In November 2016 - two years ago - Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) first wrote to the company Vigeo Eiris to enquire whether it could be correct that it had certified the bonds for a Moroccan-Saudi energy project in Western Sahara.
It turned out that Vigeo Eiris not only confirmed the activity, but also defended the operation.
Vigeo Eiris never responded, however, to follow-up emails relating to its interpretations of international law, its policies on occupations, or its practices of due diligence.
To Business and Human Rights Resource Center, however, Vigeo Eiris in various ways defended the Moroccan occupation of the territory, putting in question whether the territory is occupied at all, and downplaying the Saharawi people's right to self-determination. Its references to the territory are not in line with United Nations' terminology (which calls it 'Western Sahara') - instead Vigeo Eiris refers to it by Moroccan terms. Its website shows maps which are not in line with the UN. It does not respond to questions about whether it performs prior human rights due diligence.
The case of Vigeo Eiris' board members Axa and Eiris Foundation are particularly peculiar. On 18 October 2018, on the basis of article 461-26 of the French penal code: the crime of colonisation, the representation of the people of Western Sahara lodged a complaint against Axa and 5 other groups with the State Prosecutor at the High Court in Paris. Axa has offices in the occupied territory.
During 2018, Vigeo Eiris altered the map on the front page of its website by adding Sweden, where it had opened an office. But it did not remove Western Sahara, as WSRW has previously requested. WSRW today asked the board about whether international law, policies on business on occupied lands or human rights due diligence has been a subject at the Vigeo Eiris board meetings.The Eiris Foundation, on the other hand, is running a database on companies with a presence in occupied Palestine and Crimea, and has a large competence on how to advise companies relating to operations on occupied land. In addition to being on the board of Vigeo Eiris, the Eiris Foundation is also a shareholder of the company, and the two firms have some overlapping staff.
Issues that Vigeo Eiris have not wished to clarify, but that WSRW today asked the Vigeo Eiris board about:
Does Vigeo Eiris have a policy on occupations?
Why does Vigeo Eiris not apply UN terminology to the territory?
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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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