Only a few weeks are left for the Conference of Parties (COP27) where Egypt is going to be the host country for this year. But this decision has been faced with several controversies and opposition from various civil society organisations.
It is worth noting that Egypt is one of Africa’s richest countries and has the economic potential to host COP27. Nevertheless, their restrictions on freedom of speech, protesting as well as other human rights violations rendered the situation controversial.
For several years now, Egypt’s freedom of expression and peaceful assembly have been constrained. Therefore, as several civil society organisations claimed, a country that does not allow people to protest peacefully should not host this year’s COP.
Major international organisations such as Human Rights Watch (HRW), UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR), and several others issued statements expressing their concern.
Human Rights Watch published a statement to call for the Egyptian authorities to “ease their grip on civic space” and “uphold rights to free expression at environment summit”.
Twelve Egyptian organisations opted for creating a coalition in order to voice their position concerning the human rights violations happening in Egypt. They led a petition signed by 177 international and local organisations and more than 300 people. They demanded alleviating the restrictions on civil society organisations operating in Egypt and emphasised that that “effective climate action is not possible without open civic space”.
Some European countries voiced their concern about the issue and pointed out that if there are restrictions on their rights to protest, they will not be able to fulfill their duties as activists.
Twenty-one civil society organisations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch as well as other international and Egyptian organisations such as Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) wrote and signed a letter to the German Ministers Bearbock and Morgan.
The letter was employed as a means to urge civil society organisations as well as political leaders to reach a compromise with the Egyptian president in order to get them to reduce the restrictions on human rights and to uphold the “rights to freedom of assembly, association, and expression”.
CAN Europe voiced their concern about climate change as well as the restrictions imposed by the Egyptian government on freedom of expression which could cause quandary for civil society organisations participating in the Conference?
Ruth Michaelson from The Guardian voiced the European countries’ concern on Egypt’s hosting of COP and pointed out that Egypt might use it “to whitewash human rights abuses”. Michaelson shed light on the efforts made by international organisations to conquer the human rights violation that Egypt has witnessed.
A public event titled “Cop27: No Climate Justice Without Civil Liberties” was organised on October 1st as a collaboration between the Italian NGO Sereno Regis Study Center and the Egyptian organisation EgyptWide for Human Rights to discuss the procedures they can take in order to call for more civic liberation in Egypt. According to the Director of EgyptWide for Human Rights, Sayed Nasr, COP27 should be considered a means to direct the world’s attention towards the human rights violations happening in the country, as reported by Giorgio Mancuso.
Egypt stated that it has provided a small space for organisations to protest for this year’s COP. Nevertheless, that was not enough as civil society organisations are demanding radical changes and more freedom of expression not only for the sake of this event but also for the Egyptian people.