Sounds Alarm about Environmental Projects on Occupied Land
Several Moroccan environmental projects in occupied Western Sahara are being considered by the UN. Published in Norwegian news service Bistandsaktuelt, 17 July 2012.
Published: 25.07 - 2012 09:39Printer version    
Story below was published 17 July in the Norwegian newspaper Bistandsaktuelt, a foreign affairs and foreign aid journal owned by the Norwegian government agency for development aid.

Translated by Western Sahara Resource Watch

Sounds Alarm about Environmental Projects on Occupied Land

Several Moroccan environmental projects in occupied Western Sahara are being considered by the UN.

“The UN has, through a series of resolutions, denounced the occupation of Western Sahara and is involved in the arbitration between Morocco and Sahrawi representatives. It would therefore be problematic if a UN organ were to approve Moroccan companies’ activity in the occupied areas,” Erik Hagen, director of the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara, explained to Bistandsaktuelt.  

The German corporation Siemens announced at the beginning of 2012 that they would concentrate on wind power in “Morocco”.

By means of the windmill parks Haouma and Foum El Oued, the company would contribute to Morocco’s goal that a fifth of the country’s energy supply would be renewable. Siemens therefore applied to have the wind parks approved as projects in “the Clean Development Mechanism” (CDM). The windmill parks are being built in cooperation with Nareva, a company in which the Moroccan king owns shares.

There is only one catch in this. Foum El Oued is not located in Morocco at all but a little distance outside Laayoune in Morocco-occupied Western Sahara. In a letter to The Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara [1] the company claims that the energy will benefit the local population, but it is uncertain whether and how the Sahrawi population has been consulted about the project.

In the CDM, companies may receive emission credits for projects involving renewable energy in developing countries. These credits may subsequently be sold. To be approved, the project must first be evaluated by a company certified to evaluate CDM projects.

Siemens has, however, met resistance on its path through the system. Det Norske Veritas (DNV) was responsible for approving the Foum El Oued project but turned thumbs down. The reason was that the project is taking place in a politically controversial area.

Thumbs Down
Stein B. Jensen at DNV Climate Change Services recounts that they originally believed that the wind park was to be built in southern Morocco, but after a while began to suspect that this was not the case.

“When we visited the project, it became clear that our suspicions were justified. It was therefore fairly simple on our part. In January we disclosed that we would be negative to the project. When a customer is informed of this, they can choose whether to continue with the negative recommendation or cancel the project. In this case they chose to cancel, as most do,” Jensen related.

The project was officially cancelled in April 2012. In CDM’s project data base Foum El Oued is still listed. Jensen explained this on the basis of slowness in updating the UN’s web pages.

Bistandsaktuelt has not succeeded in obtaining an answer from the CDM secretariat.

Siemens: Not Violating Any Rights
Alfons Benzinger, spokesperson for Siemens, emphasised that the company has a minor part in the Foum El Oued project.

”It is not Siemens who is developing this project. We would just deliver and maintain 22 wind turbines for our customer, Nareva,” Benzinger wrote in an e-mail to Bistandsaktuelt.

He believes the project entails a series of “very positive effects” in the form of sustainable wind power, development “the region” Western Sahara and improvement of the local population’s situation.

“It is not Siemens that decided where the project is to be located. By delivering the technology for this project, we are making a political statement about this region’s status. Independent of political conflicts, we believe that a functioning infrastructure will improve the economic conditions – and thus also the situation for the people of Western Sahara,” Siemens’s spokesperson stated.

Simultaneously, the company has made a legal assessment and concluded that its participation in the project “may be permitted under the laws and regulations in force and does not violate the right to self-determination or any other human right within international law,” Benzinger wrote.

Several Up for Assessment

Siemens’s wind power project is, however, not the only environmental project planned on occupied land. The Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara and the network Sahara Resource Watch have found that the Moroccan branch of CDM is trying to certify several “green projects” in occupied Western Sahara:

  • A solar energy project for the fishery industry.
  • A project for wind power for the cement production run by the Italian-owned Ciments du Maroc.
  • A project for phosphate extraction by the Moroccan state-owned company OCP. Several investors, including the Norwegian Government Pension Fund – Global, have previously withdrawn from this company for ethical reasons, based precisely on the UN’s evaluation of international law in industrial activity in the territory.

    “We urge CDM to follow the advice of the UN’s lawyers and not permit financing of projects in Western Sahara,” Sara Eyckmans, coordinator for Western Sahara Resource Watch stated.  

    Erik Hagen of The Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara is uncertain whether the consultancy firms that have to approve the projects have sufficient understanding of what is happening in Western Sahara and believes the question must be clarified principally by CDM.

    “Siemens turns out not to be a unique case. We appreciate to learn about DNV’s attitude and this will hopefully set the standard for future CDM applications in the occupied territories. But we can not take it for granted that all certification companies will reach the same conclusion. CDM must in principle clarify that a state can not have CDM projects in areas that lie outside their internationally accepted borders,” Hagen stated.  

    Note from translator:
    [1] Correct should be: “letter to Western Sahara Resource Watch”



    24.05 - 2018 / 17.05 - 2018Exclusive: Here are the Moroccan groups that the EU consulted
    22.05 - 2018 / 17.05 - 2018EU Commission closes eyes to Western Sahara judgment in Parliament
    03.05 - 2018 / 03.05 - 2018Camel researchers move event from Western Sahara to Morocco
    25.04 - 2018 / 24.04 - 2018New report on contentious Western Sahara phosphate trade
    17.04 - 2018 / 20.03 - 2018Auction for seized Western Sahara phosphates to close
    16.04 - 2018 / 16.04 - 2018Polisario will take EU Council to Court over fish deal
    16.04 - 2018 / 16.04 - 2018EU will broker new fish deal with Morocco, including Western Sahara
    12.04 - 2018 / 12.04 - 2018Camel conference in occupied Western Sahara dishonest about funders
    10.04 - 2018 / 10.04 - 2018UN study on Morocco's green energy plans fails at geography
    27.03 - 2018 / 26.02 - 2018EU risks recognising Western Sahara products as Moroccan
    21.03 - 2018 / 21.03 - 2018EU Commission dead set on fishing in Western Sahara
    20.03 - 2018 / 20.03 - 2018Does OPEC consider Western Sahara to be part of Morocco?
    20.03 - 2018 / 27.08 - 2010Support Western Sahara Resource Watch
    06.03 - 2018 / 06.03 - 2018Kosmos Energy maintains propaganda site after Western Sahara exit
    02.03 - 2018 / 01.03 - 2018What is HeidelbergCement doing in occupied Western Sahara?
    01.03 - 2018 / 01.03 - 2018Confirmed: Innophos key client of Western Sahara phosphate rock
    28.02 - 2018 / 28.02 - 2018South Africa stands up against the plunder of Western Sahara
    28.02 - 2018 / 28.02 - 2018Bermuda shipping company drops Western Sahara
    27.02 - 2018 / 27.02 - 2018EU and Morocco announce continued fisheries partnership
    27.02 - 2018 / 23.02 - 2018EU Parliament slams Commission on Western Sahara talks


    Morocco occupies the major part of its neighbouring country, Western Sahara. Entering into business deals with Moroccan companies or authorities in the occupied territories gives an impression of political legitimacy to the occupation. It also gives job opportunities to Moroccan settlers and income to the Moroccan government. Western Sahara Resource Watch demands foreign companies leave Western Sahara until a solution to the conflict is found.
    EU Court cases on Western Sahara for dummies


    It's not easy keeping up with all the different legal proceedings relating to Western Sahara. For the sake of clarity, here's an overview of the three different cases at the Court of Justice of the European Union.
    Stand up for the Gdeim Izik 25!


    Leading activists from Western Sahara are condemned to sentences ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment in connection to a mass protest in 2010 denouncing the Saharawi people’s social and economic marginalization in their occupied land; the Gdeim Izik protest camp.
    Support Western Sahara Resource Watch


    Help us to protect the natural resources of Western Sahara for the Saharawi people. Support our work by making a donation.
    Report: Moroccan green energy used for plunder


    At COP22, beware of what you read about Morocco’s renewable energy efforts. An increasing part of the projects take place in the occupied territory of Western Sahara and is used for mineral plunder, new WSRW report documents. News Archive 2018 News Archive 2017 News Archive 2016 News Archive 2015 News Archive 2014 News Archive 2013 News Archive 2012 News Archive 2011 News Archive 2010 News Archive 2009 News Archive 2008 News Archive 2007 News Archive 2004-2006

    Register for our English newsletter:

    These web pages have been built with the financial support of the trade union Industry Energy