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.
*The experts: Mr. Ian Fry, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change; Ms. Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Ms. Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism; Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Ms. Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.