Earth Day Series / Honour thy financial commitments: climate funds promised at COP27 won’t reach vulnerable countries unless these things are done

When the COP27 summit was kicked off in Egypt in November last year, there was hope that some progress would finally be made in financing climate action. But Hao Zhang, who attended the summit, observes that although efforts seem to have been stepped up, there is not yet reason for optimism. In fact, COP27 was marked by the failure of government leaders to truly commit financially to meeting climate goals. While the past year has witnessed devastating disasters, a potential economic downturn and energy crisis, the war in Ukraine, geopolitical unrest, and the aftermath of Covid pandemic, this is not enough to justify the lack of commitment, she writes.

Source: Hao Zhang

While countries have increasingly prioritized the financing of climate action in the last years, talks at recent COP summits seem to indicate that an even greater financial commitment was made to mitigate the effects of climate change. This also seemed to be the case for the recent COP27 summit that took place in Egypt at the end of last year, and which I attended. For example, on November 9 last year, the COP27 presidency explicitly scheduled a Financing Day to emphasize finance as the key to achieving climate policies and increasing climate ambition.[i]

And at the summit, attention was draw to the huge gap between climate adaptation financing and loss and damage commitments, the latter referring to the negative consequences of climate change risks that cannot be or are not mitigated in time.[ii] Thus, at the summit, developing nations banded together to urge wealthy nations to increase their financial commitment to addressing these urgent problems. The somewhat positive news is that parties at the summit in the end agreed to create a specific fund on loss and damage that aims to provide financial assistance to countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

However, even if the issue of loss and damage is now being added to the official agenda and for the first time has explicitly been discussed at a COP meeting,[iii] there is still a long way to go in enacting the commitments. Here are some of the things I have observed while at the COP27 summit showing that at present, it’s still all talk and no trousers when it comes to implementing climate funds:


  1. It has not yet been decided exactly “who should pay into the fund, where this money will come from, and which countries will benefit”. [iv] This may raise concerns that negotiations around specific issues related to how the fund will operate are likely to go on for years, with no concrete investments being made. Another central question in the funding of climate action is linked to the allocation of funds: which issues or activities should be allocated funds first, and by whom? Apart from scale-up commitments, national governments should also consider the strategic allocation of funds for climate action. An effective strategy is needed to assess and prioritize different agendas and issues and distribute funds among those countries requiring financial resources.


  1. Previous commitments first need to be honoured. It is reasonable to have to somewhat curb our optimism about getting something done when we recall that the financial commitment wealthy countries made in 2009 to mobilize USD 100 billion a year by 2020 for climate adaptation still hasn’t been fully honoured. In fact, COP27 opened with a rallying call for countries who’d previously committed money to pay up.


  1. The discussion on climate financing also revolves around how much money we will need to keep global warming within the 1.5°C limit and how countries and people who need the money most can get access to it. On one hand, climate operations seem not to be receiving nearly enough funding. Although at COP27, we witnessed nations constantly announcing new finance plans to close the funding gap, including 10 million euro from the Netherlands for the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Plan upstream financing facility, a USD 150-million package from the US for adaptative measures, 11.6 billion pounds from the UK for international climate finance, and an increase by Germany of its climate contribution to USD 6 billion a year by 2025,[v] to name a few, these are by no means sufficient to keep us on the 1.5°C


  1. On the other hand, it appears that access to climate funding remains a problem for those in need all around the world. There are certainly a variety of financial and technical resources floating around in the system given that party representatives from wealthy and developing countries alike have pledged to allocate even more funds. However, how to locate and access funds can be tricky. At the summit, civil society leaders from the developing world pushed for more streamlined access to financial resources. Representatives of NGOs from China, Angola, Bangladesh, and India for example stated at a side event that it is crucial to ensure and provide better access to NGOs and other entities who fully comprehend local needs and priorities and who closely collaborate with the local communities who suffer the most from the climate crisis.


What can we learn from this? Although there is increasing pressure on parties to scale up their ambitions, the execution thereof may actually be the bigger problem, as leaders of developing nations have stated that keeping existing promises is more vital than making more pledges. Despite the fact that the Egyptian presidency defined this meeting as the “Together for Implementation” COP,[vi] there are still more promises than a clear implementation strategy for financing aid initiatives.

To this end, I have made a number of suggestions based on my observations, which are detailed below.


The private sector should be encouraged to invest

First, it has become strikingly clear that public funds from national governments cannot be the sole source of climate financing, first of all because of their hesitance or inability to commit sufficient funds. Here, the private sector can play a significant role. Governments must develop policies to encourage private sector investment in addition to increasing their own investments in various initiatives. One of the most crucial things governments can do according to Mark Carney, UN special envoy for climate change and finance, is to “provide clear signals on where they want to go in key industries” and supplement these with “targeted and effective incentives”.[vii]


Local realities need to be heeded and technical support provided

Second, whether funds for climate action are international, national, regional, or local, it is essential to maintain a flow of information, provide clear application guidelines, and support staff capacity building. However, as the representatives pointed out during the side event, those who engage with local stakeholders targeted by climate action lack clear instructions on how to access these resources, and those negotiating financial packages, are likely to have little understanding of local requirements. It appears that the top politics may already be detached from the bottom-up realities.


The climate crisis should not be used as a geopolitical bargaining chip

Lastly, certain issues such as the level of mitigation efforts and NDCs appear still to be overlooked by the parties. Talks on finance cannot dictate the narrative at the negotiations. Moreover, the disconnected offers and needs may serve as a wake-up call for all parties that the multilateral talks are not and cannot be the sole solution to our climate catastrophe. Parties cannot use the climate crisis as a geopolitical bargaining chip; civil society and business actors may not be best served by sitting at the table and talk or shouting some slogans outside the meeting rooms.

[i] Refer to the COP27 website

[ii] Refer to UN Environment Programme

[iii]  Refer to the UNFCCC website

[iv] Refer to UNEP’s website

[v] Refer to the Global Center on Adaptation

[vi] Refer to the UNFCCC Climate Champions website

[vii] Refer to Mckinsey Insights

[vii] Watch the recording on YouTube

Opinions expressed in Bliss posts reflect solely the views of the author of the post in question.

About the author:

Hao Zhang is a PhD candidate at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR). Before joining ISS, she was a master’s student majoring in international affairs at School of Global Policy and Strategy at University of California, San Diego. Her current research focuses on policy advocacy of Chinese NGOs in global climate governance. Her research interests lie in global climate politics and diplomacy, and NGO development in China.

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Is the legacy of the Arab Spring greater oppression? Twelve years after the Egyptian Revolution, Egypt’s civil society has been all but nationalized

The popular uprising that swept across Egypt exactly twelve years ago was supposed to herald a new era marked by greater political freedom and the end of state oppression. But optimism that things would change for the better quickly evaporated after the resurgence of authoritarian practices. In this blog article, we argue that ever since the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, the Egyptian government has taken steps to nationalize civil society, turning it into yet another administrative machinery under its direct control.


From hope to horror

This week marks the 12th anniversary of 2011 Egyptian Revolution, or the 25 January Revolution – the popular uprising that led to the fall of President Hosni Mubarak and ended his 30-year period of rule. In the aftermath of the Arab Spring that took place in the 2010s in the wider MENA region, hopes were high that civil society would be able to play a stronger role in the socio-political realm; the same was hoped for Egypt’s civil society.

And for a moment it did seem that this could be happening: the number of NGOs in Egypt increased from 42,000 in 2013 to 52,000 in 2022. But this optimism quickly evaporated with the resurgence of authoritarianism in the country and continued efforts by successive governments to control and stifle activities in the civic space. Notable measures the Egyptian government has taken are:

Such measures have led to the prohibition of all efforts of civil society actors independent of the state to mobilize collectively. Thus, since the 2011 uprising, the Egyptian government has actually successfully consolidated its authoritarian control over the operation of the civil society sector, making it hard to identify any independent NGO activity.

In the past decade, as development practitioners and scholars[1], we have been closely monitoring the status of state-civil society relations in Egypt. The revolution was supposed to change state-civil society relations for the better, but during this period, we have witnessed increasing state control of the independence of NGOs through its bureaucratic apparatus and attempts to nationalize the efforts of civil society and place it under strict oversight by the government. We argue that the Egyptian government has been able to do this by:

  1. blurring the state-civil society divide
  2. controlling foreign and domestic funds, and
  3. demonizing independent civil society organizations.


Blurring the state-civil society divide

On 9 January, just two weeks ago, current Egyptian President El Sisi launched the first conference of the so-called National Alliance for Civil Development Work (NACDW) after his announcement in September 2021 that 2022 would be “the year of civil society”. The alliance was founded in March 2022, comprising 30 local NGOs – mostly relief organizations – that are closely linked to the state. Since its establishment, the NACDW has been mostly working under the umbrella of the Ministry of Social Solidarity (MoSS) to support the implementation of two flagship social protection programs, the ‘Takaful’ and ‘Karama’ (‘Solidarity’ and ‘Dignity’) Cash Transfer Programs, as well as the presidential initiative ‘Haya Karima’ (‘Dignified Life’).

Over the years, it has become near impossible to distinguish between the efforts of the MoSS and NGOs cooperating with the state in implementing such programs. Overall, the MoSS has succeeded in co-opting the sector by engaging certain organizations in their programs that have the state blessing and operate as the ministry implementation machinery. Since 2011, the ministry also has the upper hand in deciding how national or foreign aid should be spent and which priorities they see as more viable. Mostly, it has been able to expand its territory of controlling funds allocated for NGO activities and has the ultimate say on what NGOs can do or not, leaving most of the sector paralyzed if they don’t agree to collaborate with the state or abide by its narratives. This control has had negative implications for the freedom of association for the broader sector, especially organizations whose activities are oriented towards policy, advocacy, and human rights.


Closing the money tap: foreign and domestic funding struggles

In an attempt to hijack funding traditionally earmarked for NGOs, on 1 May last year, the Egyptian Cabinet on its official Facebook page published an announcement forbidding the collection of donations on social media without a permit. The post stated the need to apply for a license three days before the collection of donations, whether financial or material. It also threatened legal consequences for anyone who collected such donations without a license.

Similarly, as part of the increasingly restrictive environment and state control over NGO activities, the MoSS recently launched a new campaign that limits any collective donation through social media channels or any other online platform unless approved by the ministry. The campaign emphasized that in case of breaking the law, organizations or individuals would be legally investigated for violating article 26 of the civil society law no. 149 of 2019.

The government’s ongoing efforts to control the funding of NGOs can be traced back to 2011, when previous Minister of International Cooperation Faiza Abu El Naga emphasized the need for the government to be the gatekeeper of foreign funding; she argued that the state should allocate this funding according to its vision and national interest.

While these narratives primarily targeted foreign funding at the time, the current decisions of MoSS to control domestic sources of funding and how it should be spent forms part of the state’s strategy to control both domestic and foreign sources of funding for NGOs and other civil society groups. This increasing control of MoSS on both the domestic and foreign sources of funding has placed civil society groups under ongoing pressure by the ministry to continuously align civil society efforts to the interests of the ministry and the current political regime.


Demonizing independent civil society organizations

In our previous book chapter titled ‘Reinvention of nationalism and the moral panic against foreign aid in Egypt’ in the book Barriers to Effective Civil Society Organizations, we argue that the Egyptian state and its successive military regimes have tried over time to act as moral entrepreneur in society in an attempt to control narratives of patriotism, which in turn have shaped state discourses and policies towards civil society and foreign aid. Since the birth of the post-colonial Egyptian state, the reception of foreign funds, in particular by civil society organizations in Egypt, has always been presented as an act akin to treason, demonstrating a lack of patriotism and a threat to national unity.


New tactics, same objectives

The state’s recent focus on controlling how civil society groups organize themselves and domestically try to collect money for collective action is worrying. In light of the criticism of foreign aid in supporting local NGOs, domestic fundraising for civil society efforts provides a viable alternative to fill the gap produced by the government’s failure to provide quality public services for its citizens. The government’s determination to continue stifling any innovative ways of financing civil society initiatives poses a great risk to the existence of independent civil society organizations.

To conclude, the state in Egypt is dominating civil society by means of its direct control and is co-opting it while controlling money flows to NGOs and vilifying whoever seeks independence. This control will have a lasting effect on the structure of civil society in Egypt and will greatly reduce citizen participation in public affairs. Thus, 12 years after the revolution, we are witnessing a civil society sector that is under siege and has been nationalized by the government. The case of Egypt presents a vivid example of how authoritarian regimes evolve their tactics to clamp down on civil society spaces through various formal and informal practices.

[1] Over the past decade, we have been working with number of local and international development and human rights organizations in Egypt and across the MENA region. We have reflected on this experience in various publications on how CSOs navigate the restrictive environment in Egypt.

Opinions expressed in Bliss posts reflect solely the views of the author of the post in question.

About the authors:

Ahmed El Assal is a PhD Candidate at the International Institute of Social Studies. His current research focuses on governance, political economy of aid assistance, and accountability of public service provision.






Amr Marzouk is a PhD Candidate at the Erasmus School of Law.

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