Newsletter no 31 – Editorial

Oceans and water

Water is an essential element for life and a crucial component of the human environment. It is also an indispensable natural resource needed for the production of our food and the maintenance of our planet’s basic functions. For these reasons, water has increasingly become a central political element in peoples’ struggles for food sovereignty.

The current edition of the Nyéléni newsletter exposes the growing global threat of privatization and commodification of water – especially those of the oceans and of inland waters, which are the source of life for thousands of millions of fisher folks the world over.

Fisher communities from different regions and countries, organized in global movements – the World Forum of Fish Harvesters and Fish Workers (WFF) and the World Forum of Fisher Peoples (WFFP) – are resisting “ocean/water grabbing”, which follows similar logic to land grabbing. Under the ideology of “bringing development” to the “poor” regions of the world, states, international financial institutions, coalitions of transnational corporations, philanthropic foundations and transnational environmental NGOs are increasingly denying access to natural resources of fisher communities and threatening their traditional fishing practices. The so-called model of “blue growth” they promote has little to do with the protection and fulfilment of the human rights of these communities and more to do with the maximization of the profits of private companies at the expense of peoples’ access to oceans and inland waters.

But the voices from the field show us how small-scale fishers have been resisting this model and strengthening their autonomy through collective capacity building, joint advocacy work and exchange of experiences including for example workshops and trainings on the Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries (SSF Guidelines). The SSF Guidelines have become a tool for fisher communities to make states accountable for human rights violations and companies accountable for their abuses against communities’ rights. The SSF Guidelines are also a tool to discuss policy frameworks with local, national, and regional, and even international authorities. Fisherwomen play a crucial role in this political process, for they undertake fundamental work (mostly unpaid) in the dynamics of communities – carrying out domestic activities, taking care of the family and children as well as working together with men. For women it is essential to acquire knowledge and skills to improve their livelihoods, including improved fish processing technologies, developing access to credit as well as working in groups to address social cultural norms that impede women’s autonomy.

The time has come to reemphasize the importance of fish workers themselves – both women and men – and for communities to exercise their sovereignty and make states meet their human rights obligations – especially with regard to the protection of our oceans and inland waters.

Sofia Monsalve, FIAN International