Aftenposten: Ethical pressure on the Norwegian Petroleum Fund, 2004
The day before the ethical guidelines of the Petroleum Fund enter into effect, the [Norwegian] Minister of Finance is presented allegations of clear violations of the guidelines. Aftenposten, December 1st, 2004.
Aftenposten, Oslo, Norway December 1st, 2004 [Translation from Norwegian by Sahara Update]
The day before the ethical guidelines of the Petroleum Fund enter into effect, the [Norwegian] Minister of Finance is presented allegations of clear violations of the guidelines.
The art of the impossible. Since Jens Stoltenberg was Finance Minister in 1997, all the Finance Ministers have said it would be impossible to enforce ethical guidelines for the Norwegian Petroleum Fund. From today, the impossible becomes possible. The Fund has established ethical guidelines, as well as its own council in order to help the Finance Minister.
The report on the ethical guidelines states clearly that the Fund shall not invest in companies doing business in occupied territories. Western Sahara is used as an example of such an area, as the country is occupied by Morocco. Yesterday, the Finance Minister, Per-Kristian Foss received a letter from the Foreign Minister in the exile government of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic. He emphasizes that by the end of last year, the Petroleum Fund owned shares for 46.6 million Norwegian kroner [approx. 5,8 million euros/7.6 mill USD] in the American energy company Kerr-McGee. This company participates in oil reconnaissance offshore Western Sahara.
Takes time ”We would like to take this opportunity to call on the Norwegian government, as a part owner of Kerr McGee, to consider ending its involvement with this company. We believe that the strict implementation of the ethical guidelines of the Petroleum Fund will deter this company which is acting in violation to international law and to the wishes of our people.”, writes [Saharawi] Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohamed Salem Ould Salek.
The Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara is very satisfied with the possibility of getting this problem on the agenda, and increase the pressure against the Moroccan occupation government. Groups in several countries are now working to pressure companies to pull out of the occupied area. Recently, Total made public to withdraw from their reconnaissance. The pressure groups claim this as a major victory, although the oil company claims it is because they can’t find any oil in the area.
Erik Hagen in the support committee means that the Petroleum Fund must sell their shares in Kerr-McGee immediately. But he has to be patient. The director of the Petroleum Fund, Knut Kjær, is abroad. But at Norges Bank [a Norwegian governmental bank; administrators of the Fund], Aftenposten hears that in any case he will await further instructions from the Finance Ministry.
State Secretary Øystein Børmer had just received the letter when Aftenposten called. The letter will be forwarded to the newly established ethical council of the Fund. When a recommendation has been made there, it will be transmitted to Kjær. He says that the ethical council is established exactly for this kind of questions.
The leader of the council, Gro Nystuen, was at a conference on antipersonnel mines in Nairobi yesterday.
- By now, I doubt there shall be more of these kinds of producers in the portfolio of the Petroleum Fund. But if they are there, they have to go, she says.
But when it comes to Kerr-McGee, she prefers not giving a statement. Now, the council will have to be well established, with a secretariat and regular meetings. She doubts that they will make any clear recommendations until well after Christmas.
Many will follow closely the work of the ethical council, not least Beate Slydal in Amnesty International [Norway]. She is also active in the Norwegian Forum for Environment and Development, which has its own working group which is looking into corporate social responsibility. Slydal was disappointed when she saw that the council lacks expertise on human rights. Therefore, she hopes that Nystuen makes contact with the various groups which work with this kind of questions.
Morocco occupies the major part of its neighbouring country, Western Sahara. Entering into business deals with Moroccan companies or authorities in the occupied territories gives an impression of political legitimacy to the occupation. It also gives job opportunities to Moroccan settlers and income to the Moroccan government. Western Sahara Resource Watch demands foreign companies leave Western Sahara until a solution to the conflict is found.
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