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Climate movement must be aware of the threats the UAE poses ahead of COP28

Three human rights organizations, FairSquare, the Emirates Detainees Advocacy Centre, and ALQST for Human Rights, have jointly released a briefing titled “Well of Fear: extraction and autocracy in the UAE” to shed light on the threats posed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to the climate justice movement. This comes ahead of the UAE’s hosting of COP28, the United Nations Climate Change Conference, scheduled to begin on November 30 in Dubai.

The briefing contextualizes the UAE’s harsh human rights crackdown over the past decade within the framework of the country’s social contract. This contract essentially demands absolute political compliance from citizens in exchange for a share in the benefits derived from ongoing fossil fuel extraction. Recent leaked audio conversations revealed discussions between UAE and COP28 officials about plans to “counter” and “minimize” criticism of the country’s human rights abuses.

James Lynch, co-director of FairSquare, warns that COP participants must be vigilant against the UAE’s PR tactics, as meaningful efforts to reduce global fossil fuel demand threaten the UAE’s ruling family’s power, and they will resist such efforts vigorously.

The UAE has spent millions on Western PR firms to present itself as a climate justice ally while advocating for the continued use of fossil fuels and expanding domestic oil and gas production, with Emirati citizens unable to challenge these policies. The briefing cites credible sources to demonstrate that the UAE consistently violates fundamental human rights, and its domestic repression is closely tied to aggressive fossil fuel extraction. It highlights cases of individuals, both Emiratis and foreign nationals, who have been targeted by the state over the past decade.

Julia Legner, Executive Director at ALQST for Human Rights, emphasizes the connection between oil and gas exports, which account for 90% of government revenue, and the UAE’s intense repression.A second briefing, examining how oil and gas revenues support the UAE’s foreign policy, is expected to be released later in September.

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