Siemens must halt plans in occupied Western Sahara
WRSW has asked German multinational Siemens to withdraw from supplying wind turbines and related technical assistance for the construction of the Foum el Oued windfarm project in occupied Western Sahara. Siemens' partner in the project is NAREVA holding, a Moroccan company owned personally by King Mohammed VI.
In a letter to the company of 19 June 2012, WSRW argues that Siemens’ involvement in the project is a matter of grave importance that “goes to the question of corporate involvement that would entrench Morocco’s presence in Western Sahara, perpetuating the conflict over the territory and further delaying the Saharawi people’s right to exercise self-determination.”
Siemens had by then stated to WSRW that the project “does not infringe the right of self-determination or any other human right in public international law”.
“With delivering technology to this project, Siemens does not intend to make a political statement on the status of the region”, the company wrote in a letter to WSRW dated 8 May 2012. The company's request came as a response to an earlier, and yet unpublished letter, from WSRW to Siemens.
Siemens claims that the windfarm project “bears a number of very positive effects regarding sustainable power production as well as the development of the region of West Sahara and the situation of the local population”.
A Project Design Document submitted as part of a request for UN funding by NAREVA holding presents the Foum el Oued project as part of an ongoing intensification of the exploitation of the occupied territory's natural resources, involving an increase in activity by Moroccan firms, supported by the Moroccan government. The Document states that the Wind Farm is to supply electricity to both private and publicly owned companies.
Due to the Moroccan government's policy of creating economic incentives to attract Moroccans to the illegally held territory, the 'local population' currently inhabiting Western Sahara is two to one Moroccan. The economic marginalization of the Saharawi people will result for them in an even smaller share of any economic benefit that would ensue. The Saharawi population living in Algerian refugee camps will not benefit at all.
WSRW in its first letter in March questioned how such a supply and on-the-ground technical support would be consistent with the company’s adherence to the UN Global Compact Initiative, which asks firms to support 10 principles in the areas of human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption “within their sphere of influence”.
Siemens has yet to publicly address these questions to their interpretation of their participation in Global Compact.
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.
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