COP28: Activists say the UN is restricting protests – 12/08/2023 – Environment

COP28: Activists say the UN is restricting protests – 12/08/2023 – Environment

Activists at COP28, the UN climate summit in Dubai, said on Friday (8) that they were unable to express their views freely on the conflict in Gaza and that their climate protests were affected by restrictions on when and where they could be held. .

Tasneem Essop, head of Climate Action Network International, a network of civil society groups, said the UN climate secretariat had banned protesters from using certain phrases related to the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, including “ceasefire now “.

She and Asad Rehman, executive director of the UK-based social justice group War on Want, said other activists had been blocked from wearing scarves, badges and lanyards that showed support for the Palestinians, and that U.N. security staff confiscated them.

While using these items, they told reporters at COP28 that they were negotiating with the UN secretariat over the rules, which they said were changing daily.

“We were promised that our rights as a civil society would be protected here — and everything we tried to do was within UN rules,” Rehman said, adding that the situation made it difficult to communicate messages.

“We, as civil society, are the ears, eyes and voice of people around the world and that is why we are here at this COP.”

The conference location is designated as UN territory and is subject to the rules of the United Nations, not those of the host country.

The UN climate secretariat said in a statement that it was “committed to defending the rights of all participants, to ensure that everyone’s perspectives are heard and that their contributions to the climate challenge are recognized.”

He added that, within the so-called Blue Zone — the conference area where negotiations take place —, “there is space available for participants to gather peacefully and make their voices heard on climate-related issues.”

This is done in accordance with long-standing UN guidelines and “adherence to international human rights norms and principles”, the statement said.

Essop and Rehman said the activists had not had their protest messages on climate change issues — such as calls to end the use of fossil fuels — vetoed by the UN climate secretariat.

A climate march and protest planned for Saturday afternoon within the Blue Zone will go ahead as planned, they added.

But, they say, the wider space for daily civil society demonstrations at the negotiations has been changed and lunchtime protest times have been canceled by the UN, citing concerns about the heat.

“Our experience at this COP, in this Blue Zone, has been much more difficult and restrictive than at any other time,” said Essop.

Katharina Rall, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, said her team spent a week negotiating a rally in support of environmental rights defenders, which is likely to happen now.

But such efforts were eating into time that would otherwise be spent on advocacy, she said.

“This is worrying for the outcome of the conference and it’s worrying, moreover, because it means that climate activists continue to have to fight for their rights rather than actually being able to do the work they need to do,” he said.

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