CEO, Hans Ivar Meyer
Melbourne/Oslo, 12 January 2009
Open letter regarding Fugro-Geoteam’s involvement in occupied Western Sahara.
It is with great disappointment that we today learned about Fugro-Geoteam’s involvement in Kosmos Energy’s explorations offshore occupied Western Sahara.
We urge your company to terminate your profoundly unethical activities, and immediately withdraw your vessel "Geo Caribbean" from the Western Saharan waters.
We would also like to point you to a few legal, political and ethical dilemmas regarding your engagement.
Western Sahara is occupied by Morocco, and the majority of the indigenous Sahrawi people has fled to Algeria since the occupation began, where they are currently living in refugee camps. The situation in the camps has for years been characterised by an acute shortage of food and medical supplies. One out of 5 children in the refugee camps are suffering from malnourishment, according to 2008 report by Norwegian Church Aid.
At the same time, the human rights situation in the occupied Western Sahara remains severe. The Human Rights organization Freedom House qualifies the 2008 human rights situation in occupied Western Sahara to be on the same level as Zimbabwe. A 216 page report by Human Rights Watch in December 2008 clearly documents a large number of human rights violations in the territory, committed by Moroccan authorities. More than 500 Sahrawis have ‘disappeared’ in Moroccan captivity since the occupation began.
No states in the world, nor the International Court of Justice, recognise the Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara. More than 100 UN resolutions demand that the right of self-determination for the Sahrawi people be respected, but Morocco refuses to accept the referendum which the UN is demanding.
There is a fragile truce in Western Sahara at this moment. The UN is present in the territory to monitor a ceasefire from 1991. Saharawis under occupation and in exile are increasingly frustrated over the standstill. Since Morocco does not respect the referendum plans as elaborated in the peace agreements, Polisario Front is in now seriously deliberations over whether to return to arms.
Polisario has also considered the Moroccan oil search beginning in 2001 as a violation of the Morocco-Polisario agreements from 1991.
The UN considers the oil search in Western Sahara a violation of international law, if they were to proceed in the disregard of the wishes and interests of the Sahrawis. Please find the 2002 UN legal opinion here: www.arso.org/Olaeng.pdf. The former leader of the 2002 expert team, the UN ex-undersecretary general for legal affairs, Mr. Hans Corell, in a conference on 4-5 December 2008 by the South African Department of Foreign Affairs and the University of Pretoria, gave the following address, which puts the opinion into context:
Neither Fugro, nor Kosmos Energy, have given proof that their activities are in line with international law as elaborated by the UN opinion, i.e. that the Sahrawi people has been consulted, or that it is actually in line with their interests and wishes.
Please see letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, on 8 June 2004, to Fugro NV, which proves this point. The letter urges Fugro NV to abstain from activity in Western Sahara, following your previous engagement in the territory.
The Norwegian Ministry of Finance stated in 2005 that activity similar to the one that you are now doing was "a particularly serious violation of fundamental ethical norms e.g. because it may strengthen Morocco’s sovereignty claims and thus contribute to undermining the UN peace process". See the Norwegian government’s opinion of the Kerr-McGee Boujdour block contract here, as they divested from Kerr-McGee of ethical reasons:
The oil industry has played clear role in giving Morocco the impression that the sovereignty claims are stronger than before. Kosmos Energy, for instance, claims consistently, and cynically, that Western Sahara is "Morocco’s Southern Provinces", and "believes it has made the right bet as to which party will prevail" in the conflict.
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs urges Norwegian companies to abstain from activities in Western Sahara, due to the aspects of international law. We believe you are aware of that already:
We are also confident that it is in Fugro’s own interest to maintain good relations with the over 70 states in the world that recognise the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic as a state. The fact that Fugro has now repeatedly carried out such activities, do not give the impression that your company takes Corporate Social Responsibility very seriously.
To conclude, carrying out Fugro-Geoteam’s participation in the oil exploration is politically controversial, since it supports Morocco’s unfounded claim over Western Sahara, it is contributing to undermining and violating international law, and it is, most importantly, deeply unethical, since it contributes to the continued suffering for the oppressed Sahrawi people.
The Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara and the international organisation Western Sahara Resource Watch insist that your company immediately terminate your activities, and withdraw your vessel ‘Geo Caribbean’ from Western Saharan waters.
Chairman, Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara
Western Sahara Resource Watch
Norwegian Parliament’s Committee for Foreign Affairs
Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
CFO of Fugro NV, Mr. Klaas Wester
CEO of Fugro NV, Mr. AndrÃ© Jonkman
CEO of Thor Offshore, Mr. Hans Andrias Joensen
Executive Vice President and CFO of Kosmos Energy, Mr. Greg Dunlevy