Controversial contract to clean up UAE image before COP28 terminated

Controversial contract to clean up UAE image before COP28 terminated

UAE hired a PR Company to “counteract negative press” before the COP28. A backlash occurred

In July 2023, facing mounting criticism from climate and human rights activists, UAE, the host of this year’s climate change summit, hired a PR company, First International Resources,  to counteract” critics. The contract triggered a backlash and was “terminated before performance,” according to a statement filed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act on September 1, 2023.

“He has a blatant conflict of interests” – that’s how former US vice-president and Nobel laureate Al Gore has described Sultan Al Jaber: the president of the Cop28 is the CEO of one of the world’s largest oil producers, the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). After months of negative headlines over UAE’s decision to name an oil baron as president Cop28, Al Gore’s accusation went viral in July. The UN climate change conference has never attracted such criticism in its 28-year history.

On July 27, the UAE hired First International Resources to “counteract” critics before the Cop28. The strategic communication firm was hired by Masdar (a state-owned renewable energy company also headed by Sultan Al Jaber) to “counteract all negative press and media reports” and “reinforce attitudes among decision-makers in Washington, DC and across Europe regarding the strategic value of the UAE in the global fight to address climate change.” 

The contract objective was to whitewash  Sultan Al Jaber’s image by strengthening his “overall reputation and standing /…/ among Western audiences” and leveraging this “enhanced reputation /…/ in order to most effectively inoculate Dr. Al Jaber and COP28 from any potential criticism.”

The contract triggered a backlash after being disclosed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Hiring a firm to “counteract all negative press” was viewed as another PR stunt in UAE’s effort to cover Al Jaber’s conflict of interest and ADNOC’s ties with the Cop28 team.

The UAE hired the biggest PR firms to clean up its image ahead of Cop28. Sultan Al Jaber was accused of attempting to “greenwash” his image in May after his team members (including ADNOC employees) edited Wikipedia pages. A network of fake Twitter accounts, using stolen photos and coordinated messages to support the appointment of Sultan Al Jaber as Cop28 president, was uncovered in June. Reports of ADNOC’s staff and executives working with the Cop28 team have fuelled suspicions that big oil has conquered the 2023 climate change summit.

Moreover, Zev Furst, the chairman and CEO of First International Resources, who specifically registered to work for AL Jaber, is a former adviser of Russian oil giant Lukoil and a former oil executive himself. In the past, Furst, helped Israeli Prime minister  Menachem Begin in his 1981 re-election campaign and also was an adviser to Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak,and as well a series of high level US Jewish organisations.

Following public outrage, the UAE’s contract with First International Resources was abruptly terminated before any work began. 

Written by Eagle


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