FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 13, 2023

Freedom Forward and over 200 Organizations Call on Governments to Address UAE Human Rights Abuses Ahead of COP28 Climate Negotiations

Rights groups across six continents say UAE cannot be given a free pass for its abysmal human rights record on the COP28 stage

San Francisco – Freedom Forward and more than 200 organizations worldwide are demanding that the international community pursue accountability for the UAE’s track record of repressive behavior at home and abroad ahead of the COP28 climate conference.

The network of civil society organizations – comprised of human rights, climate justice, women’s rights, migrant rights, trade union, and free speech organizations – released a letter (link) addressed to the participating governments at COP28, writing that “climate justice and human rights are deeply interconnected – there cannot be one without the other.”

The Freedom Forward-led effort expresses deep concern that the legitimacy of global climate negotiations are at risk if the UAE – a deeply repressive oil monarchy – is allowed to conduct business as usual during this year’s COP28.

We are urging governments worldwide to:

  • Demand that the UAE not spy on COP28 attendees and end unlawful state surveillance that violates international human rights law and standards.
  • Call on the UAE to release all prisoners of conscience.
  • Demand action on UAE violations of women’s rights.
  • Condemn UAE violations of LGBTQI+ rights.
  • Call for workers’ rights reforms and reparations for forced labor at the site of COP28.
  • Urge the UAE to stop supporting human rights violators in Yemen and across the Middle East and North Africa.
  • Publicly repudiate UAE greenwashing and fossil fuel hypocrisy.

“It’s an absolute joke that an oil monarchy like the UAE could be allowed to set the terms of global climate negotiations while fires and floods sweep across our planet,” said Sunjeev Bery, executive director of Freedom Forward. “The UAE is a brutal oil dictatorship that has long used its fossil fuel wealth to block freedom at home while intervening against democracy across the broader Middle East.”

“Instead of singing the praises of this brutal government, U.S. climate envoy John Kerry and other governments’ representatives must demand that the UAE end its long history of repression,” Bery continued. “How can you have global climate negotiations in a country where peaceful critics and activists are sitting behind bars? Fossil fuel lobbyists and oil executives will be free to roam the halls of the COP28 talks, while human rights and climate advocates will be busy worrying that their phones could be hacked by the UAE’s spies – and that they themselves could be imprisoned if they speak too loudly.”

Freedom Forward and the 200+ organizations that signed this letter are also urging all nations to make meaningful and ambitious commitments at COP28, and calling on rich countries to take responsibility for their historical emissions.