COP27: No climate justice without an open civic space!

The 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference – also known as COP27 has started a few days after the Egyptian authorities launched an arbitrary arrest campaign of over 100 people last week, in addition to increased harassment and questioning of citizens about a call for demonstrations on 11 November. 

Indeed, while thousands of climate and environmental experts gather for two weeks of negotiations in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh, thousands of Egyptian human rights defenders continue to face massive restrictions on their work. What’s more, hundreds of activists, journalists and NGO staff remain arbitrarily detained and sentenced for documenting or sharing information on ongoing human rights violations perpetrated by the Egyptian authorities. It is particularly striking that environmental activist and human rights defender, Ahmed Amasha, is behind bars while COP27 is taking place in his country Voices like Ahmed’s will not be heard at the conference. 

The United Nations’ Climate Change Conferences (COP) should be a place of expression for climate, human rights and social justice activists. Yet, the Egyptian authorities have prevented participation of both Egyptian and international activists by cracking down on would-be demonstrators, and by arresting and questioning those who aimed at recalling, on the occasion of COP, that there cannot be climate justice with no respect for human rights. Egypt is one of the world’s worse examples in civic space, with a draconian crackdown in recent years aimed at eradicating independent NGOs once and for all.  

The Egyptian authorities have ensured everyday Egyptians could not make their voices heard through a series of measures: tracking activists organising online, cracking down on marches and localising the conference on the edges of the desert in the Sinaï region stated EuroMed Rights’ President, Wadih Al-Asmar. 

“The Egyptian authorities are using this international climate event as an opportunity to greenwash their human rights violations and avoid any demand for human rights accountability from the international community,” added EuroMed Rights’ Executive Director, Rasmus Alenius Boserup. 

The Egyptian authorities’ restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly undermine the successful, inclusive, and participatory climate summit, as denounced in the COP27 Civic Space petition, signed by EuroMed Rights. The possible retaliation against local human rights groups and environmental activists also remains of great concern for EuroMed Rights, with a government that has systematically silenced any peaceful dissenting voices. 

Instruments like the COP are essential to tackle the current climate crisis and EuroMed Rights calls on participating States and Organisations to use this opportunity to pressure the Egyptian authorities to immediately release imprisoned human rights defenders and put an end to its retaliation practices.  

There can be no climate justice without an open civic space!