All posts by Jamilla Sealy

I am passionate about the natural environment and want to see a change in the world. I have studied environmental management and climate change and have a new awareness for the world. I also like to help to empower youth to have a say in the development of their countries. I am an educator, activist, entrepreneur, advocate, entertainer, athlete among others. I wish to share my experiences with the world.

Microplastics will put you in the hospital

Image by gentlemanrook on Flickr, licensed under  Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
Image by gentlemanrook on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastics less than 5mm and could even be as small as a grain of sand. When plastic marine debris is being broken down from wind, rain and other natural elements they become microplastics. They can also be found in cosmetic products that we use. They can get into the food chain to humans through animals eating it. Fish and other seafood when caught and dissected, bits of plastics have been found in their stomachs. Now the major issue is the toxins from the additives in the plastics which can not only poison you but may cause cancer when you consume the fish.

In this light, the negotiating text addressing Marine Debris highlighted the impacts of microplastics on animals and the environment but not the effects on human health. That is why today, I got the chance to deliver an intervention for GYBN on this topic. If the link between human health and microplastics is made, then persons will more likely want to change their behaviour – since it may affect them personally.

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During the interventions, several Parties in general mentioned the dire need to prevent the marine debris from occurring at all, and also highlighted the negative effects of it on animals and ecosystems.

Steps to Delivering the Intervention

  1. I had to read the negotiating document and flag certain recommendations that I thought needed work or was not suitable.
  2. I worked with more experienced members of the delegation who read it through and edited the document. We had to make sure that it was concise and that specific words were emphasised in order to denote some emotion to the Parties, UN agencies and NGOs there.
  3. Practice, practice, practice. I had to practice and after much coaching I believed I was ready.
  4. In the plenary room we had to make sure to press the microphone button to indicate that we wanted the floor soon after the interventions started. This was to make sure we would be able to get onto the list to speak.

I got really nervous as the time soon came for me to speak. The Parties were finished and the UN organisations were on. A strange thing happened after all that rehearsal. An NGO (IIFB), mentioned the importance of the participation of young people within their intervention, so at the last minute, we added another point to support them. The next thing I knew, I heard the Chair speak and my microphone turned red and it was time to speak. After a minor fumble I finally found my voice and began reading the intervention loud and clear and with motion as practiced. It was such a blur but from the applause from my teammates I knew I did a good job.

Day 1 of SBSTTA20 Negotiations

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About to enter the ICAO Conference Centre – the venue of the SBSTTA and SBI negotiations.

As I walked into the plenary hall, I saw a vaguely familiar room which I only saw in photographs. There were hundreds of persons sitting here and there trying to find their seats from the name plates on the tables or the faces of familiar persons from the last meeting. The youth delegates finally found their seats and took them and were ready. The meeting opened around 10 a.m. and the negotiations began. As a first timer it was a lot to get used to. Even doing the enormous load of background reading, I soon found out that you can never really be fully prepared for the actual proceedings taking place. Trying to keep up with the interventions was tough enough especially with the array of different languages and accents being spoken and the cold temperature of the conference room – especially for me, coming from a tropical country.

The battlefield - the plenary hall where countries will be busy negotiating for the next two weeks.
The battlefield – the plenary hall where countries will be busy negotiating for the next two weeks.

On top of this, you really have to pay attention for the three-hour negotiating blocks.

Afterward, you also had to get used to the political language being used to negotiate the text. Once I got the essence of what was happening I realized a few things. While some Parties gave their recommendations for making changes to the text, I realized that others first shared their national or regional situations to provide the context for their recommendations. Some to advertise their work and others to induce a sense of sympathy from other parties it seemed. Others criticized the late distribution of some texts by the Secretariat as their reason for not being able to read the documents thoroughly. I thought to myself, really? It’s definitely a technical meeting.

Likewise, many Parties had a very technical way of speaking to the chair such as identifying the exact document name, paragraph numbers and even page numbers. I saw that some wanted changes to one word and others to completely delete or add paragraphs. Now I am beginning to understand why it is a difficult process and why negotiations have to occur many months before. Every Party and non-party delegate have a point of view and want to get their points into the documents.

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Members of the youth delegation conversing before the plenary begins

Interventions from civil society and especially youth are extremely important in order for a more holistic view of certain situations rather than simply from the governments of countries. We as the youth got our first chance during the SBSTTA20 to experience the thrill of writing an intervention and then the disappointment of not being able to deliver it, due to time running out. We will definitely learn from our mistakes and press the button to get in line to speak much earlier. Hopefully tomorrow we will get that chance.