Civil society is active in achieving development and is a solid partner in facing up to the challenges of climate change. Civil society organisations across the world have been proactive in curbing the repercussions of climate change since the UN Conference on Environment and Development, dubbed the Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.
The Arab Network for Environment and Development, founded in 1990, was the first NGO in the Arab world to organise a training programme for young people on climate change in 1991, stressing the importance of renewable energy in reducing the greenhouse-gas emissions that lead to global warming. Egypt’s civil society has played a crucial role in addressing climate change, from raising awareness among different sectors of society about the causes of global warming to mitigation and adaptation.
With the UN COP27 meeting scheduled to take place in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh in November, Egypt’s NGOs have pooled their efforts to launch a popular initiative to prepare for it. The “Our Country Hosts COP27” initiative was kick-started by the Arab Office for Youth and Environment, one of Africa and the Arab world’s oldest NGOs, in cooperation with the Arab Network for Environment and Development “RAED”, the Egyptian Sustainable Development Forum, and the GEF/Small Grants Programme “SGP”.
Among its many goals, the initiative targets establishing local constructive national dialogue between the stakeholders and parties concerned in order to monitor the climate-change challenges in each Egyptian governorate, while proposing plans to address these issues and encouraging the community and relevant institutions to prepare for COP27.
It will also inform the public about the causes Egypt will focus on during the COP27 meeting in the light of recommendations made at previous meetings. These include recommendations on adaptation to climate change, mitigation, climate finance, and dealing with loss and damages. It targets young people and women in particular as well as other NGOs with a view to their taking part in events held on the sidelines of COP27 and facilitating the logistical and organisational procedures for their attendance.
The initiative launched local platforms in all the governorates comprising representatives of the directorates of social solidarity, youth, agriculture and land reclamation, water resources and irrigation, electricity and renewable energy, education, transport, and communication.
This is in addition to representatives from the environmental affairs departments of the governorates, religious institutions such as Al-Azhar and the Coptic Church’s Bishopric for Services, public and private universities and schools. On the national level the initiative involves the Institute of National Planning, the National Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, scientific and research centres, national and local councils, the State Information Service, experts and academics, NGOs, and the Egyptian Scouts Union.
The local platforms have developed work plans that include activities aimed at achieving campaign goals. They were proposed and discussed at a meeting held at Al-Ahram in Cairo attended by the minister of social solidarity, the sponsor of the initiative, officials from the Foreign Ministry, Dr. Mahmoud Mohieldin, UN Climate Change High-Level Champion for Egypt, experts, and more than 500 participants from authorities countrywide.
Mohieldin commented at the meeting that when it came to the effects of climate change, Egypt and Africa were paying for other countries’ actions. He shed light on Egypt’s plans for the COP27 meeting, saying that it seeks to partner with international institutions, NGOs, media outlets, financial organisations, and expert bodies to implement climate-related projects that need investments and international financing.
Within the framework of the initiative, a “Journalists for the Climate” network has been launched, comprising more than 40 journalists and media professionals working on environmental affairs. The network focuses on supporting the initiative and its activities by promoting it in the media and unifying efforts to raise awareness of the importance of the COP27 meeting.
The “Our Country Hosts COP27” initiative has launched a Charter of Honour to confront climate change, which emphasises the need for people to modify their behaviour in order to contribute positively to protecting the environment and developing natural resources, as well as raising awareness of climate and environmental issues and achieving partnerships between the various stakeholders to bring about sustainable development.
The Charter has been signed by thousands of people and by employees from the ministries, governorates and institutions concerned.
The “Our Country Hosts COP27” initiative is not only concerned with efforts made by Egypt’s civil society, as it also brings together institutions from the Arab, Mediterranean, and African levels to unite efforts to put more pressure on governments to achieve tangible results at this year’s COP27 meeting that will bring positive benefits to the planet and future generations.
* The writer is the chairman of the Egyptian Sustainable Development Forum “ESDF”.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 26 May, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.