Campaigners against the business practices of French multinational Veolia are celebrating after the company announced it is ending sponsorship of the prestigious and internationally acclaimed Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. Campaigners suspect that Veolia ended its sponsorship of the exhibition rather than face further scrutiny from the Natural History Museum concerning its violations of international humanitarian law in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
For three years regular protests were organised outside the Natural History Museum in London and other venues in the UK which hosted the touring version of the exhibition. Campaigners focused attention on Veolia’s activities by providing thousands of exhibition-goers with information with the message ‘Great Exhibition, Shame about the sponsor’.
Campaigners recently challenged the Museum by maintaining that its link with Veolia undermined its ethical and social responsibility credentials. The museum was provided with detailed factual and legal analysis which campaigners argued clearly shows that Veolia’s business activities in East Jerusalem and the West Bank help Israel to consolidate its illegal settlements in contravention of international humanitarian law.
Campaigners alerted the Museum to a recent report by Professor Richard Falk – the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories – in which Veolia was one of a number of companies that were specifically mentioned. Professor Falk said ”My main recommendation is that the businesses highlighted in the report – as well as the many other businesses that are profiting from the Israeli settlement enterprise –should be boycotted, until they bring their operations into line with international human rights and humanitarian law and standards.”
Campaigners suspect that Veolia ended its sponsorship of the exhibition rather than face further scrutiny from the Natural History Museum. They also point out that in the last few years Veolia has been the subject of campaigns in localities across the UK and internationally when it has tendered for public authority contracts. As a result, Veolia is estimated to have lost business worth billions of Euros.
Brian Durrans from Palestine Solidarity Campaign in London said: “Veolia used a great Museum to try to launder its reputation when it should clean up its act. Until it does so, human rights supporters will keep up the pressure on Veolia”.