As members of the Working Group on Egypt, a bipartisan group of foreign affairs experts formed in 2010, we are surprised and dismayed by the selection of Egypt to host the United Nations’ 2022 Climate Change Conference, also known as the 27th Conference of Parties or COP 27. Egypt’s brutal authoritarian rule, abysmal human rights record, and poor environmental performance render it absolutely the wrong choice to convene this important global gathering. Serious progress on climate change will only be possible with consistent government commitment, effective civil society engagement, and an accountable, rules-based environment for public policies to take effect. Egypt has shown that it is actively opposed to all of these.

Under the military-backed regime of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt is one of the world’s worst human rights abusers, with tens of thousands of political prisoners. Egypt denies its citizens basic rights, suppresses public participation, and harshly punishes criticism of the government, including through the systematic use of state violence. There are credible reports of political detainees suffering torture, overcrowding, denial of medical care, and death in custody. The state routinely uses enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings against perceived opponents. The media and civil society are under tight state control. On the environmental front, authorities have targeted trade unions and civil society organizations involved in environmental justice work. Al-Sisi’s government cannot act as a responsible shepherd of the environment when it silences the very voices advocating for reform.

Indeed, as a coalition of Egyptian and international human rights groups recently wrote, “In the absence of the rule of law, spread of corruption, and a military-led economy, all of which are present in Egypt, those most affected by the ramifications of climate change will have no say in how to address these increasingly difficult challenges. Countries that host the COP 27 should be exemplars of commitments to an ecosystem of climate change advocacy, not brutal authoritarianism.”

What is more, Egypt’s environmental policies are not a model to showcase. The government has been slow to act on the climate crisis despite dire predictions that global warming will leave some populated regions of Egypt underwater, decimate the water supply, and wreak havoc on agriculture. Egyptians also suffer from water and air pollution and the razing of green spaces to make room for the president’s vanity projects, among other serious environmental problems.

For all these reasons, al-Sisi’s Egypt is the antithesis of an appropriate venue for COP 27. Indeed, having Egypt host this conference will confer unacceptable legitimacy on a government that serially violates norms of good governance, human rights, and environmental protection. Furthermore, it will signal that politics, not human rights or environmental commitments, rules in COP 27.

As for the United States, the Biden administration’s apparent acceptance of Egypt as the COP 27 venue is deeply regrettable as it runs directly counter to its commitment to “center” U.S. foreign policy around human rights and democracy. The United States should not support Egypt as the host of COP 27 or other major international gatherings until and unless there are major improvements in the government’s human rights practices and treatment of civil society.

The Working Group on Egypt*
November 4, 2021

Amy Hawthorne (chair)
Project on Middle East Democracy

Elliott Abrams
Council on Foreign Relations

Nicole Bibbins Sedaca
Freedom House

Thomas Carothers
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Larry Diamond
Stanford University

Michele Dunne
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Eric Edelman
Johns Hopkins University

Reuel Marc Gerecht
Foundation for Defense of Democracies

Neil Hicks
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

Thomas Hill
Former staff member, House Committee on Foreign Affairs

Elisa Massimino
Georgetown University

Stephen McInerney
Project on Middle East Democracy

Michael Posner
New York University

Mai El-Sadany
The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy

Kori Schake
American Enterprise Institute

Kenneth Wollack
National Endowment for Democracy


*  The Working Group on Egypt is a bipartisan group of foreign affairs experts formed in 2010 to advocate for more principled U.S. policies toward Egypt. Members participate in the Working Group in their individual capacity; institutional affiliations are provided for the purpose of identification only.

Photo Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elías