Neom: International companies ignore questions over human rights risks

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Neom: International companies ignore questions over human rights risks

Just three out of a dozen firms contracted by Saudi Arabia respond to rights group, as tribespeople are forcibly displaced and sentenced to years in prison for speaking out

By Dania Akkad Published date: 21 February 2023 17:24 UTC MiddleEastEye

International companies working on Saudi Arabia’s $500bn Neom megacity, which has forcibly displaced members of the Howeitat tribe, have ignored requests to explain how they assessed the risks to human rights posed by their participation.

Out of a dozen firms, only three responded this month when UK-based NGO, the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, asked them to set out what due diligence they undertook before signing on.

Keller Group PlcMcKinsey & Company and Air Products sent one-page statements, outlining codes of conduct, positions on human rights violations, and commitments to ethical business.

Rights monitors following the project said that the silence from most companies was disappointing, adding that the three firms that did respond offered replies that were too vague to offer reassurance that human rights concerns were being taken seriously.

James Lynch, director of UK-based rights group FairSquare, said: “The few that have responded have provided no more than generic assurances, with no engagement with the issues at hand, specifically the devastating abuses against former residents of the land.”

The request to the companies coincided with the release of a report from advocacy group Alqst highlighting human rights violations against members of the Howeitat tribe who have been forcibly evicted from their homes in northwestern Saudi Arabia to make way for Neom.

At least 47 tribe members have been arrested or detained for resisting and speaking out against their evictions, according to the report, which is based on first-hand testimonies from victims and witnesses. 

Among those, five have been sentenced to death, and 15 sentenced to between 15 and 50 years’ imprisonment. Meanwhile, Alqst says thousands of other tribespeople have been displaced without adequate compensation or alternative housing. 

The 12 companies asked to set out their due diligence processes were also given Alqst’s 21-page report.

‘Copy pasting’

First unveiled in 2017, Neom is the flagship project of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 strategy to diversify the kingdom’s economy and reduce dependence on oil revenues.

Plan after plan unveiled for Neom, including a 170km straight line cityan eight-sided city that floats on water and a mountain ski resort with a folded vertical village, have generated headlines – and lucrative contracts for companies.

Intended to be 33 times the size of New York City, the project will require 400,000 workers at the peak of its construction, Neom CEO Nadhmi al-Nasr said earlier this year.

Keller Group, a British engineering contractor, reportedly signed an agreement last year that “paves the way for multiple contract awards” within Neom, including a first order worth £45m set to be completed this year. 

In its response to the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, the company described its code of business conduct, which it said makes clear that “employees, customers, contractors or any person should not be harmed as a result of work we do or services we provide”.

Alqst’s executive director Julia Legner said she found the company’s response “brazen”. 

“I don’t know if the person who sent that response really read the report, but it’s very obvious that many people were severely impacted,” she said.

Overall, she said, it was not clear from the responses whether the companies had conducted human rights due diligence and, if they had, how.

“It feels like they are copy-pasting some general rules and regulations where they mention human rights and then send that part over to whomever asks,” she said.

Companies seek answers

But she said she was cautious to put all companies in the same box.

In the past few months, she said her organisation was contacted by two companies already working in Saudi Arabia that wanted to learn more about the human rights implications of Neom as they weighed signing on.

Top executives of one of the companies sat down for a long meeting and “seemed to be aware and genuinely concerned” about the violations against the Howeitat, she said.

The second company decided to pull out of the project after learning more about the recent death sentences against members of the tribe.

“Ultimately,” said Legner, “we would encourage more companies that are up for dialogue and want to engage with us and be more aware of the risks on the ground.”

Lynch said he would expect investors in any of the companies who failed to respond to “urgently require sight of specific, detailed plans that show how these companies are addressing human rights risks and impacts around land acquisition, labour rights and the end-use of Neom”.

“Companies that choose to bury their heads in the sand risk complicity in serious human rights violations,” he said.

But how can they call on him (Jesus Christ) to save them unless they believe in him (Jesus Christ)? And how can they believe in him (Jesus Christ) if they have never heard about him (Jesus Christ)? And how can they hear about him (Jesus Christ) unless someone tells them?” —Romans 10:14

In His Service,

Night Watchman

Paul Rolland

Night Watchman Ministries

Make Your Decision for Christ NOW!!!!!!! Time is Up!!!!!!!

Jesus Christ’s Offer of Salvation:

The ABCs of Salvation through Jesus Christ (the Lamb)

A. Admit/Acknowledge/Accept that you are sinner. Ask God’s forgiveness and repent of your sins.

. . . “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23).

. . . “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10).

. . . “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8).

B. Believe Jesus is Lord. Believe that Jesus Christ is who He claimed to be; that He was both fully God and fully man and that we are saved through His death, burial, and resurrection. Put your trust in Him as your only hope of salvation. Become a son or daughter of God by receiving Christ.

. . . “That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (John 3:15-17). For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13).

C. Call upon His name, Confess with your heart and with your lips that Jesus is your Lord and Savior.

. . . “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10).

. . . “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (John 1:8-10).

. . . “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. (John 2:2).

. . . “In this was manifested the love of god toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.” (1 John 4:9, 14-15).

. . . “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” (Romans 5:8-10).

. . . “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23).

. . . “Jesus saith unto them, I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6).

. . . “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.” (Romans 1:16).

. . . “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts: 4:12).

. . . “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth for there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 2:4-6).

. . . “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:9).

. . . “But as many as received him, to them gave the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” (John 1:12).

True Church / Bride of Christ Spared from God’s Wrath:

 Romans 5:8-10. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.”

Romans 12:19. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

1 Thessalonians 1:10. And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.

1 Thessalonians 5:9. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,

Romans 8:35. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

Jeremiah 30:7. Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it.

Revelation 3:10 Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.

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