[WSMDiscuss] Greenpeace accused of greenwashing Egypt’s image ahead of Cop27

Jim Riker jvriker at gmail.com
Sun Oct 30 13:58:22 CET 2022


https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/oct/30/greenpeace-egypt-greenwashing-cop27
?

[image: Human rights defenders say Greenpeace has stood out for its
reluctance to criticise human rights violations by the Sisi government
ahead of the summit.]Click to see figure captionGreenpeace accused of
greenwashing Egypt’s image ahead of Cop27

Criticism of group comes as advocates warn environmentalists should not
downplay concerns about Egypt’s human rights record
Stephanie Kirchgaessner
<https://www.theguardian.com/profile/stephanie-kirchgaessner> in Washington
and Nina Lakhani <https://www.theguardian.com/profile/nina-lakhani> in New
YorkSun 30 Oct 2022 04.00 EDT

Greenpeace has been accused by human rights defenders of “greenwashing” the
Egyptian government’s image and discouraging other activists from
forcefully raising the country’s abysmal human right record ahead of Cop27,
the UN climate summit that will be held in the Egyptian resort town of
Sharm el-Sheikh next week.

Criticism of the global conservation group comes as human rights advocates
have warned that environmentalists should not downplay concerns about
Egypt’s human rights record out of fear that it could curtail their access
to the global summit or that it might take attention away from achieving
climate objectives. Advocates argue that meaningful climate action can only
be achieved if scientists, activists and journalists are free to pressure
governments to transition away from fossil fuels.

The government of the Egyptian president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, who took
office in 2014, holds an estimated 60,000 political prisoners and has silenced
independent environmentalists
<https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/oct/14/cop27-egypt-host-climate-talks>
and
climate activists. The US state department has listed “significant” human
rights issues in the country, including unlawful or arbitrary killings,
extrajudicial killings by the government, forced disappearances by state
security, and torture and life-threatening conditions in Egypt’s prisons.
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Human rights defenders – some of whom spoke to the Guardian on the
condition of anonymity, in part because of concerns about their safety –
say Greenpeace has stood out for its reluctance to criticise human rights
violations by the Sisi government ahead of the summit.

In one case, activists with direct knowledge of the matter said a demand
calling for the release of all political prisoners proposed by Egyptian
human rights activists in the Cop27 Coalition was opposed by Greenpeace and
Egyptian environmental groups who were in the coalition.

The position of the green groups, the activists said, required
international groups to step into the fray and serve as mediators.
Ultimately compromise language was agreed in which political prisoners were
referenced in the preamble text before a full list of climate-related
demands. Greenpeace ultimately withdrew from the coalition, as did some
Egyptian groups, including at least one sponsored by Egypt’s ministry of
environment.

“My concern is that if you normalise that environmental groups, or
international organisations in general, should be allowed to not take
principled position, and undermine calls for rights from local groups, for
the sake of their own access, or for the sake of their own operations, I
think this is a very dangerous precedent,” one activist said.

Others with direct knowledge of the matter said that Egyptian environmental
groups felt they had no choice but to withdraw from the Cop27 Coalition due
to concerns that the regime would further limit their work. One local
Egyptian environmental activist said: “We all agree about the intersection
between human rights and climate justice and should be fighting the
authoritarian regime together, not bickering amongst ourselves … The
concerns about our safety are genuine.”

The controversy surrounding the Coalition’s is not the only dispute.
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In July, a group of environmentalists and activists wrote an open letter
<https://freealaa.net/100daystocop> expressing their alarm over Egypt’s
ability to host the event successfully because of its poor record on human
rights, especially as thousands of prisoners of conscience remain
imprisoned. The signatories included John Sauven, former executive director
of Greenpeace UK, but Greenpeace UK declined to sign.

“It was Greenpeace that was against signing a petition for the release of Alaa
Abd El-Fattah
<https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/sep/12/british-egyptian-hunger-striker-alaa-abd-el-fattah-says-he-may-die-in-prison>,”
the person said, referring to the imprisoned British Egyptian blogger who
is one of Egypt’s most well-known activists
<https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/oct/27/foreign-secretary-ignoring-british-egyptian-hunger-striker>
for
his role in the Egyptian uprising in 2011, and has spent most of the last
decade behind bars. He has also been on a hunger strike for about 200 days
and recently told his family that he believes he may die in prison
<https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/sep/12/british-egyptian-hunger-striker-alaa-abd-el-fattah-says-he-may-die-in-prison>
.

Mike Townsley of Greenpeace International said: “We are very concerned
about the dire situation of human rights in Egypt and believe you cannot
have climate justice without social justice.”

He added: “Our work in Egypt comes with significant risk to the safety of
staff who will continue working there long after Cop27 is over. It is our
duty to not only consider their safety, but also to avoid increasing the
risks faced by the growing environmental movement in Egypt. Balancing the
safety of our staff and our partners with the need to speak out is not
easy. Around the world human rights and environmental defenders face
growing threats. It’s crucial to find ways to continue to tackle the rising
tide of oppression and destruction as well the broken global system which
fuels it.”

Abd el-Fattah’s sister, Sanaa Seif, who is also a human rights defender, is
among those who have been critical of Greenpeace.

“Greenpeace’s position is really disappointing, and they should know
better. A lot of us are worried about putting African and Egyptian
activists in danger, but the big western organisations have much more room
and leverage to speak out, and make human rights a priority at Cop. If
entities like Greenpeace were vocal, there would have been a lot of
pressure on John Kerry to engage with Sisi on human rights and climate at
the same time,” Sanaa Seif said.
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Last week, Greenpeace UK’s new executive directors, Areeba Hamid and Will
McCallum, released a statement
<https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/news/greenpeace-uk-statement-on-the-case-of-alaa-abd-el-fattah/?fbclid=IwAR2ylXYV17h0oo2z0m3iZ46w98CNdpRnvnw7G3WctHt914aBi6SHNTLQmKE>
calling
on Abd el-Fattah’s safe release and return to the UK to be a priority
across all UK diplomatic channels.

“Alaa’s life is at serious risk. He is out of hope and has been on hunger
strike since 2 April 2022. Since 26 May, he has been consuming 100 calories
a day – a teaspoon of honey and a bit of milk is all that’s been keeping
him alive,” the group said. “It is vital that the UK goes beyond lip
service and uses its significant leverage to release Alaa and other
prisoners, or else risk tacitly endorsing this pattern.”

The statement was published on Thursday, a day after the Guardian sent an
email to Greenpeace seeking comment about its position on human rights in
Egypt. The group said its release of the statement was not connected to the
Guardian’s request.

In response, Seif said she welcomed Greenpeace’s decision to highlight her
brother’s plight and urged other international organisations attending
Cop27 to call out human rights abuses.

Greenpeace has also not signed a petition by the human rights coalition
<https://copcivicspace.net/petition/> calling on Egyptian authorities to
open up civic space and release political prisoners.

The petition, which has almost a thousand organisational and individual
signatories including 350.org, Amnesty International, Greta Thunberg, and
Climate Action Network, the world’s largest climate network made up of over
1,500 civil society organisations, has also not been signed by the World
Wildlife Fund, or Oxfam among other international groups.



   - [image: A protest banner placed by climate activists on the sphinx
   outside the Egyptian Museum of Turin in Italy in July.]

   <https://theguardian.com/environment/2022/oct/18/greenwashing-police-state-egypt-cop27-masquerade-naomi-klein-climate-crisis>
   - Cop27 climate summit’s sponsorship by Coca-Cola condemned as
   ‘greenwash’
   4w ago
   [image: A plastic Coke bottle among seaweed and other flotsam on a beach]

   <https://theguardian.com/environment/2022/oct/04/cop27-climate-summit-sponsorship-polluter-coca-cola-condemned-as-greenwash>
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