TIMES.KY

Cayman Islands, Caribbeanand International News
Saturday, Apr 13, 2024

Egypt’s COP27 PR disaster

Egypt’s COP27 PR disaster

A hunger striker, a stream of sewage and filthy hotel rooms. Organizers are under pressure over climate summit failings.

This country, famous for one mighty river, will be hoping the stream of sewage that flooded through the COP27 conference site was the nadir of an event that is quickly turning into a public relations nightmare.

That seems unlikely.

Hosting the conference was supposed to showcase Egypt as an ambitious champion of renewable energy, a tourist destination and a reliable international actor. The talks themselves, held in a beachside resort town, were supposed to push forward the global response to climate change.

Instead, top officials from Europe and elsewhere have been investigating reports that youth delegates have been left without beds, subjected to extortion, forced to sleep in rooms with no locks and woken up in the night by arbitrary demands for documents — all as part of a program sponsored by the Egyptian Ministry of Youth and Sports.

According to three people familiar with the situation, around 80 youth delegates who had paid around $700 each for their accommodation arrived at their hotel late on Saturday to find they either had no rooms, or were being asked to pay an additional fee of between $300 and $600 per night.

Following hours-long negotiations, some were forced to find new accommodation in the early hours of the morning. Those who finally entered their rooms — in some cases after agreeing to the extra fee — found them filthy and with only four beds for six or seven people. Several were forced to sleep in rooms with no locks and were woken by men entering and demanding their passports.

The Egyptian COP organizers are now under intense diplomatic pressure over the situation, after key negotiators had to leave the talks to ensure their youth delegates were safe. The EU and other delegations raised their concerns with the Egyptian government, the EU’s top international climate policy adviser Jacob Werksman said.

On Thursday, Egyptian authorities said they were “working pretty much around the hour” to address the problems.

“The COP presidency through government officials have intervened,” Wael Aboulmagd, Egypt's special representative to the COP27 president, told reporters. “I know that issues that happened in one case, at least, where people were asked to leave [the hotel]. The instruction, I can assure you from the highest level of government, was that doesn't happen, shouldn't happen, will not happen.”

The COP27 talks have also been lambasted for shortages of food and water — with some delegates noting that the talks felt like a simulation of the hunger games-style deprivation with which climate change threatens millions of people. Or, as POLITICO’s Global Insider put it, a “green Fyre Festival.”

On Thursday, organizers cut food prices in half. Drinks were free — meaning delegates no longer needed to pay for bottles of Coca-Cola, the official sponsor and largest plastic polluter on Earth.


Human rights crisis


There was some degree of sympathy among delegates for Egypt’s efforts to host the conference while also negotiating a major food and economic crisis.

Even the richest countries struggle under the strain of hosting the major diplomatic events that involve some 30,000 or more delegates descending on the host city — the COP27 headcount is 46,028, a U.N. official said. Last year's COP26 summit — hosted by the U.K. — became legendary for its sad sandwiches and mile-long queues.

“I think people see that we've put in place the best we could as a developing country, to prepare a venue to bring people together to succeed,” said Aboulmagd.

But that sympathy largely runs dry when it comes to the Egyptian government’s human rights record. Multiple rights groups have described Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, a former military general, as an authoritarian ruler who has locked up critics and stamped out protest.

“We’re holding COP in the midst of a climate crisis, in the midst of a human rights crisis,” said Agnès Callamard, secretary-general of Amnesty International. “This is not just one or two unlawful detentions, these are thousands of unlawful detentions. This is the biggest prison on the planet right now for political dissent.”

Western security advisers have warned delegates not to download the summit's official app


POLITICO spoke to analysts who said the official COP27 smartphone app, which the government encouraged delegates to download, is a "cyberweapon" that could allow authorities to listen to private conversations and access encrypted texts and emails.

Aboulmagd denied this and insisted that was “technically impossible” because of the scrutiny that Google and Apple’s app stores place on products.

Criticism of the Egyptian government's crackdown on political dissent has concentrated on the treatment of imprisoned activist Alaa Abd El-Fattah, who escalated a months-long hunger strike to coincide with the first day of the summit.

The case has been a focus for much of the global media coverage of COP27, particularly in the U.K. where the political activist holds dual citizenship. U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, along with French President Emmanuel Macron and Germany's Olaf Scholz have all advocated for El-Fattah in COP27 meetings with El-Sisi.

On Thursday, Egyptian authorities notified El-Fattah's mother they had “medically intervened” to save his life.

Speaking to POLITICO, El-Fattah's cousin Omar Hamilton said the activist's fate "hinges" on a visit from U.S. President Joe Biden, who arrives in Sharm El-Sheikh on Friday.

U.S. officials said he would to talk about human rights with El-Sisi and that the U.S. government was “concerned about that case and the reported condition of his health.”

Asked about the case, COP27's Aboulmagd said: “We engaged directly [with the U.K.] and gave a full explanation to many of the allegations that were made.” He noted that El-Fattah’s sister Sanaa Seif had traveled to the summit and held public events to advocate for her brother, one of which was noisily interrupted by Egyptian MP Amr Darwish.

Seif's attendance was “part of free speech,” said Aboulmagd. “But at the same time, while it is an important issue … We don't want to lose focus on the climate catastrophe that is killing people around the world.” He pointed to the historic decision made on Sunday to hold talks on financing recovery from climate disasters as a huge boon for the conference.

Asked by POLITICO if the issues regarding human rights left the government concerned for Egypt's image, Aboulmagd said: “So far, I think our record is going well."

Human rights activists argue that climate change and justice are inextricably linked. Even if the Egyptians didn’t truly believe that, they should at least pretend more convincingly that they do, said Callamard.

“If they don't do it out of compassion, they should do out of self interest,” she said, warning that if El-Fattah dies, “I can assure you that nobody will remember COP27 in any other way historically than with the death of Alaa.”

Newsletter

Related Articles

TIMES.KY
0:00
0:00
Close
Paper straws found to contain long-lasting and potentially toxic chemicals - study
FTX's Bankman-Fried headed for jail after judge revokes bail
Blackrock gets half a trillion dollar deal to rebuild Ukraine
Israel: Unprecedented Civil Disobedience Looms as IDF Reservists Protest Judiciary Reform
America's First New Nuclear Reactor in Nearly Seven Years Begins Operations
Southeast Asia moves closer to economic unity with new regional payments system
Today Hunter Biden’s best friend and business associate, Devon Archer, testified that Joe Biden met in Georgetown with Russian Moscow Mayor's Wife Yelena Baturina who later paid Hunter Biden $3.5 million in so called “consulting fees”
Singapore Carries Out First Execution of a Woman in Two Decades Amid Capital Punishment Debate
Google testing journalism AI. We are doing it already 2 years, and without Google biased propoganda and manipulated censorship
Unlike illegal imigrants coming by boats - US Citizens Will Need Visa To Travel To Europe in 2024
Musk announces Twitter name and logo change to X.com
The politician and the journalist lost control and started fighting on live broadcast.
The future of sports
Unveiling the Black Hole: The Mysterious Fate of EU's Aid to Ukraine
Farewell to a Music Titan: Tony Bennett, Renowned Jazz and Pop Vocalist, Passes Away at 96
Alarming Behavior Among Florida's Sharks Raises Concerns Over Possible Cocaine Exposure
Transgender Exclusion in Miss Italy Stirs Controversy Amidst Changing Global Beauty Pageant Landscape
Joe Biden admitted, in his own words, that he delivered what he promised in exchange for the $10 million bribe he received from the Ukraine Oil Company.
TikTok Takes On Spotify And Apple, Launches Own Music Service
Global Trend: Using Anti-Fake News Laws as Censorship Tools - A Deep Dive into Tunisia's Scenario
Arresting Putin During South African Visit Would Equate to War Declaration, Asserts President Ramaphosa
Hacktivist Collective Anonymous Launches 'Project Disclosure' to Unearth Information on UFOs and ETIs
Typo sends millions of US military emails to Russian ally Mali
Server Arrested For Theft After Refusing To Pay A Table's $100 Restaurant Bill When They Dined & Dashed
The Changing Face of Europe: How Mass Migration is Reshaping the Political Landscape
China Urges EU to Clarify Strategic Partnership Amid Trade Tensions
Europe is boiling: Extreme Weather Conditions Prevail Across the Continent
The Last Pour: Anchor Brewing, America's Pioneer Craft Brewer, Closes After 127 Years
Democracy not: EU's Digital Commissioner Considers Shutting Down Social Media Platforms Amid Social Unrest
Sarah Silverman and Renowned Authors Lodge Copyright Infringement Case Against OpenAI and Meta
Italian Court's Controversial Ruling on Sexual Harassment Ignites Uproar
Why Do Tech Executives Support Kennedy Jr.?
The New York Times Announces Closure of its Sports Section in Favor of The Athletic
BBC Anchor Huw Edwards Hospitalized Amid Child Sex Abuse Allegations, Family Confirms
Florida Attorney General requests Meta CEO's testimony on company's platforms' alleged facilitation of illicit activities
The Distorted Mirror of actual approval ratings: Examining the True Threat to Democracy Beyond the Persona of Putin
40,000 child slaves in Congo are forced to work in cobalt mines so we can drive electric cars.
BBC Personalities Rebuke Accusations Amidst Scandal Involving Teen Exploitation
A Swift Disappointment: Why Is Taylor Swift Bypassing Canada on Her Global Tour?
Historic Moment: Edgars Rinkevics, EU's First Openly Gay Head of State, Takes Office as Latvia's President
Bye bye democracy, human rights, freedom: French Cops Can Now Secretly Activate Phone Cameras, Microphones And GPS To Spy On Citizens
The Poor Man With Money, Mark Zuckerberg, Unveils Twitter Replica with Heavy-Handed Censorship: A New Low in Innovation?
Unilever Plummets in a $2.5 Billion Free Fall, to begin with: A Reckoning for Misuse of Corporate Power Against National Interest
Beyond the Blame Game: The Need for Nuanced Perspectives on America's Complex Reality
Twitter Targets Meta: A Tangle of Trade Secrets and Copycat Culture
The Double-Edged Sword of AI: AI is linked to layoffs in industry that created it
US Sanctions on China's Chip Industry Backfire, Prompting Self-Inflicted Blowback
Meta Copy Twitter with New App, Threads
The New French Revolution
BlackRock Bitcoin ETF Application Refiled, Naming Coinbase as ‘Surveillance-Sharing’ Partner
×