COP28 Risks and Recommendations

COP28 2023 Security
November 28, 2023


Concentric urges all attendees for the United Nations National Climate Change Conference (COP28) to remain vigilant while visiting the United Arab Emirates due to the possibility of protests and an increasing risk of terrorist attacks. The UAE’s long-standing relationships with the Israelis and Palestinians could stoke the ire of individuals with perceived grievances regarding the current situation. 

  • Although the UAE became the first Gulf country to normalize relations with Israel in 2020, UAE officials have publicly expressed concern over Israel’s military operations. On October 22, UAE leaders issued a statement condemning Israeli ground operations and last month UAE officials also requested U.N. Security Council members seek a binding resolution demanding Israel accept a humanitarian pause to the fighting in Gaza.    
  • Nonetheless, earlier this month, sources close to the UAE government noted the UAE planned to maintain diplomatic ties with Israel despite the ongoing war in Gaza. According to political analysts, the UAE is walking a “fairly narrow line” as they weigh commitments to Israel with public sympathy for Palestinians. 

We encourage all travelers to avoid all demonstrations and maintain awareness of their surroundings, particularly in areas with any protest activity. The British Foreign Office (FCDO) recently issued travel advice for the UAE urging their citizens to be wary of the increased threat of terrorist attacks in the country. On October 29, the FCDO warned the “risk of terrorist attacks happening in the UAE is very likely.” 

  • Civil Unrest: Concentric did not identify any planned protests during the conference, but due to the issues surrounding COP28 and ongoing events in Israel, sporadic demonstrations are likely. Previous COPs witnessed large-scale protests, and UAE officials announced in August 2023 they would allow environmental activists to “make their voices heard” and peacefully assemble at this year’s conference.
    • The UAE’s selection to host the conference sparked criticism from environmentalists who warned the involvement of an oil exporter could slow progress in the fight against global warming. Non-government groups, including Human Rights Watch, also warned the Gulf state’s restrictions on freedom of expression could hinder the participation of climate activists. 
    • In addition, the UAE reportedly invited Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to COP28. The invitation will likely spark online disapproval and physical opposition to the inclusion of a leader credibly implicated in mass atrocities.
  • Terrorism: While there are no indicators or warnings of an imminent terrorist attack, the UAE’s closeness to the United States and its growing ties to Israel, makes it a target of terror threats.
    • Travelers are most vulnerable in crowded areas, such as outdoor markets, tourist destinations, government buildings, and transportation hubs.
    • In the event of a terrorist attack or no-notice event, we advise travelers to listen to emergency officials for instructions and report anything out of the ordinary.
      • The country is heavily policed with strong anti-missile defense and emergency response services which meet international standards.

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