COP28 and the UAE’s Image. The upcoming 28th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP28) presents the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with a significant opportunity to project an image of environmental stewardship and human rights progress on the global stage. However, as the UAE prepares to host this prestigious event, examining how the country is likely to utilize COP28 to improve its international image and address its long-standing human rights concerns is essential.
The UAE has a track record of leveraging high-profile international gatherings to deflect attention from human rights violations while projecting an image of progress. As witnessed during Expo 2020, the country orchestrated a facade of tolerance and women’s rights, with the inclusion of a Women’s Pavilion and various events promoting gender equality. Yet, these efforts stand in stark contrast to the harsh reality faced by women within the UAE, especially migrant women who are caught in sex trafficking and forced prostitution.
In the context of COP28, the UAE is expected to place a considerable emphasis on its commitment to environmental sustainability and climate action. This focus on environmental issues may serve as a means to overshadow, or at least downplay its human rights violations. The country is likely to position itself as a responsible and progressive global actor, emphasizing its commitment to sustainable practices and international climate goals.
COP28 and the UAE’s Image
The disregard for migrant workers’ rights, gender inequalities, and suppression of free speech have long marred the country’s reputation. The situation demands global scrutiny, particularly in the context of a climate conference, as vulnerable communities, including migrant workers, are often disproportionately affected by climate change.
Civil society has a crucial role to play in this process. Human rights groups, in collaboration with international partners, should seize the moment to use the global media attention surrounding COP28 to advocate for human rights. This includes calling for an improvement in women’s rights, and the release of imprisoned human rights defenders.
The UAE’s efforts to use COP28 as a platform for image transformation should be met with a critical and watchful eye. The international community must engage in constructive dialogue with the UAE, emphasizing that a genuine commitment to human rights is an integral part of global environmental and social responsibility.