firms, and tariff and nontariff trade barriers, including difficulties in meeting stringent hygiene and sanitation standards demanded by importing countries.

Third, while export-led fishing may result in employment opportunities on foreign vessels, wages and job security in that sector are often poor and dangerous. Recent research has exposed poor, even slave-like, working conditions on many industrial vessels operating illegally in developing coastal countries. Increased trade and licence- and access-related payments can generate revenues for the developing countries concerned. But a number of problems are identified in this respect. Benefit sharing often remains unequal between the coastal (host) States and the flag States of the fishing vessels. There is also considerable under-reporting of catch to host countries, which can lower domestic revenues. And even where licence and access agreements generate substantial revenues for host countries, the poverty-reducing impacts are ambiguous. The wealth generated by commercial fisheries may be concentrated among a small number of business and political elites, or repatriated to other countries, without benefitting the fishers, let alone society at large. Often, most benefits accrue to the exporting firms, and not to improving the food security of the fishers or fishworkers.

4. Protecting small-scale fishers

The FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI) is currently developing International Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-scale Fisheries. The Special Rapporteur welcomes this important initiative. He notes that access rights of artisanal and small-scale fishing communitiesover 90 per cent of whom are in developing countriesare protected under various instruments, including the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement (which requires States to take into account the interests of artisanal and subsistence fishers) and Article 6.18 of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (which recognizes “the important contributions of artisanal and small-scale fisheries to employment, income and food security and recommends that States protect the rights of small-scale and artisanal fishers).

However, there are diverging views as to how to ensure such protection. Proposals to clarify and strengthen access rights, through an approach based on transferable fishing quotas, could lead to rent capture by certain actors in a privileged position, which is difficult to reconcile with poverty-reduction objectives, as recognized by the Human Rights Committee. The Special Rapporteur would, therefore, favour instead providing exclusive rights for small-scale fishers in coastal areas or on lakes, as has been done in Cambodia in Tonle Sap lake. He also notes that top-down management strategies have not been benefiting the small-scale sector. Instead, co-management schemes have been more successful in establishing sustainable approaches to managing fishing intensity and ecosystems impacts. Indeed, while some co-management schemes have failed, such failures are often the result of communities not having been sufficiently involved in setting policy objectives or in ensuring that policymaking and evaluation are based on local knowledge of fish and marine ecosystems.

The Special Rapporteur, therefore, favours involving local fishing communities in the design, implementation and assessment of the fisheries policies and interventions affecting them, in accordance with human-rights norms and standards. He also encourages States to (i) regulate the industrial fishing sector in order to protect the access rights of traditional fishing communities; (ii) consider the introduction of exclusive artisanal fishing zones and exclusive user rights to small-scale and subsistence fisheries, where appropriate; (iii) strengthen the position of small-scale fishers in the production chain, for instance, by supporting the formation of co-operatives and supporting them to expand into the high added value stages of the industry; (iv) support fishers groups wishing to access export markets, under conditions that provide decent employment and promote sustainable fisheries management; (v) provide adequate social protection or safety-net interventions to communities who depend on fishing for their livelihoods in order to reduce the need for food-insecure and/or low-income groups to engage in potentially unsustainable subsistence fishing practices in times of crisis; and (vi) take measures that support women’s role in the fisheries sector, for instance by ensuring access to credit for women, and providing adequate facilities for them at landing sites.




ICSF’s Documentation Centre ( has a range of information resources that are regularly updated. A selection:


Contested Forms of Governance in Marine Protected Areas
by Natalie Brown, Tim Gray and Selina M. Stead.
Earthscan/Routledge. 2013.
ISBN 978-0-415-50064-7

Part of the Earthscan studies in natural resource management, this book compares two different forms of governance of MPAsco-management (CM) and adaptive co-management (ACM)with special reference to the Cayos Cochinos MPA in Honduras, examining how far it adhered to the principles of CM and ACM in its first two management plans.

Only One Earth: the long road via Rio to sustainable development
by Ferlix Dodds and Michael Strauss with Maurice Strong.
Earthscan/Routledge. 2012.
ISBN 978-0-415-54025-4

This book analyzes what has happened in the 40 years since the Stockholm UN Conference on the Human Environment and how the goal of sustainable development continues after the recent Rio+20 conference in 2012. It reminds us of the planetary boundaries we must all live within and what needs to be addressed in the next 20 years for democracy, equity and fairness to survive.


Mi Aldea, Mi Langosta (My Village, My Lobster)
Directed by Joshua Wolff
Written by Brad Allgood, Joshua Wolff and Bil Yoelin
Produced by Brad Allgood

This is the powerful and shocking story of the indigenous Miskito lobster divers along Nicaragua’s Atlantic coast who risk their lives diving for the region’s most lucrative resourcethe Caribbean spiny lobster. Over the past 20 years, hundreds of Miskito divers have died, and thousands have become paralyzed from decompression sickness, a diving-related condition commonly known as “the bends. Through the voices of Miskito lobster divers and their families, as well as boatowners, captains and doctors, My Village, My Lobster tells the story of an industry and a community in crisis.




Food First?

Fish is, at one and the same time, both a source of food and income. This is a quintessential characteristic which should be borne in mind while discussing the issue of food security. In fishing communities, on the one hand, there are large numbers who depend primarily on fishing for a livelihood. For them, it is the income from the sale of fish that lets them pay for the bare necessities of life. On the other hand, there are those who rely on farming, fishing or mere gathering from the bush, in order to exist. For the people of such communities, fish is less a source of income than a source of subsistenceoften a vital means of partially meeting their daily nutritional requirements of protein.

From the point of view of consumers, in several developing countries there exist underprivileged classes like agricultural labourers, and plantation and mine workers, who bank on fish as a source of cheap protein. This demand for fish is met mostly by domestic or regional trade. In contrast, there are fairly prosperous consumers in developed countries whose culture, habits and dietary preferences, more than anything else, determine the demand for fish. The requirements for this large market are satisfied mostly from imports.

Recent international efforts to address the issue of food security have gone only part of the way. Consider the Kyoto Declaration and Plan of Action on the Sustainable Contribution of Fisheries to Food Security that sprung from last year’s International Conference on the Sustainable Contribution of Fisheries to Food Security, as well as the 31st Session of the FAO Committee on Food Security in February this year. They provide only fragmentary approaches on how to effectively address the issue of food security in the context of fisheries.

Both these meetings focused only on supply-side issues. Augmenting supply per se means little to poorer consumers at the household level, unless the increase in supply should translate into better incomes for poorer fishworkers.

Furthermore, concentrating only on the supply side, without in any way restraining demand, could be ultimately counterproductive. This is because the market is the worst enemy of good resource management. The market mechanism invariably proves efficient enough to absorb large quantities of fish and can thus subvert any management measure, however worthwhile.

from the Comment in SAMUDRA Report No. 14, March 1996





Sustainable Ocean Initiative (SOI) Capacity-Building Workshop for West Africa

4 – 8 February 2013, Senegal

It will specifically cover: (i) ecologically or biologically significant marine areas (EBSAs), and (ii) integrated marine and coastal area management toward achieving targets 6 and 11 in a holistic manner.

North Pacific Regional Workshop to Facilitate the Description of Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSAs)

25 February to 1 March 2013, Moscow, Russia

South-Eastern Atlantic Regional Workshop to Facilitate the Description of Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSAs)

8 – 12 April 2013, Namibia


ICSF’s site on community-based marine and coastal resource management provides information on practices by fishing communities in different parts of the world. The website has an extensive bibliography of over 350 documents, besides articles from ICSF publications and SAMUDRA News Alerts.

Work in Progress

Work in Progress is the blog of the International Labour Organization (ILO) where experts share insights about the world of work and the state of the global economy. In a post on “Labour trafficking: a real eye opener, Beate Andrees, Head of the ILO’s Special Action Programme to Combat Forced Labour, says there are an estimated 21 mn forced labour victims in the world today.