Egypt's curbs weakening COP27, activists say

STORY: "... a reminder, no mentioning of country, no mentioning of person and no mentioning of a company in you chants and in your speeches, has everyone understood?"

An orderly climate demonstration at the U.N. COP27 summit in Sharm El-Sheikh.

"We are only staying on this side. Okay?"

Public protest is effectively banned in Egypt, where activists say a crackdown on dissent has left them no room to operate.

Asad Rehman, director of the U.K.'s War on Want group, says this year's curbs make it hard to pressure leaders to do more for poorer countries.

"So, you may have noticed there is absolutely nothing taking place on the outside of the official venue. There is no people's summit, there are no demonstrations. That is of course because many of these things are illegal here in Egypt. Movements were not willing to allow the Egyptian authorities to greenwash a sanitised demonstrations if the Egyptian movements could not attend in person."

This is the designated area for protests outside the compound.

Under the watchful eye of the police, young demonstrators who say they're from Sharm el-Sheikh demand the protection of coral reefs - like those found here, in the Red Sea.

They avoid holding anyone to account.

Authorities say protests can be held that are "similar to" previous climate gatherings...

Like Glasgow, last year.

Campaigners say accountability and transparency are at the heart of the battle to ensure countries step up their climate commitments, and Egypt's policing has cast a cloud.

This is Moushira Khattab, president of Egypt's National Council for Human Rights.

"You cannot work on civil and political rights and ignore economic, social and cultural rights. You have to work on all rights, you have to listen to the people, you will have to know that change will not happen overnight, but we have to see incremental change."

On the eve of the summit, Egypt's most prominent prisoner Alaa Abd el-Fattah said he was escalating his hunger strike - putting human rights in even greater focus.

His sister Sanaa Seif has joined activists at COP27.

Egypt's president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, is a former military leader who took power after a wave of protests against a Muslim Brotherhood president nine years ago.

Sisi says security measures, which include thousands of arrests, were needed to stabilize Egypt.

Andrea Prasow, executive director of U.S.-based The Freedom Initiative:

"And right now, in the very country's soil we are standing on, there are 60,000 political prisoners, Alaa Abdel Fattah may die this week in prison because he is on a hunger strike because of his unjust detention, and this is not only diminishing the ability to host a productive COP, it is really a real tarnish on the Egyptian government's ability to hold this key event where they would have obtained global status."

Egyptian organizers say most demonstrations take place in the summit's 'Blue Zone', which falls under U.N. responsibility.

One activist said there have always been guidelines on protesters pointing the finger of blame.

It's just here, they're being rigidly enforced.