groundWork (Friends of the Earth, South Africa) Joins More than 200 Organizations Calling on Governments to address UAE Human Rights Abuses Ahead of COP28 

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September 13, 2023

Rights groups across six continents say UAE cannot be given a free pass for its abysmal human rights record on the COP stage 

 PIETERMARITZBURG – groundWork (Friends of the Earth, South Africa) joined more than 200 global organizations to demand that the international community pursue accountability for the UAE’s track record of repressive behavior at home and abroad ahead of the COP28 climate conference.

 The network of civil society organizations – comprised of human rights, climate justice, women’s rights, migrant rights, trade union, and free speech organizations – released a letter addressed to the participating governments at COP28, writing that “climate justice and human rights are deeply interconnected – there cannot be one without the other.” 

 These groups are deeply concerned that the legitimacy of the conference is at risk if human rights and civic space aren’t protected in the UAE.

 We are urging governments worldwide to:

  • Demand that the UAE not spy on COP28 attendees and end unlawful state surveillance that violates international human rights law and standards.
  • Call on the UAE to release all prisoners of conscience.
  • Demand action on UAE violations of women’s rights.
  • Condemn UAE violations of LGBTQI+ rights.
  • Call for workers’ rights reforms and reparations for forced labor at the site of COP28.
  • Urge the UAE to stop supporting human rights violators in Yemen and across the Middle East and North Africa.
  • Publicly repudiate UAE greenwashing and fossil fuel hypocrisy.


 “The 27 COPs to date have served to protect the interests of the rich and powerful at the expense of people and planet. This 28th COP confirms the anti-democratic character of the process. These demands lay the foundation of all future COP processes no matter where they are held. We cannot save people and planet through corrupted systems of democracy. The terrible death toll from the floods in Libya confirms this. groundWork expresses its sympathy and solidarity with the people who have lost so much,” said Bobby Peek, Director of groundWork, Friends of the Earth, South Africa.

The organizations are also urging all nations to make meaningful and ambitious commitments at COP28 and calling on rich countries to take responsibility for their historical emissions.


groundWork is recognized as a leading South African environmental justice NGO working with people’s struggles on the ground in South Africa and across the continent.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tsepang Molefe, +27 74 405 1257