COP27 Turns A Blind Eye To Human Rights

The Conference of Parties (COP) has been hosted since 1996 to discuss critical issues concerning carbon emissions and global warming and tackle climate change with world leaders. COP27 will occur in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, from November 6th to the 18th. Unfortunately, the Egyptian government has an egregious history of human rights violations that cannot be silenced.

Out of 65,000 political prisoners in Egypt, Alaa Abdel Fattah, a forty-year-old British Egyptian computer programmer and activist, has become the most high-profile political prisoner. The Economist has reported that “he was jailed most recently in 2019 for alleged offenses ranging from joining a terrorist group to spreading false news on social media.” Still, he has been on a hunger strike that has lasted over 200 days. Alaa has been able to exchange letters with his friends and family once a week, which allowed him to create his book, You Have Not Yet Been Defeated. As of November 10th, the Washington Post has reported that the Egyptian government informed Alaa’s family, “he has undergone ‘a medical intervention with the knowledge of a judicial authority.’” Although the human rights concerns do not solely lie with what occurred to Alaa Abdel Fattah and 65,000 political prisoners.

The Egyptian government has provided an app to COP 27th participants that is not the official United Nations application. However, the application has led NGOs and cybersecurity experts to set off alarm bells concerning the app. Already Sharm El Sheikh is under tight surveillance by the current government, and five thousand participants have downloaded the app. According to The Guardian, the app allows the “Egypt’s ministry of communication and information technology to view emails, scour photos and determine users’ location,” in addition to accessing the camera, microphone, Bluetooth, and location data.

Even though the COP27’s goal is meant to discuss the critical issues that must be addressed when discussing carbon emissions, global warming, and tackling climate change with world leaders, human rights must not be forgotten. It is an utter shame for the Conference of Parties to host climate change discussions in a state that continuously commits human rights violations. For a conference that addresses world issues concerning climate change, it is imperative human rights are placed at the forefront so a culture may be built to ensure when a refugee crisis emerges from climate catastrophe nation states understand the importance of adhering to human rights rather than turning a blind eye to it. In addition, the United Kingdom and the international community must call for Alaa Abdel Fattah’s release and all 65,000 political prisoners.

With the climate crisis exasperating each year, the Conference of Parties must continuously occur, but it cannot turn a blind eye to human rights. Unfortunately, the Egyptian government has a horrible history regarding its citizens’ human rights, and COP has turned mute too. The struggle of Alaa Abdel Fattah and the app the Egyptian government has rolled out concerning COP 27th reveals the human rights issues inside Egypt. COP28 must choose a nation that values human rights and sees the intersectionality between it and the fight to save the planet.