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No climate Justice without Human rights – Intervention by Tasneem Essop during the COP27 Opening Plenary

Egypt is one of the most repressive nations in the middle east and human rights is an enormous issue. 
Tasneem Essop, Exective Director of CAN International chose in her 1 minute intervention at the opening plenary of the UN climate Change Conference COP27 to shine a spotlight on repression in Egypt, and that there is no climate justice without human rights.
I understand Egypt’s President Abdelfattah El  Sisi squirmed a little in his seat during this speech.

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I am Tasneem Essop, and I am executive director of CAN International, the largest network of civil society working on climate change in the world with over 1500 members in 150 countries.

The Global climate crisis and the loss and damage it causes, affects the rights of millions of people across the world.

This crisis requires every voice, every effort, every solution.

It especially needs this from those who are on the frontlines of this crisis.

Our right to be heard, our right to assemble, the right to protest, the right to dissent and hold those in power accountable should not be abused or undermined.

Climate activists and human rights defenders are increasingly being attacked across the world.

As we sit here, Alaa El-Fattah, the Egyptian prisiner of conscience has escalated his ongoing hunger strike that started more than 200 days ago (on April 1st). He has stopped drinking water today.

His life is now in severe danger.

We call for his immediate release. And the release of all prisoners of conscience.

No climate Justice without Human rights.

We are not yet defeated.

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Global human rights petition

The Egyptian human rights coalition on COP27 Petition has garnered 1400 organisation Signatures From 86 countries. This includes some Australian climate civil society organisations. An excerpt from the petition:

Advancing climate justice demands an inclusive, holistic approach to environmental policy that embeds human rights and tackles systemic problems, including historically rooted social injustices, ecological destruction, abuses by businesses, corruption and impunity, and social and economic inequality. The strongest voices across the world pushing back against these systemic problems, and in favor of more meaningful and ambitious climate action, have come from civil society.

We voice our support to the call made by the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association: that the work of civil society be recognized, publicly and at the highest levels, as essential to the advancement of climate action and just transition. Moreover, we stress the importance of the right to freedom of expression and independent reporting to foster efforts to address the climate crisis.

We emphasize that effective climate action is not possible without open civic space. As host of COP27, Egypt risks compromising the success of the summit if it does not urgently address ongoing arbitrary restrictions on civil society.

According to a media release from 3 November, “The petition calls on the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all those held simply for peacefully exercising their human rights, implementing criteria set by local NGOs for these releases: fairness, transparency, inclusiveness, and urgency.; immediately end the arbitrarily blocking of websites and immediately release all journalists, and end to restrictions on media and digital spheres; end the prosecutions of civil society activists and organizations and guarantee space for civil society—including human rights defenders—to work without fear of intimidation, harassment, arrest, detention, or any other form of reprisal and ensure that civil society organizations, activists, and communities can meaningfully participate in all discussions and activities on climate and just-transition policy development and implementation at all levels of decision-making without fear of reprisals.”

Mohamed Abdel Salam, Executive Director, Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) said: 

“The main needed step to reach climate justice is to stop all repressive policies and respect human rights. Egyptian citizens don’t have any chance to get knowledge regarding the effects of climate change and the Egyptian authorities don’t guarantee their fundamental rights to face these effects and raise their demands. That’s a result of many repressive policies such as the security control of media outlets, restricting civil society activities, freezing the issuance of access to information law and declining independence of the judiciary.”

A webinar from 28 September 2022 on human rights and COP27 by Friends of the Earth Scotland: COP27, Climate Justice & Human Rights: Solidarity with Egyptian Prisoners Of Conscience.

Egypt: An atmosphere of suppression of human rights

In the run up to the conference there have been large concerns about the suppression of human rights and civil society in Egypt and their ability to freely attend the conference. 

Fears have also mounted that  the COP27 app could be used by Egypt to surveil regime’s critics. “Cybersecurity experts warn that official COP27 climate app requires access to a user’s location, photos and even emails” reports the Guardian.

In early October there was a powerful article by Naomi Klein on holding the UN Climate Conference COP27 in Egypt at Sharm El-Sheikh in an atmosphere of local intimidation, suppression and imprisonment of civil society activists, academics. 

She argues it is a greenwash for a repressive dictatorship. That here can be no climate justice without human rights and open civic space. A long read.  The Intercept: From Blah Blah Blah to Blood Blood Blood 

Also read the Human Rights Watch report on how Egypt has undermined environmental activism and the UN Human Rights (UNHR) news item  – Egypt: UN experts alarmed by restrictions on civil society ahead of climate summit.

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