Cover photo: A man dumps more plastic into an Indian Ocean waterway (Msimbazi River) Dar es Salaam, Tanzania earlier this year (Photo: Raqey Allaraqya).
Experts from around the world convened at the UN Regional Headquarters for Africa in Nairobi, Kenya for the First Ad Hoc Open Ended Expert Group (AHOEEG) meeting on Marine Litter and Micro Plastics from May 29 to 31, 2018 to deliberate on ways through which this menace could be contained. Among them, was a delegation from the Catholic Youth Network for Environmental Sustainability in Africa (CYNESA).
After the Third United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA 3), one of the key issues that elicited a lot of discussions was the marine litter and micro-plastics pollution. This culminated in the adoption of a resolution (UNEP/EA.3/Res.7) on the same and the adoption of the #BeatPlasticPollution as the theme for the 2018 World Environment Day.
The AHOEEG gave us a prime time to more focus on these two issues, which have greater impact on the environment at large and particularly life under water. On the build up to this meeting, a lot have been done and one of them was member states and Major Groups submitting their position papers. Through the agendas of this meeting it was to address the barriers on combating Marine Litter and Micro Plastics. The Secretariat gave a summary and divided these barriers into:
It is no secret anymore that many people know that plastics are dangerous to the environment. However, many do not seem to know how big a disaster plastic pollution is to our oceans. Over the last decade, the issue of micro plastics and marine litter has gained greater attention in the global arena. Although this attention was a bit late, the good news is that it is not too late to start tackling this problem.
One approach for tackling the problem that emerged in nearly all position papers submitted ahead of the AHOEEG was the issue of creating AWARENESS. Education and awareness programs should be the basic driving force towards the fight of plastic pollution. While experts are at these high-level, decision-making and planning meetings, there is need to have complementary, customized programs that run on ground.
Young people of faith should take charge and spearhead such education and awareness programs considering that they are energetic, committed, and their ability to bring in creative and innovative ideas to tackle this problem. Indeed, the Government of Rwanda emphasized this during the launch of the Environment Week in the country
The aim of these awareness programs should be to create public awareness about the impacts of plastic pollution and marine litter. In my view, this will be possible only if the outcomes of the AHOEEG and such other forums are shared in “layman” language. Alternatively, such outcomes can be simplified and made more straightforward to ensure that they are easy to understand. This is necessary because the language used in expert group meetings and their equivalents is not readily understandable by the ordinary person. Therefore, young people with understanding of these documents should work on simplifying such language before using them in awareness programs. Young people can start by drawing out the key messages and sharing the same with their grassroots communities.
During one of the sessions at the AHOEEG, the representative from South Africa stated that South African Government will launch a TV campaign on Marine Litter and Micro Plastics soon. The TV campaign will likely trigger another discussion on how we should run these awareness programs considering the increased use of social media and other platforms that seem more effective than running TV campaigns.
Core Team Member, CYNESA Tanzania.