Activists criticise civil society 'restrictions' at WTO meeting in UAE

Emma Farge, Rachna Uppal, Alexander Cornwell

Civil society organisations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting in the United Arab Emirates this week have criticized restrictions on their participation, including alleging that some of their members had been briefly detained at the talks.

Our World Is Not For Sale (OWINFS), a network of civil society groups, said on Wednesday it had complained to WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala over several incidents of "detainment, confiscation of materials, and heavy-handed restrictions on lobbying by civil society" groups.

The WTO, in a statement, said the director-general had met with civil society representatives on Tuesday to discuss their concerns and had since spoken with the host chair of the talks to identify solutions.

The office of Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Trade Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, who is chairing the talks, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the complaints.

The UAE government media office did not respond either.

While past WTO talks have seen protests, there have been none so far at this year's event, which is being held in a country where the right to assembly is essentially banned.

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