Western Sahara: CDM project stirs conflict over host country approval on illegally occupied land (Newsletter #20)

Guest article by Sara Eyckmans – Coordinator, Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW)

A wind farm project of a company owned by the Moroccan King is requesting approval under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism. The wind farm is situated in a territory illegally occupied by Morocco: Western Sahara. Yet, the Moroccan Government is qualified as the ‘host party’ of the project. This is in stark contrast to the opinion of the rest of the UN countries that do not recognise Morocco’s self-proclaimed sovereignty over this area. 

The Clean Development Mechanism is currently considering an application to provide carbon credits for the Foum El Oued Wind Farm Project. The Project Design Document[1] details the proposed construction and operation of forty-four 2.3 megawatt turbines in “a 100 megawatt (MW) grid-connected wind farm in the municipality of Laayoune, 9 km east of the wharf in the south of Morocco [sic]”.

Western Sahara declared a Non Self-Governing Territory

However, the mentioned municipality is not in Morocco, but in a territory that Morocco illegally occupies, under UN condemnation. Morocco invaded Western Sahara in 1975, and currently holds about three quarters of the territory under military occupation. No state in the world recognises Morocco’s self-proclaimed sovereignty over the area. The International Court of Justice and over 100 UN Resolutions have all confirmed the current international status of Western Sahara as a Non Self-Governing Territory and the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination. By claiming Western Sahara as part of its territory, Morocco is blatantly ignoring international law.

While the UN’s Secretary General is working hard to create trust between the parties to negotiate a solution to the conflict, a politically controversial CDM project owned by the King of Morocco’s personal company in the occupied territory may stir further conflict by applying for carbon finance through the CDM. NAREVA Holding, the Moroccan industrial and financial group that is to own and operate the wind farm, is controlled by the royal family.

The Foum El Oued project is currently at the validation stage. CDM financing is said to be required to ensure that the project is attractive to NAREVA Holding by revenues through the sale of Certified Emissions Reductions (CERs).

CDM project questioned over its illegal qualities

The highly dubious project has been questioned by many over its illegal qualities. According to a UN Legal Opinion from 2002, the usage of Western Sahara’s natural resources is illegal if the people of the territory don’t benefit from and agree to it. Critics of the project include Polisario, Western Sahara’s liberation movement. Polisario is currently engaged in UN-led peace talks with Morocco, about the issue of natural resources’ management.

Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) believes that CDM now risks directly undermining the very same peace talks that the UN is facilitating and urges the CDM to refrain from validating any project in the occupied parts of Western Sahara until a solution to the conflict has been found.

WSRW submitted a letter to the CDM Executive Board on 14 May 2012 explaining that the project is located in a territory that is illegally occupied by Morocco and held by armed force. In its letter, WSWR also called for the improvement of CDM vetting guidelines to allow for the flagging of proposed projects that are in international conflict zones. WSRW recommends that the letters of approval from governments that are issued for projects in internationally disputed areas should not be accepted.

Finally, WSRW urges the CDM Executive Board to address this important issue before the Foum el Oued wind park project can request registration.

For further information and the complete letter by WSRW to the CDM Executive Board see: http://www.wsrw.org/a105x2329 or http://cdm.unfccc.int/stakeholder/submissions/2012/0516_wsrw_req.pdf


[1] http://cdm.unfccc.int/Projects/Validation/DB/4LUOV4RBZAPBZXJD0EIF7BEVVCZ3NX/view.html