We, the undersigned student and union representatives, are writing to raise our concern over the activities of the company Veolia, with whom the University of Sheffield currently holds a contract. The contract with Veolia, to provide waste management services for the university’s residential accommodation, is due for renewal in March 2013. We urge the university not to award the company any further contracts.
Through a subsidiary, Veolia helped to build and operates a light-rail tramway system linking West Jerusalem to Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, which are recognised by the UK and UN as illegal under international law. The tramway is now complete and has been operational since August 2012. The rail system cements Israel’s hold on occupied Palestinian territory and makes illegal Israeli settlements and their continued expansion more viable. Through its part in the construction and operation of the tramway, Veolia is therefore directly implicated in maintaining illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territory and undermining the chances of a just peace for the Palestinian people.
In April 2010, the United Nations Human Rights Council specifically declared the Jerusalem Light Railway to be “in clear breach of international law and relevant UN resolutions” (Resolution 13/7) and the UK government concurred. Through its involvement in the implementation and operation of this tramway linking Israel’s illegal settlements with West Jerusalem, Veolia is facilitating Israel’s grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and is complicit in perpetuating these breaches. Effectively, Veolia is involved in aiding and abetting on-going war crimes whilst also facilitating, exacerbating, aiding and abetting Israel’s violations of international law.
Veolia’s support for settlements does not stop there. A Veolia company owns and operates the Tovlan landfill site in the occupied Jordan Valley that takes refuse from illegal settlements and Israeli military bases in occupied Palestinian territories. Veolia also operates bus lines along roads in occupied Palestinian territory along which only Israeli settlers can travel, and provides water treatment services for the illegal settlement of Modi’in Illit.
Veolia’s participation in settlement infrastructure projects breaches its obligations with respect to codes of conduct and conventions such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (2000) and the UN Global Compact (2000). The latter’s first two principles state that businesses should support and respect the protection of international human rights within their spheres of influence and make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses. Yet by supporting Israel’s illegal settlements Veolia flagrantly violates both of these provisions.
Veolia Environment has four divisions – water, waste management, energy and transport services. In 2005 the company’s four divisions adopted a single name, Veolia, and a new logo. It is evident that Veolia treats itself as a single entity and profits and prospers as such. As this is the case, the conduct of one division is the conduct of Veolia as a whole and affects each division accordingly. In short, if one division of Veolia is involved in activities of grave misconduct and profits from such conduct, then the parent company must necessarily be implicated in such misconduct and most certainly profits from such misconduct.
Article 45 (2) (d) of the European Union Directive 2004/18/EC of 31 March 2004 states that: “Any economic operator may be excluded from participation in a contract where that economic operator:..(d) has been guilty of grave professional misconduct proven by any means which the contracting authorities can demonstrate…” A proper and rigorous application of this provision would lead public authorities to exclude Veolia Environmental Services from bidding for contracts because of grave misconduct by Veolia Transport, a division of Veolia Environmental Service’s parent company, multi-national Veolia Environnement SA (Veolia). The grave misconduct in question concerns Veolia’s activities in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) which aid and abet, exacerbate and facilitate Israel’s continued violation of international humanitarian law, including the commission Israel’s grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention 1949 and the First Additional Protocol of 1977.
We are sure that Veolia’s activities clearly constitute misconduct sufficiently grave to warrant exclusion from public contracts. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine what ‘misconduct’ could be more ‘grave’ than the aiding, abetting, facilitation or exacerbation of war crimes and human rights violations.
It is important to stress that a large number of students and academics feel unhappy about the prospect of renewing the contract with Veolia, and the Students’ Union takes an official stance on this issue. On 18th October 2012, students at the University of Sheffield voted overwhelmingly in favour of a campaign to ‘End the Israeli Occupation’ at the recent Union referendum. The motion was voted for by 2194 students & approved by a margin of over 1700 votes and mandates the Students’ Union to call on the university to “divest itself from and terminate any contracts with companies that are complicit in the occupation of the Palestinian territories” (full text of motion: https://www.shef.ac.uk/union/you-run-us/referenda/end-israeli-occ.php).
We urge you to follow the examples set by the large number of UK public authorities that have decided not to award Veolia contracts following concerns raised about its complicity and participation in violations of international law and take steps to ensure that the university does not award Veolia any further public contracts.
We would be very happy to assist with your deliberations in any way that we can and would like to meet to discuss these issues with you further.
In the meantime, you may find the following web pages useful:
Omar Jadallah, President of Sheffield University Palestine Society
Abdi Suleiman, President of Sheffield Students’ Union
Sara Moon, Development Officer of Sheffield Students’ Union
Phil Armitage, Co-chair of Amnesty International Society
Ellen Rignell, Chair of Oxfam Society