The UN has granted approval for 56 Egyptian and African NGOs to attend the UN COP27 Climate Conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, the foreign ministry has stated, saying that the decision is exceptional, but in line with UN regulations, because the number of Egyptian, African, and Middle Eastern NGOs granted observer status is limited.
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) secretariat explained in a BBC interview that observer NGOs can act as an umbrella for other civil society groups as part of their share in representation. Observer NGOs attending the COP27 have already been announced together with each organisation’s list of affiliated groups, the secretariat added.
Some 2,000 observer NGOs have submitted the names of 10,000 individuals from civil society groups to attend the COP27. The names have been approved, the UNFCCC secretariat noted, pointing out that their numbers are close to those registered to attend the COP26 in Glasgow in 2021.
It added that granting NGOs observer status with the UNFCCC secretariat is a complicated process that takes 18 months. NGOs need to acquire observer status in order to be able to attend UN climate summits.
Egypt wants local and international NGOs to take part in the COP27 on several levels, according to Egypt’s Minister of Environment Yasmine Fouad. Besides participating in the national booths, the NGOs are given the opportunity to hold side events and themed days.
The participation of youth and environmental activists is facilitated by allocating special areas. The Egyptian Ministry of Social Solidarity is also implementing a programme to discuss issues of concern to civil society, Fouad added.
The Ministry of Environment has created job opportunities for local communities at natural reserves, especially women breadwinners, to make them part of the development process and allow them to protect the reserves and generate income by exhibiting their handicrafts to protectorate-goers, the minister said.
She said that these measures have helped the communities concerned to increase their revenues by between 260 per cent and 400 per cent.
Fouad pointed out that Egypt’s NGOs are replete with success stories on climate change. Their contributions to mitigate the effects of climate change will be presented at the COP27.
Emad El-Din Adly, head of the Arab Office for Youth and the Environment and coordinator of the Arab Network for the Environment and Development (RAED), said an initiative called “Our Country Hosts the Climate Summit” has been launched to increase community participation in the climate change issue.
The initiative is organising activities in each governorate with representatives from local entities concerned with the environment and sustainable development, Adly said. He added that it aimed to launch a “code of honour” to confront climate change, explaining that the goal was to collect the signatures of at least one million Egyptian citizens.
He said that Egypt’s NGOs hope to achieve three results during the COP27: the success of the conference on the organisational level; the production of recommendations that meet aspirations related to the technical aspects of the conference and for Sharm El-Sheikh to become a milestone in the course of climate action on the international level; and to enhance cooperation between civil society groups to ensure greater contributions to climate action.
The first point can be met, Adly said, not only on the day allocated for NGOs, which is part of the themed days, but also through subjects that will be tackled on other days of the conference, such as water, energy, and agriculture and other issues where NGOs have achieved success.
The Ministry of Social Solidarity has prepared three issues to present at the COP27, according to Ahmed Saada, assistant minister of social solidarity for supporting civil work. The first consists of measures to host persons with special needs at the venue of the conference itself, making the COP27 website more user friendly to people with disabilities and making available various publications in Braille and sign language translators, while providing visual accessibility and assistive devices.
The second is related to the volunteers who submitted requests to assist delegates during the conference. The ministry has received close to 10,000 requests from young men and women from 80 countries, of whom 1,000 were chosen while making sure diversity and differences were respected, Saada said.
The ministry earlier launched a website to receive volunteering requests from young people and persons with special needs.
The third focuses on organising a day for NGOs during the conference to shed light on the role of civil society in mitigating the effects of climate change and to present suggestions on the role NGOs can play after it.
During the COP27, successful experiences from small farmers, green buildings, and on food security and employing people with disabilities in projects on solar energy, fighting poverty, and climate justice will also be exhibited, Saada said.
Egypt’s NGOs are also coming up with events to hold on the sidelines of the COP27, he said, stating that a special area will be allocated to NGOs and to display the products of local communities as part of the “Diarna” project in Sharm El-Sheikh’s Green Zone.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 27 October, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.