The US oil company Kosmos Energy, operating offshore occupied Western Sahara, is requested by an OECD national contact point to "refrain from positioning interpretations as facts". The company refuses to remove lies about a civil society association from its website and refuse to answer questions from WSRW.
Published 25 December 16
The US oil company Kosmos Energy is severely and publicly misrepresenting a joint-declaration signed between the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara (NSCWS) and the fishing company Sjøvik AS, mediated by the OECD National Contact Point in Norway in 2013.
Kosmos Energy, which is awarded an offshore licence by the Moroccan government in the occupied territory, does that misuse in an effort to try to legitimise its own controversial operations vis-à-vis concerned third parties.
The oil company's misrepresentations appear in a letter sent from Kosmos to the Council on Ethics of the Norwegian Government Pension Fund on 14 January 2016, available on the company's website
. The Council on Ethics had shortly before recommended that the Norwegian government pension fund exclude Kosmos from its portfolios for violating fundamental ethical norms in Western Sahara.
Kosmos Energy claims in its letter: that the declaration between the Norwegian NGO and the fishing company constitutes an argument for carrying out oil search in Western Sahara, in the way that it "affirms that Sjovik was providing benefits to the people of the Western Sahara", "was was not in violation of applicable law or norms" and that the company "would continue its operations in a transparent manner".
that the OECD contact point in Norway has made a decision on the matter, giving advise on how businesses should operate in Western Sahara.
"We kindly ask that you [...] quote us correctly and refrain from positioning your interpretations as facts"
OECD National Contact Point in Norway, in letter to Kosmos Energy, 17 Nov 2016. Both are incorrect.
In a letter sent from the OECD National Contact Point in Norway to Kosmos Energy, dated 17 November 2016, the contact point underlines the following:
"It is important for the National Contact Point of Norway, amongst other things to maintain trust in our work, that parties in a specific instance and third parties refer truthfully to our statements. We therefore take this opportunity to reiterate what we said in our Final Statement:
"As the parties have agreed on a mediated solution, the NCP has not examined the merits of the claim. It is therefore sufficient to underscore on a general basis that there is heightened due diligence requirement for business in relation to human rights violations when operation in or from areas in conflict, in this case the disputed Non-Self-Governing Territory of Western Sahara [...]
We kindly ask that you in future references to our Final Statement quote us correctly and refrain from positioning your interpretations as facts."
The letter is published on the website of the OECD National Contact Point [or download].
Also the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara has sent a letter to Kosmos Energy to make them stop the false and defamatory representations. In a reply, sent to NSCWS on 7 Sept 2016, Kosmos refuses having done anything wrong, and refuses to remove the offensive and false statements from its website.
"Under no circumstance would our association sign a declaration with a company regarding the management of natural resources in occupied Western Sahara. We are not in a position to do that, just as little as Morocco, Sjøvik or Kosmos are. Only the Saharawi people can decide on their own resources", stated chair of the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara, Magnhild Bøgseth.
No part of the declaration which NSCWS signed with Sjøvik address the company's operations in Western Sahara, apart from an introductory paragraph where it states that the two parties to the declaration fundamentally disagree on the company's presence in the territory:
The Norwegian Support Committee underlined in the joint statement that "the activities of Sjøvik AS are in violation of the Saharawis’ right to control their own natural resources, and must therefore be discontinued", while Sjøvik, on the other hand "supports and respects the protection of internationally recognised human rights. The company has not taken a position on the views expressed by NSCWS, as this would be incompatible with its presence in the territory".
The joint-declaration furthermore contains, and that is the most important, an advice to the Norwegian government (which urges Norwegian companies to stay away from the territory), as well as tools that the fishing company should implement regarding its own overall human rights performance.
In the controversial letter Kosmos initially sent to the Norwegian Council on Ethics regarding the company's exclusion from the Norwegian pension fund over lack of ethics, the company also raises a series of political arguments that deserve to be challenged. Under the heading «The decision to divest is based on an outdated geopolitical and local understanding», Kosmos emphasizes that «The Council remains fixed on a position it adopted in 2005 and appears unwilling to change its view, despite the many positive developments since then concerning Western Sahara. The Council’s decision fails to recognize that people in Western Sahara – whom we have met in hundreds of face-to-face conversations – want the economic opportunities that come from increased foreign investment. In our experience, this desire cuts across demographics and political affiliations.»
WSRW challenged what Kosmos really meant with this in a letter on 12 July 2016. In a reply to WSRW on 7 September 2016, Kosmos, however, failed to reply to all five questions asked.
The misuse of sources echoes the consistent false representation of a UN Legal Opinion on such exploration by the same company.