We, Fridays for Future Bangladesh, and MenEngage Alliance, gather to raise our collective voice regarding the 27th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 27) to the UNFCCC, which is marked to take place in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. We acknowledge the decision made by COP to host the 27th session in a Global South country, which is a welcome step.
However, given the political challenges of ongoing human rights violations within Egypt, we do not believe this is a favorable decision to ensure the achievement of progressive outcomes and decision-making informed by civil society participation. We stand at a critical turning point in our collective efforts to curtail climate change as a global community. The recently adopted historic UN General Assembly resolution clearly declares that access to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is a universal human right. However, human rights and gender justice continue to be undermined by anti-rights agendas, the shrinking of civil society space for human rights, gender-, environment- and other justice-focused CSOs and the repression and violence faced by human and environmental rights defenders calling truth to power. Now, more than ever, we call on all nations as duty-bearers to stand firm in their commitment and obligations to uphold human and environmental rights for all.
We are greatly concerned by the decision to host this critical climate convening in a nation which has demonstrated a long precedent of civil society repression, State sponsored violence and the violation of human rights as enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) and subsequent International Human Rights Conventions, to which Egypt is party. Additionally, the lack of political commitment and the ongoing regressive position of Egypt on Women’s Rights and LGBTIQ Rights and the challenges that this will bring in relation to the COP27 meeting cannot be overlooked. This will threaten the participation and advocacy work of feminist, indigenous, youth, LGBTIQ and climate justice activists within the space, many of which have already expressed to feel unsafe traveling to the session. We call on the United Nations, including the UN Secretary General and the UNFCCC, to ensure a safe space for the participation of all civil society.
Egypt has demonstrated the precedents of banning civil society protest and sending protesters to prison. Egypt has an estimated 65,000 political prisoners currently in jail. This makes the selection of the country a highly concerning choice, as activists worry about crackdowns on marches and organizing during the conference. While the country has pledge to allow protests at the summit, within a designated area and away from the talks, many activists worry that at best – the far distance from the venue will limit meaningful participation; and at worse – these agreements will not be honored, exposing them to potential retaliation, violence and imprisonment. As well, local Egyptian feminist and climate justice groups continue to face targeted restrictions by the Egyptian government. In a recent report, the Egyptian government was found to have “severely curtailed environmental groups’ ability to carry out independent policy, advocacy, and field work essential to protecting the country’s natural environment”. We stand by the calls of Egyptian human rights defenders, and activists worldwide who boldly demand accountability from the Egyptian government regarding their long standing record of abuse of human rights and state sponsored repression.
US Adviser to the White House Jerome Foster II and British activist and Jerome’s partner Elijah Mckenzie-Jackson have further condemned the choice of Egypt as host of COP27 on the grounds of Egypt’s record of torture of LGBTIQ peoples. Egyptian LGBTIQ activists and other youth leaders from various regions have joined in denouncing the Egyptian government’s pushback on the rights of and violence against LGBTIQ peoples. We stand by their calls to the United Nations to host the next climate summit in a Global South country, with a demonstrable record of supporting LGBTIQ rights and freedoms.
COP27 is on track to be the most exclusive COP to date, with increasing concerns over the ability of Global South activists to obtain visas to enter Egypt. Climate change is one of the most urgent global challenges facing the world today, with immediate impacts already being felt around the globe. The impacts are felt unequally. As we speak, many contexts and communities in the Global South are experiencing devastating and deadly consequences to the climate crisis. The systematic exclusion of participants from accessing the country where COP27 is organized is of grave concern. The participation of Global South, marginalized communities and most affected peoples from the most affected areas, must be allowed to be heard and to participate in the summit. We join the calls of all marginalized communities for the right to join COP27 safely, to be allowed access, to be heard, to participate, and to contribute leadership and expertise towards transformative shifts away from the current climate crisis.
With the recent UNFCCC decision to have the United Arab Emirates (UAE) host COP28, we are equally concerned about the human rights violations and environmental destruction which the UAE government has been responsible for. We raise our collective voices to call upon the United Nations, including the UN Secretary General and the UNFCCC, to ensure that any future countries that host an international conference of this importance, have a consistent record of respect for human and environmental rights.
We stand firmly behind and with the leadership of Egyptian human rights defenders and feminist climate activists, indigenous peoples, and youth climate movements in challenging the patriarchal dominant economic, political and social systems perpetuating climate change, and which continue to uphold and sustain State violence and repression. The time for systemic transformation is now.
- Shared by the Women and Gender Constituency – a sign on of CSO demands for COP27.
- Statement by the Arab Network for Women’s Civil Society Organizations and Feminist Network and the Jordanian Feminist Youth Organization, Takatoat, including key demands – please click here.
- Statement by Dr Ian Fry, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and climate change on government reprisals against activists.