Human Rights Watch says the federal government has imposed obstacles ahead of the important thing climate conference to happen in November.
Egypt’s government was accused of severely restricting the work of environmental groups, leaving activists terrified of publicly scrutinising authorities ahead of the country hosting an important global climate summit.
Egyptian authorities have imposed “arbitrary funding, research, and registration obstacles which have debilitated local environmental groups, forcing some activists into exile”, Recent-York based group Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report released on Monday.
“These restrictions violate the rights to freedom of assembly and association and threaten Egypt’s ability to uphold its environmental and climate motion commitments,” said Richard Pearshouse, the environment director at HRW.
The UN’s annual Conference of the Parties (COP) involves nearly 200 countries with a whole bunch of observers, NGOs and, often, mass demonstrations designed to ramp up pressure on political leaders to tackle climate change. Egypt will host this yr’s event, COP27, within the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in November.
A number of the individuals interviewed by HRW said it was not possible to secure research permits, or interview people about environmental issues, for the fear they or those they speak to could possibly be arrested.
HRW said it spoke to 13 activists, academics, scientists and journalists involved in climate motion in Egypt, who all spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons.
Egyptian authorities have recently championed concerns that wealthy countries – the most important emitters of greenhouse gasses – have fallen short in helping developing African nations tackle climate change effects – for which the continent shares little blame.
Nonetheless, for one environmentalist cited by Human Rights Watch, that is “because this intersects with their interests, just like the need for more funds”.
Human rights groups have repeatedly condemned Egypt’s record under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who removed former President Mohamed Morsi in 2013 before becoming head of state the next yr.
HRW noted that interviewees pointed to a “recent expansion of official tolerance for environmental activities which are easily reconciled with government priorities”.
However the rights group said activists were terrified of drawing attention to issues including industrial pollution and the military’s involvement in “destructive types of quarrying”, in addition to big infrastructure projects.
Leading environmental organisations in Egypt “have been weakened severely by government restrictions and a pervasive sense of fear and uncertainty”, HRW said, citing several insiders inside such entities.
The Recent York-based group said it was incumbent for the federal government to offer participants visas on time for COP27, and called for an end to the state’s “illegal surveillance and intimidation tactics”.
“The world needs more climate activism, not less, and there could be no such effective activism when the federal government treats civic groups as a threat, not an asset,” Pearshouse said.
“The UN Framework Convention member states and the Secretariat should press the Egyptian government to make certain environmental groups feel it’s secure to interact in and beyond the COP”.
A request for comment from Egypt’s environment ministry was not immediately answered.