FP: COP27 Host Egypt Arresting Environmental Activists

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Essay by Eric Worrall

COP27 will be unusually quiet, because the local protestors who usually show up to such events will likely all be in jail.

Egypt to Host Big U.N. Climate Summit While Muzzling Environmental Activists

COP27 will put Biden’s human rights agenda on a collision course with his climate change agenda. 

By Robbie Gramer, a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy.  

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SEPTEMBER 14, 2022, 3:04 PM

In the run-up to hosting a major U.N. climate summit in November, Egypt has publicly touted its commitment to curb carbon emissions and framed itself as a leader in supporting the developing world’s adaptation to new climate shocks. But behind the scenes, the Egyptian government has cracked down on environmental activists in the country through harassment, intimidation, and arrests, according to interviews with environmental experts and a new report from an international human rights watchdog.

Egypt’s role as the host of the 27th U.N. Climate Change Conference, or COP27, is expected to shed fresh light on President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s widespread crackdown on the country’s civil society, including environmental advocates, posing a vexing foreign-policy challenge for major democratic powers seeking to advance ambitious climate goals even if it means cooperating with some of the world’s most repressive autocratic regimes. For U.S. President Joe Biden, the upcoming COP27 summit puts his human rights policy on a possible collision course with his climate policy.

“There’s this underlying tension between two supposedly different realms: human rights on one side and robust climate action on the other side,” said Richard Pearshouse, the director of environment and human rights at Human Rights Watch (HRW), an advocacy group. “Now we’re seeing that tension really play out.”

HRW released a new report this week accusing the Egyptian government of “severely curtail[ing]” environmental groups’ abilities to do their job, through harassment, arrests, and intimidation, forcing some activists to flee the country. Other environmental advocacy groups voiced concern that the Egyptian government is limiting the number of civil society groups that will be allowed to attend COP27 and tightly controlling planned protests, relegating only limited demonstrations in a cordoned-off area on the margins of the conference, which will be held in Sharm el-Sheikh on Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula from Nov. 6 to 18.

…Read more: https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/09/14/egypt-cop27-crackdown-environmental-activists-united-nations-climate-change/

The cited Human Rights Watch Report goes into further detail;

Egypt: Government Undermining Environmental Groups

COP27 Countries Should Press Cairo to End Restrictions, Enable Participation

“The Egyptian government has imposed arbitrary funding, research, and registration obstacles that have debilitated local environmental groups, forcing some activists into exile and others to steer clear of important work,” said Richard Pearshouse, environment director at Human Rights Watch. “The government should immediately lift its onerous restrictions on independent nongovernmental organizations, including environmental groups.”

In June, Human Rights Watch interviewed 13 activists, academics, scientists, and journalists working on environmental issues in Egypt. All have been involved in promoting, advocating for, and working on climate action in some capacity. Some currently work for nongovernmental groups. Others who did stopped for safety or security reasons or left the country. They spoke on the condition of anonymity for security reasons. Six other people declined to be interviewed, variously citing security concerns or that government restrictions had forced them to stop their environmental work.

Those interviewed described a sharp reduction in the space for independent environment and climate work since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government took office in 2014. They described  harassment and intimidation tactics, including arrests and difficulties travelling,  creating a general atmosphere of fear. These experiences mirror similar tactics pursued by Egyptian authorities against independent local and international groups more generally since 2014 as part of a relentless crackdown on civil society.

Others described being repeatedly held up for security checks and questioning at Cairo airport upon leaving or arriving, and sometimes prevented from leaving the country. One person described the harassment of their partners in the Egyptians Against Coal campaign, a popular but ultimately unsuccessful movement that emerged in response to the government’s drive to reintroduce coal to power cement factories from 2013.

…Read more: https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/09/12/egypt-government-undermining-environmental-groups

Well I’m shocked – who could have predicted a military dictator with a vile human rights record would arrest people who might say embarrassing things about government policy, ahead of hosting a big international climate conference?

Let us hope President Biden stays true to his public policy of standing up for human rights and finds time to draft a diplomatic letter to Egypt to protest the arrest and intimidation of local climate and environmental activists, in between Biden’s diplomatic missions to SaudiIran and Venezuela to beg for more oil.

via Watts Up With That?

September 14, 2022

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