The 1st International Advisory Group meeting of the Fisheries Transparency Initiative was attended by more than 25 international fisheries and governance experts from government, companies and civil society. The meeting was hosted and conducted by the HUMBOLDT-VIADRINA Governance Platform, acting as the International Secretariat for the FiTI.
The objectives of this meeting were threefold:
- INFORM: Provide current information on the initiative (e.g. background, initial design of process and content)
- DISCUSS: Feedback on process and content (e.g. priorities, synergies with other initiatives)
- PLAN: Develop consensus on next steps (e.g. next Advisory Group meetings, involvements of stakeholders)
The meeting started with a welcome address given by Prof. Dr. Peter Eigen, during which he shared the idea of the FiTI as a multi-stakeholder initiative and how it was inspired by his experience with the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). He emphasized how the core principle of this initiative – the “magic triangle” between government, companies and civil society – is key to address problems of governance in fisheries effectively.
His address was followed by a welcome speech by H.E. Sid’Ahmed Raïss, Minister for Economic Affairs and Development of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. The Minister reiterated the commitment of Mauritania to support the conceptual phase of FiTI and to take a leading role in implementing this global initiative.
Afterwards, Mr. Sven Biermann, Interim Program Director of the FiTI, gave a brief overview of the current status of the initiative, outlined major activities in the current conceptual phase, and described the role of the HUMBOLDT-VIADRINA Governance Platform.
Mr. Biermann continued to outline the envisioned framework of the FiTI, starting with describing the key characteristics of the FiTI. He further explained that the FiTI seeks to provide a coherent framework on i) how transparency could be achieved (process), and ii) what information should be made public (content).
The FiTI process model will draw on experiences from the successful procedural model of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). This suggestion was considered valuable by participants as this procedural model
i) increases transparency by producing reliable information;
ii) enhancing credibility through active participation of the three major stakeholder groups; and
iii) provides an enabling environment for engaging in public debate.
Mr. Biermann emphasized further that the initiative seeks to build on and supports existing transparency efforts in fisheries, such as the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (FAO; 2012); the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries (FAO; 2015); and the Guidelines for the Development of National Legislation on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (UNEP; 2010).
The general FiTI positioning, the FiTI procedural model, the FiTI governance structure and the FiTI transparency elements were discussed throughout the remaining sessions of the day. Some remarks focused on the following topics:
Regarding what information should be made public under the FiTI (i.e. transparency elements), it was suggested that the initial direction could focus on ‘access to marine resources’ – as this would cover comprehensive information on access arrangements by industrial- as well as artisanal fisheries.
Regarding the feasibility of the transparency elements it was acknowledged that there is a need for consensus to sustain the support of all three major stakeholder groups – government, companies and organized civil society. Following this, it was recommended that the FiTI should have ‘progressive improvement’ as an underlying principle; recognizing the possibility for more advancements over time.
Regarding the scope, it was suggested that the FiTI should focus on providing credible information that can be used by other stakeholders (e.g. civil society organizations, media). Thus, the FiTI should not make normative judgments nor benchmark data.
Regarding supporting factors, the importance of requiring an ‘enabling environment’ was highlighted as a major complementary benefit to the provision of credible data in form of a country report.
Regarding synergies with existing national multi-stakeholder groups (for example in countries where such EITI groups already exist), it was it was acknowledged that different participants are needed for these groups in order to provide industry-specific knowledge and experience. Thus, it was agreed that existing national multi-stakeholder groups (e.g. from EITI) cannot steward a country’s FiTI implementation process. Separate, FiTI-dedicated national Multi-Stakeholder Groups – comprising fisheries-related experts from government, companies and civil society – are required. In cases of countries where both national Multi-Stakeholder Groups will eventually exist (for the EITI and for the FiTI), operational synergies should be pursued.
At the end of the meeting, the participants discussed the next steps for the FiTI, especially with regards to the 2nd International Advisory Group meeting (21 October 2015 in Rome) and the 1st International Conference of the FiTI, which will take place in Nouakchott/Mauritania on 3 February, 2016.
For more detailed information on the meeting please refer to the meeting report (only available in English).