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ACHRS Statement: Companies’ Greed Perpetuates Occupation of Western Sahara

Since Morocco announced the ‘National Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Plan’ in 2008, European companies are involved in Moroccan renewable energy projects on the occupied territories of Western Sahara. Through these projects, Morocco perpetuates its illegal occupation. ACHRS condemns this occupation and calls on the involved companies to withdraw from any Moroccan renewable energy projects in Western Sahara.

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In 1885 the Kingdom of Spain colonized Western Sahara and occupied it until its withdrawal of administration in 1976. Although the Spanish government had announced “the holding of a referendum for the self-determination of the Territory during the first six months of 1975”, this referendum was first postponed and in the end, never happened. Instead, the territory was taken over by Mauritanian and Moroccan troops, regardless of “the inalienable right of the peoples of Ifni and Spanish Sahara to self-determination”, as it is stipulated in the UN Resolution 2229 (XXI) from 1966. In April 1976 Morocco and Mauritania then concluded a treaty in which they divided and annexed Western Sahara.

As a consequence of continuous foreign rule, the liberation movement Polisario Front emerged and began to offer armed resistance against the Moroccan and Mauritanian occupiers. In 1979 Mauritania agreed with the Polisario Front to withdraw their occupation troops and abandoned any territorial claims on Western Sahara. The UN General Assembly saluted this agreement, urged Morocco to “join in the peace process” and suggested the Polisario Front as “the representative of the people of Western Sahara should participate fully in any search for a just, lasting and definitive political solution to the question of Western Sahara.” Despite the “inalienable right to self-determination”, stipulated in various Resolutions of the UN General Assembly, Morocco has been maintaining its occupation of the western part of Western Sahara until today.

Over and above in 2008, Morocco set up the ‘National Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Plan’. It aimed to increase the share of renewable energy in Morocco’s total installed power capacity to 42% by 2020. Meanwhile, the goal increased to a renewable capacity of 52% of total energy needs by 2030. Furthermore, Morocco hopes to progressively export renewable energy to European and African countries. And these ambitious targets are not as unachievable as they might have seemed just a decade ago. While Morocco still imported 5000 GWh from Spain in 2017, the amount decreased to 3300 GWh in 2018 and in 2019 Morocco even exported 771 GWh to Spain. In this turnaround, Western Sahara plays a substantial role. According to Moroccan think tank Policy Center for the New South, “nearly 60% of the country’s solar and wind power production is concentrated in the southern provinces of the Kingdom.”

 

Not only are these renewable energy plants built without the consent of the Saharawi people, but they also raise a greater appearance of legitimacy of the Moroccan occupation. Multinational and government financial institutions are getting involved in the conflict, other states create dependencies on imported energy, produced on occupied territory, whilst the exploitation of natural resources like phosphate, mining and fish from Western Sahara is supplied by energy from Moroccan wind and solar farms. By its renewable energy projects in Western Sahara, Morocco undermines the UN peace process in the ongoing conflict and perpetuates its claims on the territories. The NGO ‘Western Sahara Resource Watch’ described the Moroccan course of action in a report from 2021 as a “greenwashing occupation”.

Careless of these circumstances, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE) and Enel Green Power, two big European players in the sector of renewable energy, as well as several shipping companies, provide the Moroccan projects with the necessary compounds and services to conduct the exploitation of the occupied territories. Siemens’ and Enel ́s main partner in these projects is Nareva, a Moroccan energy company, wholly owned by the holding company of the Moroccan king Mohammed VI. In a recent General Annual Meeting on February 24th, the major holder of SGRE, Siemens Energy, left most of the questions, submitted by WSRW and ‘Kritische Aktionäre’ unanswered.

Overall, no firm within the Siemens organization has ever responded to an inquiry about the rights of the Saharawi people. In advance of the AGM Nadjat Hamdi said: “In my capacity as Polisario representative in Germany, and thus of the Saharawi people, I would like to point out that your economic activities in Moroccan occupied Western Sahara are in violation of international law. […] We, therefore, ask you to cease all activities.” Regardless of the Saharawi ́s concerns or the EU court decision from September 2021, underlining the requirement of obtaining the consent of the people of Western Sahara for any economic arrangement, SGRE keeps engaging in projects in occupied territories of Western Sahara.

Siemens Energy underlines “this situation requires a political solution, involving governments and not companies”. ACHRS agrees on this, whereby Siemens never has been asked to solve the conflict. But by engaging in Moroccan projects on occupied territory, Siemens as well as other involved private companies contribute to the perpetuation of the occupation and undermine all efforts to solve this conflict for the sake of their profits. On these grounds, the ACHRS calls on the involved companies to withdraw from any Moroccan renewable energy projects in Western Sahara.

Image Source: Western Sahara Resource Watch

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