Saturday, March 16, 2013
I find it interesting that the February 27 corporate sponsor of Free the Children’s “We Day” in Saskatoon is a company which is believed to be indirectly contributing to one of Africa’s most controversial territorial conflicts. At We Day, an event which encourages youth to make positive changes both at home and abroad, PotashCorp of Saskatchewan’s (PCS) CEO Bill Doyle was in attendance to “define food security for kids and describe what potash is used for.” The Star Phoenix quoted him: “We need to respond to the challenge of zero hunger, because one person is too many.” A truism indeed. But what Doyle didn’t share with the crowd of 15,000 youth was that PCS has been one of a handful of mining companies black listed by Western Sahara Rights Watch (WSRW), a human rights group, for propping up an occupation that is in contravention of a 1975 International Court of Justice ruling. Since 1975, Western Sahara and its indigenous Sahrawi people have been occupied by neighbouring Morocco. Instead of purchasing phosphate rock directly from a Sahrawi owned and operated firm, PCS pays Moroccan mining company Office Chérifien des Phosphates $100 million annually, claiming that its actions have directly benefitted the “local population” (made up of Sahrawi and occupying Moroccan’s who have now called the region home since 1975). In a letter addressed to Bill Doyle in October 2008, WSRW states that, “to this day, no state or international organization recognizes Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara” and that the United Nations have ordered for the ending of this “illegal occupation.” (To this day, PCS still hasn’t responded to the letter). The Moroccan occupation, which is propped up by companies like PCS, has hindered the Sahrawi people from exercising their right to self-determination of the territory and all the rich resources that it holds. With approximately 165,000 Sahrawi’s living in camps just inside Algeria--including many children who suffer malnutrition--and the others inside the Moroccan occupied part of Western Sahara, perhaps PCS should consider taking their money and their message of food security for kids to those who need it most. The full WSRW letter can be seen here: http://www.wsrw.org/a105x959. And it should be noted that both Yara International and The Mosaic Company (leading sponsor of the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ stadium) have both stopped purchasing phosphate from Western Sahara for ethical reasons.