Egypt: Hosting UN Climate Change Conference Should not be Used to Whitewash appalling Human Rights Records

The undersigned organizations call on COP26 organizers to lead a comprehensive review of your bilateral and multilateral  relations with Egyptian government considering the sustained and unprecedented crackdown on human rights and civil society in the country. We call on you to condition the selection of Egypt as a COP27 host with genuine improvements in its human rights record.

While President Abdelfattah al-Sisi has declared Egypt’s interest in hosting COP27 in 2022, his ascendence to power is predicated upon overseeing the worst human rights crisis in Egypt’s history. Holding global conferences of this magnitude are often used by the Egyptian government to whitewash ongoing repressive policies. Other INGOs have recognized this. In 2019, for instance, the United Nations postponed holding an international anti-torture conference in Egypt in 2019.

We believe that climate change is a global challenge that requires immediate attention and impactful reforms. In a country like Egypt, where civil society leaders and human rights defenders continue to be detained, harassed, tried under dubious crimes, the efficacy of such measures is significantly thwarted. Experience tells us that countries that do not include civil society actors in these efforts are both less likely to create a culture of climate awareness and more prone to evading international commitments. Prominent Egyptian environmental human rights defenders such as Ahmed Amasha would play primary roles in these efforts. However, Amasha, the head of the Arab Association for Environment and Sustainable Development, has been detained and tortured since July 2020. Amasha is emblematic of a generation of civil society leaders, including Ibrahim Ezzeddin, Haytham Mohammedin, and Kholoud Said, who are losing their lives behind bars.

We believe that climate change poses an existential challenge that faces all Egyptians. We also believe that allowing such conferences to convene in a repressive context in Egypt will work towards legitimizing the very mechanisms that make environmental initiatives most effective and sustainable. In the absence of the rule of law, spread of corruption, and a military-led economy, all of which are present in Egypt, those most affected by the ramifications of climate change will have no say in how to address these increasingly difficult challenges. Countries that host the COP27 should be exemplars of commitments to an ecosystem of climate change advocacy, not brutal authoritarianism.

Signed:

  1. Andalus Institute for Tolerance and anti-Violence Studies
  2. Arab Center for Law and Society Studies (ACLSS)
  3. CODEPINK
  4. Committee for Justice (CFJ)
  5. Egyptian Front for Human Rights (EFHR)
  6. Egyptian Human Rights Forum (EHRF)
  7. The Freedom Initiative
  8. Egypt Watch
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