Scandinavian firms exploit Western Saharan resources
May 11, 2010 1 Comment
Many companies are taking advantage of the Moroccan control of Western Saharan resources, directly contravening international law in the process. These resources include Western Sahara’s fishing grounds, phosphate reserves, vegetables, solar power and oil. At the same time campaigners for Western Sahara’s liberation accuse the international community of doing too little to stop the human rights violations and illegal trade in goods produced in Western Sahara, and the companies for failing to listen to recommendations not to operate in Western Sahara from the liberation movement in Western Sahara, the Polisario Front, amongst others.
Scandinavian companies are taking part in this illegal plundering with the support of the European Union. One example of Scandinavian exploitation of Western Sahara resources is Norwegian firm Fugro-Geoteam, a company that provides global oil and gas companies with geotechnical specialist equipment and knowhow, and that was part of a oil search operation exploring the Western Saharan coast together with the Moroccan government that started in 2009. Fugro-Geoteam was supplied by a ship from the Faroese company, Thor Offshore.
All this is despite the UN already in 2002 declaring it illegal for Morocco to search for oil or gas off the Western Saharan coast without Sahrawi acceptance; despite the Norwegian government and the Faroese Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressing support for the UN declaration, and generally recommending companies not to operate in Western Sahara; and although Polisario criticised Fugro Geoteam for operating in Western Sahara, having warned them not to do so several years previously.
The only way to prevent similar breaches of international law and eventually to allow for Sahrawi autonomy over their own land and resources, however, is by media attention and public pressure. One example of the successful application of such pressure is that of the Swedish wholesale company, Axfood, that recently felt pressured to stop its dealings with French company Azura, owned by a Franco-Moroccan family who sells tomatoes grown in the occupied territories of Western Sahara. Coop, another example of a Scandinavian company bowing to public pressure, was similarly forced to stop selling goods that were produced by Azura when it emerged that these goods were produced in Western Sahara, although inaccurately labelled as having been produced in Morocco. Finally, Fugro-Geoteam announced in a statement in April of this year that they would “abstain from any further involvement in Western Sahara until the political situation has been resolved”, almost certainly due to pressure from Western Sahara solidarity groups.
Security Council letter from 2002 concerning the use of Western Sahara’s oil
Western Sahara UN documents