Newsletter no 47 – Editorial

Small-scale fishers : Struggles and mobilisations

Illustration: Cara Penton, @CaraPenton

The United Nations has declared 2022 as the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture (IYAFA 2022) to highlight the importance of artisanal fishing and aquaculture.

Over the past ten years, and even more so since the pandemic, blue economy initiatives have been blooming. The 2021 UN Food Systems Summit advanced the notion of “Blue Foods”, which first and foremost means aquaculture. In 2021, the FAO Committee on Fisheries took unprecedented steps to advance aquaculture, giving birth to the “Shanghai Declaration” drafted by WorldFish, industry players, and other stakeholders.

IYAFA is now also showcasing artisanal fishing. Some prefer the term small-scale fishing, but regardless of the term used, it is always about the way of life that provides food and income for over a hundred million people globally. However, fisher people’s territories and resources are increasingly being grabbed: the entire blue economy agenda spanning from displacing people in the name of conservation (Marine Protected Areas -MPAs), to massive-scale investments for fish farming, to expanding ports to facilitate more global trade, and to unprecedented sound blasting and drilling for oil and gas, are examples of contemporary development that have and continue to dispossess fishing communities. We hope IYAFA will become the year for fisher people all over the world to scale up resistance and mobilise masses in demands for restitution and regeneration of nature.

Transnational Institute and FIAN International

Press Kit

Food Sovereignty Forum – Mali – 23rd to 27th of February 2007
Nyéléni 2007

The Mali based organisations wanted to give the International Forum for Food Sovereignty a name which held special meaning for the peasants and farmers of their country. They chose “Nyéléni” 2007.

“In Mali there is a powerful symbol which could serve as the symbol of food sovereignty. It’s a woman who left her mark in the history of Mali, as a woman and as a great farmer. When you mention her name everyone knows what this name represents. She is the mother who brings food, the mother who farms, who fought for her recognition as a woman in an environment which wasn’t favourable to her. This woman was called Nyéléni. If we use this symbol everyone in Mali will know that it’s a struggle for food, a struggle for food sovereignty.” Ibrahim Coulibaly

1. Objectives of the forum
2. Mali and the village of Selingue
3. Synopses of the program
4. The participants
5. The Steering committee
6. Food sovereignty: What is it ?
7. Accreditation for journalists

Read the whole Press Kit here:

Press Kit (PDF)


Réseau des Organisations Paysannes et de Producteurs de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (Network of farmers and producers organisations of West Africa) The ROPPA was officially created in July 2000 during a meeting in Cotonou of around 100 peasant leaders mandated by their organisations. It’s a grouping of organisations or “concertation frameworks” of 10 West African countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo). This group is not closed and its medium term ambition is to include farmers organisations from all the countries of the ECOWAS, which represents the real West Africa.

World Forum of Fish Harvesters and Fishworkers (WFF)

World Forum of Fish Harvesters and Fishworkers (WFF) was established to uphold human rights and social justice for fishermen. In some parts of the world, they are still beaten and killed for questioning the give-away of fishing quotas to foreign fleets, or for opposing the establishment of fish farms that destroy native fisheries, or for protesting ITQ schemes that privatize fisheries. Even in nations where government and corporate actions are more subtle, the need to organize across national boundaries is necessary to protect against pollution, habitat destruction and destructive fishing practices.

World March of Women

The World March of Women is an international feminist action movement connecting grass-roots groups and organizations working to eliminate the causes at the root of poverty and violence against women.

We struggle against all forms of inequality and discrimination directed at women. Our values and actions are directed at making political, economic and social change. They centre on the globalization of solidarity; equality between women and men, among women themselves and between peoples; the respect and recognition of diversity among women; the multiplicity of our strategies; the appreciation of women’s leadership; and the strength of alliances among women and with other progressive social movements.

De 2006 to 2010 considering the global context and the specific contribution the March could make, we have constructed our strategic plan and actions based on four areas of action: peace and the demilitarization of our planet; violence against women as a tool for maintaining patriarchy (control of women’s bodies, lives and sexuality, and commodification of women’s bodies); women’s work (formal and informal, overwork and exploitation of women’s work, and type of work and working conditions); and the common good (access to resources, water, land, environmental protection, and food sovereignty).

Via Campesina

Via Campesina is an international movement which coordinates peasant organizations of small and medium sized producers, agricultural workers, rural women, and indigenous communities from Asia, America, and Europe. It is an autonomous, pluralistic movement, independent from all political, economic, or other denomination. It is integrated by national and regional organizations whose autonomy is jealously respected. Via Campesina is organized in seven regions as follows: Europe, Northeast and Southeast Asia, South Asia, North America, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. Via campesina has one member and is collaborating with other organisations in Africa.

How was Vía Campesina created?

Its origin goes back to April 1992, when several peasant leaders from Central America, North America, and Europe got together in Managua, Nicaragua, at the Congress of the National Union of Farmers and Livestock Owners (UNAG). In May of 1993, the First Conference of Via Campesina was held in Mons, Belgium, where it was constituted as a World Organization, and its first strategic guidelines and structure were defined.The Second International Conference was held in Tlaxcala, Mexico, in April, 1996, which was attended by 37 countries and 69 organizations in order to analyze a series of issues that are of central concern to small and middle-scale producers, such as: food sovereignty, agrarian reform, credit and external debt, technology, women’s participation, rural development and others.

How does Via Campesina work?

Via Campesina is at present in a process of expansion and consolidation, and from its very nature, it is a pluralistic, democratic, multicultural movement, with a wide geographical coverage as a result of which, it is one of the most representative organizations for small and middle-sized producers world-wide. This complexity demands an enormous effort in order to accomplish the articulation, communication, and coordination need among the regions, their respective member organizations, as well as the whole movement in general. The complex work that Via Campesina takes on demands an important effort to achieve the articulation, communication, and coordination among regions, as well as between member organizations of each region and the global movement. Via Campesina works on the defense of professional interests, the political, the economical, communication, gender, training and technology.

What are its priorities?

The principal objective of Via Campesina is to develop solidarity and unity in the diversity among small farmer organizations, in order to promote economic relations of equality and social justice; the preservation of land; food sovereignty; sustainable agricultural production; and an equality based on small and medium-sized producers.In order to achieve these objectives, Via Campesina has defined its strategies among which are the following:

– The articulation and strengthening of its member organizations.
Inflluencing power and decision-making centers within governments and multilateral organizations in order to redirect the economic and agricultural policies that affect small and middle-scale producers.
The strengthening of women’s participation in social, economic, political, and cultural matters.
– The formulation of proposals in relation to important issues such as: agrarian reform, food sovereignty, production, trade, research, genetic resources, biodiversity,environment and gender.

IPC for Food Sovereignty

The International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty (IPC) was constituted on an ad hoc basis in 1996 to function as an organising committee for the NGO forum that took place parallel to the 1996 World Food Summit.

Following this, the IPC also organised the 2002 Forum for Food Sovereignty. The IPC’s current priorities and action agenda arise from a regional and global process of sustained discussions over many months prior to the 2002 Forum on Food Sovereignty.

These two fora were organised in Rome based on principles of self-organisation and autonomy. Since then, the IPC has been recognised by the FAO as its principle civil society interlocutor.

The IPC is not centralized and includes regional, thematic and constituency focal points from social movements and civil society. Nor does it claim to represent organizations attending NGO/CSO fora. The IPC acts to enable discussions among NGOs, CSOs and social movements, as well as to facilitate dialogue with FAO. The IPC will not substitute for direct relations between individual NGOs/CSOs or groups of organisations and FAO.

More info

Friends of the Earth

“FoEI is a campaigning organization. Our strength is in our ability to motivate people. We call upon the public to change not only their minds, but also their habits and activities. We ask them to put pressure on decision-makers to provide the necessary measures to protect the environment. We do not avoid contentious issues, and we do not seek to avoid conflict.”

In 1969, the Executive Director of the US Sierra Club resigned out of frustration that the organization neglected to tackle nuclear issues, or even to work internationally. This visionary man was called David Brower, and he explained:

Realising it was time to stop working toward a moon-like earth, I started a new organization. We fished around for a name, and came up with Friends of the Earth. It was essential that it be international in scope. With meetings in London, Paris and Stockholm, we were able to convince environmental people in three more countries to let the FoE idea migrate. Other countries now in the FoE network were courted, or courted us, and in no time the sun was rising somewhere on a FoE group. We made it a point not to be clearly organized or directed by some old tired formula from the top. Find good people with the right ideas and let them move ahead their way.” (1995)

So-called ‘environmental people’ from France, Great Britain, Sweden and the United States founded FoEI in Roslagen, Sweden in 1971. These first gatherings were passionate, multicultural exchanges of concerns and ideas. According to Richard Sandbrook, an early FoE activist from Britain, “The start of Friends of the Earth, and indeed of FoEI, was romantic to be sure, but it was also very hit and miss and mundane. Day by day you never knew where the money was coming from, nor who would take the slightest notice of what we did.”

Early meetings resulted in a unanimous decision to oppose nuclear power on the global level. In subsequent years, FoEI advanced to the forefront of the anti-nuclear movement, and thanks to the expertise of energy guru Amory Lovins became known for groundbreaking work on energy alternatives. Devastating accidents at Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986 increased the number of FoE groups strenuously opposing nuclear energy.

“Ten years ago, I went to my first meeting of Friends of the Earth International. I recall a babble of accents, a kaleidoscope of ideas, views and strategies. The spectrum of resources at our command ranged from modest to tiny. Could this small, motley crew help save the earth? But I also remember the words of a Japanese member tumbling out so fast we had to ask her to slow down. She was pleading passionately, not for an issue in her own country, but for Pacific islanders threatened by nuclear testing. Not just their crisis: ours, too. Citizens’ groups such as FoEI can reach across geographical and cultural boundaries, to act together in a way that our governments have so often failed to do.”

Throughout the 1970s, FoEI gathered allies in many countries and created a strong and critical presence in various international environmental negotiations. FoEI’s unique position on whaling, for example, which urged the protection of whale species without the destruction of traditional human livelihoods, enjoyed a rare success after a decade of campaigning with the International Whaling Commission’s 1982 moratorium on commercial whaling. FoE representatives also exhibited their talents for enlightened thinking with the publication of ECO, a daily NGO bulletin produced in collaboration with The Ecologist magazine, at the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm. ECO has since appeared at numerous other global fora on issues ranging from whaling to energy, and continues to provide NGOs and governments alike with essential and insightful analyses.
going global

Although international, Friends of the Earth remained predominantly northern in membership until strong groups from Asia, Latin America and Africa joined in the 1980s. The southern perspective deepened and broadened FoEI’s analysis and activities. Tropical rainforests became a central issue with the launching of a FoEI rainforest campaign in 1985, and FoE groups worked creatively and intensively together with indigenous peoples to draw attention to the plight of the world’s tropical forest dwellers and their habitats. Another global initiative of the 1980s was the founding of the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) in 1982 by FoE groups in Malaysia, Brazil and the United States.

FoEI’s first Eastern European member was Poland’s Polski Klub Ekologiczny which joined in 1985; FoE Estonia, the first independent Soviet association ever to become a member of an international environmental organization joined three years later. Pan-European action on issues ranging from acid rain and air pollution to packaging and biotechnology intensified and increased in effectiveness. Two influential European organizations were also initiated during this period: the Brussels-based FoE Europe in 1985, the first regional FoE coordination; and Milieukontakt Oost-Europa in 1987, started by FoEI and the World Information Service on Energy (WISE) in order to facilitate East-West cooperation on environmental problems.
foei today

FoEI’s global reputation was solidified in the 1990s. Parallel to the emergence of ever more global social and environmental problems, the federation has embraced a rapidly increasing number of member groups, and older groups have become stronger. FoE groups must conform to specific membership criteria, and members regularly assess themselves in light of these requirements. Annual General Meetings, the earliest of which were brainstorming sessions for a small group of Europeans and North Americans, have developed into week-long, highly-structured events covering multiple topics and attended by women and men from South, North, East and West. With a total of 68 member groups worldwide in 2002, FoEI has at last become a global force for environmental and social change.

FoEI’s potential was brandished at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, where a vocal mosaic of FoE groups critiqued the business-as-usual approach of governments and corporations attending the meeting. FoE Netherlands also used Rio as the stage to introduce its groundbreaking Action Plan for a Sustainable Netherlands, a first step in the popularization of the concepts of ‘environmental space’ and equity. Sustainable Netherlands has since given birth to the Towards Sustainable Europe Campaign and the North-South Project — both of which fall under the umbrella of FoEI’s Sustainable Societies Programme.

Like any other organization, FoEI enters rough waters from time to time. Campaigns and projects are often frustrated by lack of funding, and the Secretariat has survived several lean seasons. FoE member organizations suffer in varying degrees from insufficient infrastructure, lack of staff, and crippling workloads. When groups become overwhelmed by national problems, international communication may falter. Differing analyses and strategies can result in divisive or deadlocked discussions, and necessary bureaucratic business can consume valuable time during international meetings. The lack of clear progress in many campaign areas, and the simultaneous proliferation of environmental damage and social misery can dishearten and demotivate activists. And for some, environmental activism can prove dangerous and even fatal, as the mysterious deaths of four top FoE Costa Rica campaigners in 1994-95 tragically proved.

Much of the momentum behind FoEI’s campaigning is surely provided by the personal contact, solidarity and inspiration that the federation provides. It is also heartening to imagine that if current trends continue, FoEI’s ideas will probably meet with greater political acceptance in coming years. One push in that direction should come via FoEI’s Council of Patrons, which unites prominent thinkers, activists and celebrities who support the work of the federation. It can only be hoped that each coming day in FoEI’s existence makes us stronger, and brings us closer to truly sustainable societies.