Published 12 March 2015
4 November 2013
Free the Children
233 Carlton Street
To the attention of Mr. Craig Kielburger and Mr. Marc Kielburger,
Founders of Free the Children
Regarding: Free the Children’s connection to Potash Corporation
Dear Craig and Marc:
Western Sahara Resource Watch is writing to you regarding Potash Corporation, which recently became a sponsor of Free the Children’s most laudable work. We most humbly ask you to reconsider your association with that company because of significant unethical involvement in Africa’s most protracted conflict with tremendous human cost: Western Sahara.
Our organisation researches and campaigns foreign business interests in Western Sahara – a territory which the United Nations has designated a Non-Self Governing Territory to undergo the process of decolonisation. In 1975, Morocco invaded Western Sahara. The Saharawi people, the territory’s original inhabitants, were forced to flee the Moroccan army’s napalm and white phosphorus bombardments. They found refuge in the most inhospitable part of the Algerian where today, over 30 years later, they continue to live as refugees surviving on dwindling humanitarian aid. Those who did not flee are living under the yoke of a brutal occupation and are subjected to grave human rights violations, which have been documented by the US Department of State, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and many international NGOs such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
The International Court of Justice, the UN Charter and countless UN Resolutions all stress the current status of Western Sahara as a Non-Self Governing Territory and the right of the Saharawi people to a self-determination referendum. By claiming Western Sahara as part of its territory, and selling of its abundant resources, Morocco blatantly ignores international law.
In 2002, the United Nations Security Council issued a legal opinion, concluding that the exploitation and exploration of Western Sahara’s natural resources is in violation of international law if not in accordance with the wishes and the interests of the Saharawi people. Accordingly, companies trading with resources from the occupied territory through contracts with the Moroccan state are involved in illegal plunder. Not only are such activities in breach of international humanitarian law, they are also highly unethical, as they offer legitimacy and financial support to the occupation and present additional obstacles to the UN led peace process by unambiguously supporting one of the parties to the conflict.
Over the years, our organisation has contacted countless companies involved in the exploration, exploitation, trade or transport of Western Sahara’s resources. Some firms have decided to cease their activities once made aware of the situation. Such a decision speaks volumes of those companies’ attachment to corporate social responsibility. Regrettably, Potash Corporation is not on that list.
This year to date, Potash Corporation has imported more than $90 million in phosphate from occupied Western Sahara. It is unsettling that this is twice the amount of multilateral aid given to the Saharawi refugee camps in Algeria annually. Studies have shown that 1 in 5 children in the camps are malnourished. Entire generations have grown up without any perspective for a better life. This emergency humanitarian situation had not existed if Morocco had adhered to international law, by not occupying Western Sahara, or by respecting the more than 100 UN resolutions that call for self-determination for the Saharawi people. Collaborating with the Moroccan government in the illegal trade of Saharawi natural resources, while the rightful owners of those resources are living in inhumane conditions, is unjustifiable.
We do not see how the association with a company that aids and abets in the occupation of Western Sahara, resulting in tremendous human suffering, relates to the views and values of Free the Children. Your organisation is carrying out valuable work in creating a better future for children in difficult circumstances. We are convinced that you’ll understand the plight of the Saharawi people. They deserve a better future too. But it’s corporate agenda’s supporting Morocco’s presence in the territory through massive financial injections that are taking away the last, invaluable resource they have left: hope.
We trust you understand the importance of this matter, and that you will reassess your association with Potash Corporation. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you’d require any additional information. We’d gladly oblige.
Western Sahara Resource Watch