CAIRO (Reuters) – The decision to hold next month’s COP27 climate summit in a highly secured tourist resort in Egypt, along with restrictions on access, is curbing civil society’s participation in the event, some prominent activists say.
The Nov. 6-18 summit in Sharm el-Sheikh is the first annual UN climate conference to be held after the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. Campaigners see it as a crucial venue for raising the alarm over climate change and pressuring governments to act.
But they say voicing their concerns through rallies and protests as they have done in past host countries or cities will be more challenging in Egypt, where public demonstrations are effectively banned and activists have struggled to operate legally amid a far-reaching crackdown on political dissent.
Limits on accreditation and attendance badges for activists, especially from poorer nations, have also been a point of contention at previous UN climate summits.
Egypt, which has just one non-governmental organization permanently accredited to attend the annual summits, says inclusion of civil society is a priority, and it has helped add more NGOs including 35 Egyptian groups through a single-year admission valid only for COP27.
That was a positive step but the process was not publicly announced and did not give some groups a fair chance to apply, said Hossam Bahgat, head of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) and one of Egypt’s best known campaigners.
“As a result, the list of accredited organizations does not include a single human rights organization and none of the independent human rights groups in Egypt, including those that are working on the nexus of human rights, environmental justice and climate justice,” he said.
A spokesperson for Egypt’s COP presidency said in a written response to questions that there had been a “fully transparent” selection process approved by the UN after consultation with regional organizations and national negotiating teams.
Another concern among activists is the difficulty ordinary citizens may face accessing Sharm el-Sheikh. The city, situated at the southern tip of Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, is bordered by the sea on one side and a concrete and wire barrier in the desert on the other.