The 14th Conference of the Parties (COP 14) to the Convention on Biological Diversity will take place in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, from the 17th to the 29th of November, 2018. This major conference will thus be hosted by a state that systematically violates human rights and persecutes its critics – one in which torture and abuse by state security forces are the order of the day. Since President Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi took office, virtually no independent civil society activity has been permitted in Egypt, and this restriction has also impacted many of our former partner organizations.
The Heinrich Böll Foundation stands in solidarity with Egyptian civil society and will therefore not take part in this year’s COP in Sharm El-Sheikh. We have to emphasize the incalculable risks that Egyptian activists, journalists, human rights defenders, academics, representatives of local NGOs and all other citizens face when they criticize the political situation in Egypt. While international civil society and representatives of the international community gather for the COP in Sharm El-Sheikh – an event tightly sealed off from the country’s increasingly oppressive reality – tens of thousands of political prisoners are languishing in Egyptian jails. Egypt’s independent and critical civil society cannot participate freely in the activities related to the international conference. Moreover, given the unpredictable nature of the regime, it is impossible to assess the threats that the guests of the COP in Sharm El-Sheikh could face. We therefore cannot justify the Foundation’s participation in this conference from a political perspective.