WSRW condemns Glencore's oil exploration in Western Sahara

WSRW has today appealed to Swiss company Glencore Plc to withdraw from its participation in Morocco's oil search in Western Sahara. Read the full letter here.
Published: 18.12 - 2014 15:10Printer version    
In October 2014, WSRW revealed that Swiss firm Glencore Plc had been awarded two oil licenses by the Moroccan government for oil Blocks that are located offshore occupied Western Sahara. WSRW urges the company to withdraw from the territory, giving the peace process breathing space and allowing for the Saharawi people to determine the status and governance of their own country.

Glencore Plc
Baarermattstrasse 3
CH-6340 Baar

18 December 2014

To the attention of Ivan Glasenberg
CEO of Glencore Plc

Dear Mr Glasenberg,

We write to you following media releases stating that your company, Glencore Xstrata, has been awarded two licenses offshore occupied Western Sahara. We understand that your company has contracted SeaBird Exploration to undertake seismic studies on one of the blocks, given the current seismic acquisition undertaken by SeaBird’s vessel Harrier Explorer on the Foum Ognit block.

We are confident that it is not in your company’s interest to be associated with the Western Saharan conflict and its resulting human suffering. We appeal to Glencore’s adherence to the principles of Corporate Social Responsibility, and accordingly urge your company to immediately terminate its participation in the Foum Ognit and Boujdour Offshore Shallow Prospects.

As you will know, large parts including the coastal areas of Western Sahara have been occupied by Morocco since 1975. Morocco’s claim over its southern neighbour has been refuted by the International Court of Justice, which accorded to the Saharawi people – the sole and original people of the territory – the right to self-determination. That right has been restated in over 100 UN Resolutions, while no State in the world recognises Morocco’s unfounded presence in the territory. The United Nations consider Western Sahara as a case of unfinished decolonization.

The protracted nature of the conflict comes at a terribly high human cost. About half the Saharawi population of Western Sahara had to flee their homeland during Morocco’s brutal invasion and the ensuing war. These people still live in Algerian refugee camps, where entire generations of Saharawis have to grow up, surviving on dwindling international aid. One in 5 children suffers malnutrition and stunted growth, according to recent studies of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the World Food Programme. Meanwhile, the Saharawis that today still live in Western Sahara are subjected to gross human rights violations at the hand of the Moroccan authorities.

As in line with the Saharawi’s internationally backed right to self-determination, the UN Legal Counsel concluded in 2002 that any oil exploration or exploitation in Western Sahara would be in violation of international law, if not in accordance with the wishes and the interests of the Saharawi people. The Saharawis have repeatedly expressed their opposition to Morocco’s oil plans in their land under occupation; both by voice of the Saharawi internationally recognized representatives - the Frente Polisario - as by many Saharawi organisations from within the occupied zone.
But while the UN tries to broker a peaceful solution to the conflict, Morocco has been consistently blocking any advancement in the peace process. One of its tactics that severely undermines the much needed good faith between the parties, is Morocco’s continuous plunder of the Saharawi resources.

As such Glencore’s involvement in Morocco’s oil programme in occupied Western Sahara only serves to prolong the conflict and hinder a long-lasting, just and peacefully negotiated solution. Furthermore, it undermines an ever more fragile truce in the territory. Saharawis are increasingly frustrated over the stalled peace talks, while Morocco is allowed to advance its presence in the territory by creating facts on the ground. The Frente Polisario views Morocco’s oil search as a violation of the 1991 cease-fire agreement. The calls to resume war are growing louder with each passing momentum to reach a solution.

As it stands, Glencore’s participation in the oil exploration is politically controversial, since it supports Morocco's unfounded claim over Western Sahara, it is contributing to undermining and violating international law, and it is, most importantly, deeply unethical, since it contributes to the continued suffering for the oppressed Saharawi people.
Only the Saharawis have a right to determine the future status and governance of their land. Not Morocco. Not Glencore. Allowing the Saharawis to exercise their right to self-determination before undertaking business in Western Sahara, will not only clarify with whom Glencore should rightfully engage, but it will also make Glencore a part of the solution of the conflict, and not part of the problem.

Glencore can do without the association to Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara. Maintaining good relations with the over 70 States in the world that recognise the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic as a State will prove more valuable to your company. Withdrawing from the territory would be a clear sign that your company takes the principles of Corporate Social Responsibility seriously.

We urge you to immediately terminate your involvement in occupied Western Sahara. It will be in the interest of many.

Best regards,

Erik Hagen
Western Sahara Resource Watch




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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