Fertilizer producer Yara receives critisicm in Norway for its last year phosphate purchase from occupied Western Sahara. The company answers they hope Western Sahara "will be liberated one day, and then the inhabitants will benefit if we can receive their phosphate quickly".
Published 15 February 2009
The article below appeared on 5 February 2009 in the Norwegian daily newspaper Adresseavisen.
Yara Profits from the Occupation
The fertiliser giant Yara is the chief sponsor of the International Student Festival in Trondheim (ISFiT). The company has bought phosphate from Morocco, mined in occupied Western Sahara, where this years winner of the Students Peace Prize is from.
5 February 2009
Last summer Norwatch revealed that Yara imported phosphate from occupied Western Sahara, contrary to the request of the UN and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Yara may have paid close to 40 million kroners (4,3 million euros) to a Moroccan state-owned company. The situation has been reported to the police.
We call it pure war profiteering; Yara has profited from the occupation, Ronny Hansen, the leader of the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara, stated.
How do you feel about Yara sponsoring ISFiT?
Yara finances important work being carried out by ISFiT, and that has not hindered them from awarding the peace prize to someone from Western Sahara. But we have urged ISFiT to take up the problem with Yara, Hansen said. Yara claims the phosphate purchase is a one-time shipment. The company has also bought phosphate from the area earlier, and in 2005 they promised to stop this after being criticised by the Norwegian Ministry of Trade and Industry, one of Yaras owners.
Prize Winner Criticises Yara
Elkouria Amidane (23 years) from Western Sahara has been awarded the students peace prize for 2009. Yara has participated in maintaining the occupation. Western Sahara is losing its own natural resources. Morocco uses foreign companies to legitimate the occupation, Amidane stated. She believes that Norwegian companies within oil and fisheries also participate in creating jobs for Moroccan settlers.
The sponsorship agreement with Yara was entered into before the phosphate purchase in the summer of 2008.
But we would probably not have considered the case differently after the purchase became known. We were also aware of the phosphate purchase in 2005, but we choose to look forwards, Trygve Thorson, leader of ISFiT, said. ISFiT will continually assess the collaboration in case such a purchase should recur.
Collaborating with large international companies, including Yara, is never problem-free, according to Thorson, who emphasises that they do not support the phosphate purchase.
The amount with which Yara has sponsored ISFiT is confidential. But the commercial sectors total sponsorship constitutes 20% of ISFiTs budget, which amounts to about NKR 6 million (684.000 euros).
Change in Resources for Peace Prize
The students peace prize receives money through ISFiT. We disapprove of all such trade, Thor Richard Isaksen, the leader of the students peace prize, stated.
He strongly recommends that the students next peace prize be completely separated from sponsor means. This case has shown that it can be problematic, he said.
The Finance and Environmental Crime Section of the Oslo police has received the Yara report, and police attorney Ragnvald Brekke has stated that they will soon consider whether they will inquire into the case. Public relations director Bente G. H. Slaatten of Yara has stated that their competitors use phosphate from Western Sahara.
We imported one cargo last year because of our reorganisation in Norway; we wanted to test the phosphate. We hope that the country will be liberated one day, and then the inhabitants will benefit if we can receive their phosphate quickly, Slaatten said.
She also stated that they bought phosphate in 2005 but stopped because the government advised against it.
[Translated to English by the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara]