Future of Our Planet Requires Deeper Cooperation, Long-term Thinking

Credit: Denis Onyodi – IFRC/DRK/Climate Centre

By Liu Zhenmin
UNITED NATIONS, May 2 2019 – For most of the 7 billion people on the planet, global institutions are remote, far removed from their day to day existence. Yet, our global institutions matter.

They shape the global systems – such as international trade rules – that will enable the more than 3 billion poor people worldwide, who live on less than about 20 yuan a day, to rise out of poverty.

In 2015, the world’s leaders agreed on the transformative 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which laid out a path to shared prosperity and sustainability. But implementing the 2030 Agenda requires a fundamental shift toward sustainability in our financial systems.

The global financial architecture must enable trade and capital to flow across borders in a way that is stable and sustainable. This would help fund necessary investments, including in resilient infrastructure, and help put countries on sound financial footing. The architecture should also protect against shocks, but allow rapid responses to shocks when they do occur.

There is some progress to report. A joint assessment of financing global sustainable development, just completed by the United Nations – in collaboration with other international institutions, including the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization – finds that private sector interest in sustainable finance is growing.

LIU Zhenmin

Investors gradually realize that the way corporations manage environmental and social risks can impact financial performance. Sustainable development is also increasingly incorporated in public budgets and development cooperation.

But these changes are not happening at nearly the required scale, nor with the necessary speed. For example, annual spending on education in the poorest countries alone would need to more than triple to achieve universal education aspired to under the 2030 Agenda.

The gap on infrastructure financing in developing countries remains on the order of hundreds of billions of dollars.

In today’s interconnected world, major challenges cannot be solved by countries acting alone. Rather than retreating from multilateralism, the international community must strengthen collective action.

International trade has made a significant contribution to economic growth and development. When we work together, we can achieve great things for the good of all people.

The Belt and Road Initiative is an example of how countries are working together to find new paths to prosperity. The resulting infrastructure will enhance connectivity between Asia and Europe, and expand connections with Africa and South America. It provides important opportunities for countries to deepen cooperation and deliver sustainable infrastructure.

Achieving sustainable development – particularly eradicating poverty, reducing inequality, and combatting climate change – requires a long-term perspective, with governments, the private sector, and civil society working together.

Yet most private capital markets are short-term oriented and put pressure on corporate executives to demonstrate profits on a quarterly basis. A more uncertain world begets even more short-term behaviour.

Private businesses hesitate to commit funds to long-term investment projects if economic prospects are unclear. During periods of financial insecurity, households often focus on their immediate needs.

If the Belt and Road Initiative could take a long-term perspective, it will help to build long-term, stable and sustainable financing into the multilateral system. It can be at the forefront of efforts to counter short-term behavior.

Aligning both private and public incentives with sustainable development, and better measuring the impacts of investments and policies on sustainability, will further our global efforts. Private financial markets in China, like those in many other middle-income countries, are growing in size and importance.

If markets are to become a tool that promotes sustainability, rather than short-term speculation, the policies need to be carefully designed. For example, governments can price externalities, such as the cost of environmental pollution, ensuring that the true costs of investments are recognized and considered.

Requiring more meaningful disclosure by corporations on social and environmental issues can help. According to a KPMG survey of about 5,000 companies from 49 countries conducted in 2017, 75 per cent now publish corporate responsibility reports and 60 per cent include some sustainability information in their financial filings.

Their efforts should be further encouraged so that some internationally recognized standards in sustainability reporting could be agreed in the future. Countries can also promote long-term investing by supporting efforts to build indices for stock markets that includes companies with sustainable business practices.

China also blazes the trail in green finance. The green credit guidelines, issued by the China Banking Regulatory Commission in 2012, is a pioneer example of standards that promote loans to more climate-friendly projects.

Moreover, China is a leader in green bond issuances. Lessons learned by China and others can be shared through international platforms, such as the United Nations, to find synergies and strengthen policy frameworks.

At this time when greater global cooperation is needed, the multilateral system is under stress because of a backlash against globalization in some parts of the world. Initiatives like Belt and Road can and should demonstrate the positive power of global cooperation.

It can help reshape both national and international financial systems in line with sustainable development. If we fail to do so, we will fail to deliver sustainable development for all. The very future of our planet is at stake.

On World Press Freedom Day, Let us Ask: #WhereIsAzory?

By Muthoki Mumo
NAIROBI, May 2 2019 (IPS)

Speaking in parliament recently, Tanzania’s information minister, Harrison Mwakyembe, wondered why people were still concerned about the whereabouts of Azory Gwanda, a freelance journalist who went missing in November 2017 in the country’s Coast Region.

After all, he was reported saying, many other people, some of them government officials, have gone missing in the same region of Tanzania. So why should Gwanda be the “golden” one about whom people ask?

These statements were not as shocking as they should have been. They fit an unfortunate pattern of non-answers and dismissals from Tanzanian government officials when confronted with the question: Where is Azory Gwanda?

But this question is urgent, because Gwanda’s story reflects how drastically press conditions have deteriorated in Tanzania under the presidency of John Pombe Magufuli. This World Press Freedom Day, Tanzanian journalists have less to celebrate and more to fear.

Muthoki Mumo, Sub-Saharan Africa representative, Committee to Protect Journalists

One of the last people to see Gwanda, whose work appeared in the sister newspapers Mwananchi and The Citizen, was his wife Anna Pinoni. She described the suspicious circumstances in which he disappeared, saying that he came to their farm in the company of unknown men in a white landcruiser.

Gwanda asked her where she had left the keys to their home and said he was taking an emergency trip, and would be back within a day. She later found their home ransacked and on November 23, 2017, she reported him missing to police.

Despite these obviously suspicious circumstances; pleas for answers from the local Tanzanian media community and international civil society; and even a July 2018 letter from UN Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups, there have been no demonstrably credible investigations  into this case. Initial promises to investigate have not been fulfilled.

When asked about Gwanda in July 2018, Home Affairs Minister Kangi Lugola told journalists that authorities “don’t interfere in the freedom of an individual that gets lost while at his home.” After backlash he later walked back his comments but suggested Gwanda may have run away.

Lugola’s predecessor at the Home Affairs ministry, Mwigulu Nchemba, had in January 2018 warned that members of the public should “shut up” about disappearances unless they had evidence to offer police.

Before his disappearance Gwanda chronicled mysterious killings and abductions in his community, including of police and local government officials. Pinoni in 2017 told Mwananchi that she thought his reporting might be linked to his disappearance.

Gwanda’s reporting asked precisely the questions that Mwakyembe, in parliament in April, claimed we all ought to be asking. His disappearance denied the public crucial information about these incidents.

The failure to investigate this case sends a grave message about how much the government values the safety of Tanzanians who now ask themselves if they will face a similar fate by asking the “wrong” questions.

Magufuli, who styled himself as an enemy of corruption and government excess when he took over in 2015, has since also proven himself an enemy of the press and of free expression.

Last year CPJ documented the case of journalist Sitta Tumma, who was arrested while reporting an opposition demonstration and held overnight. Authorities later claimed, ludicrously, that they did not know he was a journalist because he was not wearing the appropriate uniform.

Since 2017, at least five newspapers have been banned, on specious allegations, from false news, to inciting violence and sedition. Almost always such bans are targeted at outlets that challenge the official narrative of a government that seems keen to set itself as arbiter of truth.

The Citizen newspaper was this year banned for a week, after it reported the weakening of the local currency and the state of Tanzanian democracy, without deferring to official sources. Five television stations were in January 2018 fined for covering a report by a non-governmental organisation on alleged human rights abuses during 2017 by-elections.

In 2016 popular live parliamentary broadcasts were halted, ostensibly due to cost cuts. The impact is that citizens can no longer as easily observe the processes of their democracy.

The repression has been codified into law.

The Statistics Act checks the extent to which journalists, academics, and even private citizens can question official government data. The Cyber Crime Act has been used to legally harass and exert pressure on one media outlet to reveal whistleblowers. Blogging has become an unreasonably expensive affair ever since the government imposed new content regulations last year.

Azory Gwanda’s story reflects how drastically press conditions have deteriorated in Tanzania under the presidency of John Pombe Magufuli. This World Press Freedom Day, Tanzanian journalists have less to celebrate and more to fear.
Credit: Erick Kabendera/IPS

The Media Services Act of 2016 restricts the content of news on vague and imprecise grounds and also seeks to license journalists. The East Africa Court of Justice (EACJ) in March directed Tanzania’s government to amend the law. In meetings with the International Press Institute (IPI) and the Tanzania Editors’ Forum (TEF)  in April, Mwakyembe, the information minister, said the government was open to reconsidering the law— a glimmer of hope.

Local elections are planned in Tanzania later this year and presidential elections are slated for next year. If there is anything to learn from recent elections in  other countries, it is that elections tend to be periods of heightened risk and repression for journalists.

Therefore now is the time to ask after the wellbeing of not just Azory Gwanda, but all Tanzanian journalists. This is why we at the Committee to Protect Journalists recently launched a #WhereIsAzory? campaign to tell his story and call for answers.

The power of such international solidarity should not be underestimated.

I and a colleague of mine, Angela Quintal, experienced this power first hand last year when we were detained overnight in the country by government agents and interrogated about why we were there, including our interest in Azory Gwanda. The outpouring of support from within Tanzania and beyond, we believe, was instrumental in our safe release. 

*Muthoki Mumo is the Sub-Saharan Africa representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists

Fifth World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue: Geneva Centre announces strategic partnerships with civil society organizations and national human rights commissions in Azerbaijan

By Geneva Centre
BAKU, AZERBAIJAN, May 2 2019 (IPS-Partners)

In relation to the participation of the Geneva Centre at the Fifth World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue, the Executive Director of the Geneva Centre Ambassador Idriss Jazairy participated in several high-level meetings in Azerbaijan.

The aim of these meetings was to enhance the Centre’s collaboration with civil society organizations and national human rights commissions in Azerbaijan in the field of interfaith dialogue and the promotion of mutual understanding and cooperative relations between societies in the Global North and the Global South.

In the meeting with the Executive Secretary of the National Commission for UNESCO, Ambassador Elnur Sultanov, Ambassador Jazairy informed the latter about the outcome of the 25 June 2018 World Conference on religions and equal citizenship rights.

Ambassador Jazairy mentioned that the World Conference was inspired by the endeavours of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan HE Ilham Aliyev to initiatie the Baku Process that aims to enhance mutual understanding and respect between individuals and groups with different ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic backgrounds.

The World Conference – they said – had been a timely opportunity to promote intercultural and inter-faith dialogue among international experts, opinion makers, religious, lay and government leaders in times when religion has been considered as a source of division.

In light of this discussion, the participants highlighted the need to capitalize on the momentum of the World Conference and to examine inventive ways to carry the process forward to harness the collective energy of religions, creeds and value systems in the pursuit of equal citizenship rights.

The participants agreed that with the rise of populism in advanced societies and violent extremism in the MENA region, the promotion of religious tolerance and peaceful cooperation between world societies is needed more than ever. In this connection, Ambassador Sultanov cited the Constitution of UNESCO which says: “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.”

In this connection, both parties agreed to pursue joint activities to enhance inter-faith dialogue and inter-cultural understanding through the holding of conferences at the United Nations Office in Geneva and in Azerbaijan. Ambassador Sultanov and Ambassador Jazairy likewise expressed their readiness to conduct joint research studies on religious tolerance and multiculturalism in Europe.

Addressing the surge of Islamophobia in Europe

In a second meeting held in Baku, Ambassador Jazairy was welcomed by the Chairman of the State Committee on Religious Associations Mr Mubariz Gurbanli. Ambassador Jazairy used the opportunity to inform Mr Gurbanli about the endeavours of the Centre to promote and enhance the protection of human rights in the Arab region.

Both parties agreed that the rise of Islamophobia has given rise to anti-Muslim and anti-Arab sentiments in advanced societies in the West. Mr Gurbanli highlighted that the State Committee on Religious Associations had organized several high-level inter-faith meetings, similar to that of the 25 June World Conference, in Finland, Germany and Sweden between religious leaders of Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

The outcome of these meetings, Mr Gurbanli, highlighted, had enabled religious bodies of these faiths to come together so as to build understanding and harmony as well as to address issues related to Islamophobia, Christianophobia and anti-Semitism that prevail in societies whether in Europe or in the Middle East.

In this relation, Ambassador Jazairy used the opportunity to present the 10-point World Conference Outcome Declaration on “Moving Towards Greater Spiritual Convergence Worldwide in Support of Equal Citizenship Rights” and the latter’s follow-up actions.

The said declaration, Ambassador Jazairy, appeals to decision makers to harness the collective energy of religions, creeds and value systems in the pursuit of equal citizenship rights. The Geneva Centre’s Executive Director mentioned that there is 90% convergence between faiths and 10% specificity. In the current context, media and decision makers tend to focus on the 10% that divides societies which have given rise to a toxic narrative about the other.

To reverse this ominous trend, Ambassador Jazairy mentioned the importance of promoting equal citizenship rights so as to avoid that social segments of society fall back on sub-identities to achieve their human rights. The Geneva Centre’s Executive Director also noted that secularity includes diversity while secularism works to exclude faith-based groups.

In light of this discussion, both parties agreed to organize joint conferences on inter-faith dialogue in the future and to conduct further research on points of commonalities of religions, creeds and value systems in the pursuit of joint values. Mr Gurbanli used the occasion to invite Ambassador Jazairy to participate in a major inter-religious forum in Vienna in June this year.

Signing of MoU with the International Eurasia Press Fund

In the presence of national MPs of the Parliament of Azerbaijan, members of national human rights commissions, diplomatic community, civil society organizations and media representatives, the Geneva Centre signed an MoU with the International Eurasia Press Fund.

The MoU lays the foundation for a collaborative partnership between both organizations in the holding of joint panel debates at the United Nations Office in Geneva on issues related to global governance, the promotion of human rights of IDPs as well as the promotion of cooperative relations between people and societies.

The agreement also commits the parties to arrange and organize joint training programmes in relation to the promotion of human rights, peace and sustainable development in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region as well as in Azerbaijan.

During the meeting, the President of the International Eurasia Press Fund Mr Umud Mirzayev expressed his appreciation for the endeavours of the Centre to promote a value driven human rights system.

The Charge d’Affaires at the Embassy of the Swiss Confederation in Azerbaijan Ms Simone Haeberli likewise praised the endeavours of the Centre to promote inter-cultural understanding around the world and stated that she was proud that Switzerland had hosted the 25 June World Conference on religions and equal citizenship rights.

Ambassador Jazairy thanked Mr Mirzayev and Ms Haeberli for the hospitality expressed to the Centre during the signing ceremony and extended his appreciation to the MPs of the Parliament of Azerbaijan that attended the signing ceremony and expressed their support to the work of the Centre.

Italian Islamic Religious Community to cooperate with the Geneva Centre to promote inter-religious understanding

During a meeting with the Chairman of the Italian Islamic Religious Community Mr Yahya Pallavicini, and the Executive Director of the Geneva Centre, the parties expressed their commitment to pursue joint activities to promote inter-religious understanding in Europe between faith leaders and religious followers at grassroot level.

Mr Pallavicini mentioned he had taken note of the outcome of the World Conference and its Outcome Declaration and used the opportunity to invite Ambassador Jazairy to present the ten-point declaration during a public hearing at the Italian Parliament.

The Geneva Centre’s Executive Director accepted this proposal and expressed his readiness to meet with the President of the Italian Islamic Religious Community. Both parties agreed to sign a partnership agreement to formalize their cooperation in the near future.

Sierra Leone’s Journalists Demand Justice for “Murdered” Colleague and Call for Law Reform

Press freedom in Sierra Leone faces continued pressure, even under the government of President Julius Maada Bio. Credit: CC By 2.0/Alan & Flora Botting

By Lahai J. Samboma
LONDON, May 2 2019 – Ibrahim Samura, erstwhile editor and publisher of New Age, an independent Freetown newspaper, was beaten up with “heavy-duty metal chains and sticks” during Sierra Leone’s presidential run-off election in March 2018—in front of the police and army. He died from his injuries three months later. But more than a year since the assault the perpetrators are yet to be brought to book.

The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) has called on the government of President Julius Maada Bio for the immediate prosecution of all those who physically assaulted a newspaper editor last year.

The attack on Samura and at least two other reporters occurred in full view of security personnel, as the journalists covered the elections no more than 50 feet from the police station in the Freetown suburb of Lumley.

“The continuing delay in bringing them to justice is breeding a culture of impunity,” Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, the national secretary general of SLAJ, told IPS. “We are calling on the police and on the government to take action. The investigation has been done. It’s up to the authorities to now prosecute. We will continue to put pressure on them to do so.”

According to SLAJ, Samura’s death is directly related to the beating he received, which caused the intracerebral haemorrhage the autopsy determined caused his death. Further, medical experts say if Samura did not suffer “similar blunt force trauma about the head” from the time of that merciless beating to the time of his death, then it is “very safe” to conclude that those who beat him in March caused his demise.

The five perpetrators, so-called “high-powered hooligans”, comprise: a former deputy minister from the then ruling All Peoples Congress party (the APC), Ibrahim Washingai Mansaray;

the former Mayor of Freetown, Herbert George Williams;

the chairman of a local football club who was vying for the presidency of the national football association, Sanusi Kargbo;

Abubakarr Daramy, an APC government spokesman;

and, last but not least, Dankay Koroma, who happens to be the daughter of then President Ernest Bai Koroma.

Ten months after the journalist’s death, none of the infamous “Samura Five” have been arrested. This is despite the fact that police say the necessary warrants had been issued. Some reporters have attributed this to the fact that before his death Samura had publicly accepted an “apology” from the APC, in effect offering “pre-emptive forgiveness” to those who some see as his murderers.

But, as the publisher of Sierra Express Media, Adeyemi Paul, said: “He may have forgiven them, but a crime is a crime. The role of the police and the courts is to arrest and prosecute criminals, not to offer forgiveness.” Not unexpectedly, most journalists share this view. Amara Samura (no relation), editor of The Vision newspaper, said: “Those who beat Ibrahim Samura should be brought to justice, because that beating caused his death – apology or not.”

Fayia Amara Fayia of the Standard Times newspaper, said there were rumours Samura had accepted “compensation” from ex-President Koroma, whose daughter was one the alleged attackers. “Journalists should not enter into such arrangements with their abusers, because it will lead to impunity,” he said.

Many journalists who had hoped the election of Bio as president augured well for press freedom in Sierra Leone have been disappointed. The harassment, intimidation and beatings of journalists has continued under the rule of his Sierra Leone People’s Party (the SLPP). Barely a month after Bio assumed office, SLPP supporters assaulted Yusuf Bangura, a radio reporter for the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC). His attackers said it was “payback” for his “negative reporting” of the SLPP and Bio in the run up to the elections.

Then last September, Fayia Amara Fayia was arrested at the television studio of AYV Media during a live broadcast. His arrest was ordered by the deputy information minister, who claimed the reporter had libelled the president in one of his articles. Fayia was later released without charge. That same month several journalists were attacked and their equipment damaged by alleged SLPP thugs while covering a bye election in the northern Kambia district.

In January of this year the editor of Sierra Express media, Alusine Bangura, was beaten up at his office by men who, he says, not only identified themselves as supporters of the SLPP, but were also wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the ruling party’s emblem. He suffered serious injuries to his head and torso from the beating the group dished out to him. Three of his colleagues had been lucky to escape.

“I recognised one of the men, a hefty bloke, a popular thug for the SLPP,” Bangura told IPS. “There were about 13 of them. Had it not been for the guys in the area, who came to assist me, I might have been killed.”

According to Bangura, this was the second attack on their offices. The first one happened in April 2018, just after Bio took office. “They attack us because they say we are too critical of the government,” he continued. “They also said we criticised them when they were in opposition. But that is our duty, to keep the politicians on their toes. We are always critical of government, any government.”

These attacks against journalists going about their lawful business can be seen as evidence of a culture of impunity which the continuing failure to prosecute the alleged killers of Samura has fuelled in Sierra Leone. Many believe that if a precedent is set, where people are punished for attacking journalists, it would serve as a deterrent to these almost pedestrian assaults on journalists who are simply doing their jobs. As Bangura said, “I myself could have easily been killed in January by those thugs.”

It will be recalled that Harry Yansaneh, the acting editor of For Di People newspaper, was killed in 2005 after an SLPP MP, Fatmata Hassan, sent her children and assorted thugs to beat him up. In this case, which is eerily similar to Samura’s, the killers got-off scot-free. It can even be argued that Samura might be alive today, or that Bangura might not have sustained those serious injuries, if Yansaneh’s alleged killers had been convicted back in 2005 of even the lesser charge of manslaughter or, at worst, aggravated assault.

In a cruel twist of fate, Yansaneh had become acting editor of For Di People after substantive editor Paul Kamara was jailed for two years for allegedly libelling President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, whose SLPP government invoked draconian criminal libel legislation to convict the journalist.

Perhaps one reason why the present SLPP government is reluctant to prosecute Samura’s killers is because it will mean not only that they would have to also prosecute their own supporters who routinely beat up journalists, as we have seen, but also those who killed Yansaneh in 2005, there being no statute of limitation for murder.

But the president would do well to recall his words to members of the SLAJ when he addressed them last December. Bio had said: “I would like us to remember the heroism of someone who is not here with us tonight – Ibrahim Samura… Never again should we have a government or politicians who abdicate their duty to protect journalists and become the perpetrators of violence against journalists.”

A month after the president said this, thugs severely beat up the editor of Sierra Express Media. They then ran away—and live to assault another journalist another day.
As SLAJ calls on the government of President Bio for action against the so-called “Samura Five”, its members are also looking to the government to fulfil their manifesto promise to repeal criminal libel laws, which previous governments have used to muzzle the press and to punish outspoken journalists like Kamara.

Speaking to IPS from South Africa, Angela Quintal, Africa Programme Coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), said: “President Bio must move swiftly to ensure that the law on criminal and seditious libel is finally repealed, something that he committed to when he came into power last year.”

Quintal added: “A message must also be sent that attacks on journalists will not be condoned by authorities and the only way to ensure this is to ensure that those responsible [for Samura’s death] are held accountable through prosecution. President Bio has publicly committed to upholding press freedom and this is one way to show that his sentiments are not mere rhetoric.”

4 Revolutionary Tips to Stop Aquaculture and Fisheries Ignoring, Resisting or Eroding Gender Equality

Meryl Williams, Chair, Gender in Aquaculture and Fisheries Section of the Asian Fisheries Society

By Meryl Williams
CANBERRA, Australia, May 2 2019 – In my years in fisheries research in Australia, few researchers were women, all fishers were assumed to be men, “girly” calendars were occasionally pinned on the office, lab or tea room wall at work and the workplace rules of engagement for women were still being worked out by trial and error. I vividly remember when my colleague, “Jessie”, the only woman technician in our research agency, was assigned to go into the field for a week to support a fish tagging project run by men scientists. The men took umbrage and went to the Union to protest this affront to their work conditions. The Union warned them that they could be sacked for discriminating against a woman. So change was at hand – or so it seemed.

Meryl Williams

Over the last four decades, I discovered that some change is very slow, while other change can be very rapid. In fisheries and aquaculture, international gender research has revealed that gender equality is progressing slowly, and may even be resisted or eroding, but many other changes in the sector have transformed fishing and aquaculture and the seafood value chain beyond recognition. Unfortunately, many sectoral changes resulting from global drivers favouring international trade, more efficient production, the Blue Economy, even sustainability, have contributed to gender equality being ignored, resisted or eroded. The resistance is abetted by cultural norms favouring men with the means to amass and control capital assets for producing and processing fish.

Where does this place the women? In our 2019 International Women’s Day OpEd [1], eight colleagues and I said that the seafood industry is women intensive but male dominated. Women workers are over-represented in low skilled, low paid, low valued positions while men dominate the power positions. From the poor quality global statistics available, women are 15% of the primary production workers but rising to 20% in activities in inland water fisheries. Women dominate in the labour intensive processing industry, perhaps reaching 85% to 90% of the total processing workforce. Sex-disaggregated statistics for aquaculture, that now produces more than half of the fish we eat directly, are poorer than those for fisheries. Women aquaculture workers represent a lower share of the workforce in larger, more capital intensive and offshore operations. The top end of the workforce in fisheries and aquaculture is the realm of men, with 99% CEOs, 90% board members and leaders of professional organizations.

International research into gender in aquaculture and fisheries has been fundamental in revealing the detail of the inequality women experience in seafood value chains. For more than 28 years, my colleagues and I in the Gender in Aquaculture and Fisheries Section and partner organisations have examined the depth of gender inequality and its impacts on women in studies, conferences and publications [2]. We have revealed the dearth of sex-disaggregated data, lack of time series to show trends and make comparisons, started to sketch the sectoral and economy-wide settings that exacerbate inequality, and experimented with creating gender transformative change in communities.

This leaves us knowing that positive change is not going to happen quickly but also realising that we have to stimulate the climate for positive change before other forces take over. From our collective experience, therefore, we found four revolutionary tips that can energise the system for a change to gender equality.

First, women need to work together for their rights. Rights will not otherwise be simply handed over on a plate. Women will need to challenge their current status – in their jobs, businesses or company positions. They must communicate what they need, in a manner effective for their work and national cultures. Women working together must not allow themselves to be treated as second class. Nor should they emulate men in their power relations at work, for example, by keeping other women and men in their secondary places. High profile cases have shown that some powerful women in the fishing sector have exploited the workers for the same personal benefits as do men in power.

Second, gender experts have an ongoing job advocating why equality matters, and how. They have a duty to raise the level of comprehension of their fellow professionals on why gender equality is important to the industry. Most importantly, this advocacy is not done once-only but requires agitating at every opportunity. We have to become the “squeaky wheel” that needs attention.

Third, training and capacity building are sorely needed to enable a shared gender equality vision. The capacity of current professionals to create a vision of a gender equitable industry is low and has to be raised. When asked why new fisheries policies are gender-blind, fisheries officers will often say they don’t see the importance. What would gender equality look like in my part of the world and what steps would lead to it?

Fourth and finally, a progressive environment of gender equality is not a “women only” realm but one that requires and invites men’s engagement, benefiting all in the transformation. Multiple institutions should be engaged. The exercise cannot become window dressing by dominant actors, e.g., corporations invoking corporate social responsibility for public effect, while marginalising workers representation in the workplace.

Notes
[1] The OpEd, “Boosting women in seafood and ending gender inequality: A call to the seafood community – time for commitment and change is now!” was published on 10 seafood industry and specialist sites: Link. I acknowledge my co-authors of the OpEd – Marie Christine Monfort, Natalia Briceno-Lagos, Jayne Gallagher, Leonie Noble, Editrudith Lukanga, Tamara Espiñeira, Marja Bekendam and Katia Frangoudes.

[2] Conferences, publications and presentations – http://www.genderaquafish.org/events/’ “From Catch to Consumer: Why Gender Matters in Aquaculture and Fisheries” – Link

About the author: Meryl Williams has been working in international fisheries research for more than four decades, and focusing on gender in fisheries since the mid 1990s, helping develop the activities and organising the Gender in Aquaculture and Fisheries Section of the Asian Fisheries Society. She gratefully acknowledges Dr M.V. Gupta (2005 winner of the World Food Prize) and the late Dr M.C. Nandeesha, two men who greatly influenced her interest in gender in the fisheries sector. In 2015, she was awarded the Crawford Medal for her work in international agricultural research. She is an Honorary Life member of the Asian Fisheries Society.

This first appeared as part of Crawford Fund opinion piece series.