COP28: UAE to allow 'peaceful' gatherings of activists at end-of-year summit

COP28: UAE to allow 'peaceful' gatherings of activists at end-of-year summit
Al Wasl Plaza, Expo City, Dubai. Credit: Alan Santos/PR/Wikimedia

The United Arab Emirates said on Tuesday it would allow environmental campaigners to “assemble peacefully” at the 28th Conference of Parties (COP28)  to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Dubai later this year, despite a ban on unauthorised demonstrations in the Gulf state.

The Emirates, which will host COP28 from 30 November to 12 December in the business hub of Dubai, requires official permission for demonstrations and bans those it deems disruptive.

At COP28, there will be space available for climate activists to peacefully gather and make their voices heard, the Emirati government said in a joint statement with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), released by the country’s official news agency, WAM.

The statement was issued after COP28 president Sultan Al Jaber and UNFCCC executive secretary Simon Stiell signed a bilateral agreement in Abu Dhabi that provides the legal basis for organising and hosting climate negotiations.

“We are firmly committed to ensuring that the values of the UN are upheld at the COPs,” Stiell was quoted in the statement as saying.

The UAE, the world’s seventh-largest producer of black gold, was ranked the world’s fourth-largest polluter per capita in 2019 by the World Bank.

The choice in January of the boss of ADNOC, the UAE’s national oil company, to chair the event has caused concern among environmental campaigners.

Numerous NGOs had denounced a conflict of interest and human rights groups had warned that restrictions imposed by the Gulf state in the area of freedom of expression risked hampering the participation of environmental defenders.

Environmentalists will find it difficult to play their role effectively (to address the climate crisis) in a country whose government has such a catastrophic human rights record, international NGO Human Rights Watch warned in a report published in March.

Demonstrations, common at previous COPs, had been allowed at the last UN climate conference in Egypt, where the authorities regularly crack down on protests and arbitrarily arrest activists.

However, the host of COP27 was criticised for restrictions that made the gathering space cramped, and activists had to apply for accreditation 36 hours in advance.

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