A fishing company operating in occupied Western Sahara and a Saharawi support group in Norway have concluded an agreement under the umbrella of the OECD guidelines for multinational companies.
From left: Chair of Norwegian Support Commitee for Western Sahara, Bjarne Dæhli, mediator, former Supreme Court judge and former director of the the Norwegian National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime Lars Oftedal Broch on behalf of OECD NCP Norway, and Mr. Oddkjell Sjøvik, chair of Sjøvik AS.
Sjøvik AS, a Norwegian fishing company operating under Moroccan flag in Western Sahara, has over the years received criticism for its work. The Norwegian government discourages companies from engaging in the territory due to matters of international law.
The company, together with the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara, 2 July 2013 concluded one year of negotiations. This is the first time that a case brought against a company in Western Sahara following a complaint on the OECD guidelines has been concluded.
The process initially started as the Support Committee complained to the so-called National Contact Point (NCP) of the OECD guidelines in Norway that the fishing company violates the Human Rights clauses in the guidelines.
The NCP proceeded to invite the parties to talk; conversations that were mediated by the former Supreme Court judge and former chairman of the the Norwegian National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime, Mr. Lars Oftedal Broch.
The joint statement consists of two elements: Firstly, it contains a recommendation to the Norwegian government. The text makes reference to the advice that Norwegian government has to companies to not do business in Western Sahara, requesting further clarifications on certain aspects of that advice.
Secondly, the agreement between the two parties commits the fishing company to take into use OECD guidelines as a tool in its due diligence and grievances mechanism policies.
The negotiations did not go into the controversial details of the fishing in Western Sahara itself. The joint document, which was signed on 2 July 2013, opens with a declaration of the positions of the parties, in which the fishing company defends its operations, and where the Norwegian Support Committee states its opposition of the fishing operations and wishes to see them ended.
“NCP underlines in our final report that on a general basis, companies should exercise heightened due diligence in order to reduce the risk that a business is they are involved in human rights violations in conflict areas. Western Sahara is a disputed territory. There are regular reports on human rights abuses”, said chair of the Norwegian NCP, law professor and dean at the University of Oslo, Hans Petter Graver in a press release yesterday.Read a statement on the process by the Norwegian National Contact Point, and the joint statement from the parties here.
As the agreement was reached, the Norwegian Support Committee withdrew its initial complaint against the company.