Egypt: UN experts alarmed by restrictions on civil society ahead of climate summit

Geneva, 7 October, 2022.- Egypt must ensure the safety and full participation of all parts of civil society at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (COP27) in November, UN human rights experts* said, after a wave of government restrictions on participation raised fears of reprisals against activists.

This new wave follows years of persistent and sustained crackdowns on civil society and human rights defenders using security as a pretext to undermine the legitimate rights of civil society to participate in public affairs in Egypt.

“Arrests and detention, NGO asset freezes and dissolutions and travel restrictions against human rights defenders have created a climate of fear for Egyptian civil society organisations to engage visibly at the COP27,” the experts said.

They warned that Egyptian NGOs have previously been subject to harassment, intimidation and reprisals for cooperating with the UN.

A lack of information and transparent accreditation criteria for Egyptian NGOs, a coordinated increase in hotel room rates, undue restrictions to freedom of peaceful assembly outside the COP27 venue, and unjustified delays in the provision of visas to those travelling from abroad were the main concerns for civil society activists, the experts said.

Civil society plays an essential role in the advancement of climate action, and the experts underscored that Egypt should ensure safe and meaningful participation at COP27, including for independent civil society.

“Instead of further limiting their rights, civil society actors and human rights defenders, including those working on climate rights, must be given an opportunity to raise awareness about their views and protection needs,” the experts said. “We strongly believe that COP27, organised by the United Nations, should uphold the public’s right to participate in the conduct of public affairs, as recognised by Egypt.”

The experts expressed their support to calls by civil society that the UNFCCC Secretariat should develop human rights criteria that countries hosting future COPs must commit to meeting as part of the host agreement.

COP27 will take place in Sharm el Sheikh from 6 to 18 November.

The experts are in dialogue with the Government of Egypt and the UNFCCC Secretariat on this issue.

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