WSRW urges Chevron to end oil exploration upon Kosmos take-over
Several news media have in the last weeks mentioned Chevron’s interest in acquiring Kosmos Energy. Kosmos holds an extensive agreement with the Moroccan government for oil exploration in Boujdour, occupied Western Sahara. WSRW has today asked Chevron to tackle this objectionable business upon a possible take-over.
Mr. John S. Watson Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Chevron Corporation 6001 Bollinger Canyon Road San Ramon CA 94583 USA
Regarding Kosmos’ activities in occupied Western Sahara
Dear Mr Watson,
We are writing following a number of media reports announcing Chevron’s interest in acquiring Kosmos Energy Corp. As a potential new owner of that company, we anticipate you are considering a matter of great importance; Kosmos Energy’s presence in occupied Western Sahara.
Kosmos Energy has held a licence for oil exploration on the offshore Boujdour block since 2004. We would like to inform you that the petroleum exploration in occupied Western Sahara is politically controversial, highly unethical and in violation of international law. None of our letters to Kosmos in the past have been responded to.
Much of Western Sahara has been occupied by Morocco since 1975. However, to this day, no state or international organization recognizes Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara. The United States, among others, has been very clear that it does not recognize Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara. The United Nations still consider Western Sahara as a Non-Self Governing Territory pending the process of decolonisation. Furthermore, the UN has repeatedly stated that the occupation must end and that the Saharawi population is entitled to freely exercise their right to self-determination through a free, fair and transparent referendum.
The occupation of Western Sahara has resulted in enormous suffering and deprivation for the Saharawi people, the rightful owners of the land and the natural resources of Western Sahara. Some 165,000 Saharawi have languished in refugee camps in the inhospitable Algerian desert since 1975. The Saharawi population remaining in areas under Moroccan occupation is subjected to grave human rights violations, such as torture, forced disappearances and arbitrary detention.
Kosmos Energy holds an extensive agreement with the Moroccan state oil company ONHYM. Through working for the Moroccan government in the occupied areas of Western Sahara, Kosmos Energy supports the continuation of an illegal occupation and contributes to undermining the UN peace process. This kind of support makes Morocco less inclined to contribute to finding a solution to the occupation, and makes delaying tactics and attempting to profit from the existing situation more attractive. The development of petroleum in Western Sahara therefore increases the risk of further armed conflict, destabilization and suffering in the region.
The companies involved in the oil-exploration should furthermore be aware that the trade is in violation of international law. The International Court of Justice in its 1975 Western Sahara Advisory Opinion established that Morocco has no legal claim to Western Sahara. That same opinion affirmed that the Saharawi population has a right to self-determination, which includes, inter alia, the right of permanent sovereignty over natural resources. Permanent sovereignty over natural resources is a customary principle of international law. Numerous resolutions of the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly affirm this position. Furthermore, it was precisely the mentioned Boujdour licence which prompted the UN Security Council to commission its Legal Office to produce an opinion on the legality of such exploration work. The UN Under-Secretary General of Legal Affairs, Mr. Hans Corell, on 29 January 2002 concluded it would be in violation of international law if the exploration and exploitation continued in the disregard of the wishes and interests of the people of the territory. See that legal opinion here: www.arso.org/Olaeng.pdf
Because the Saharawi people have not been able to exercise their right to self-determination, and because they have not been properly consulted, trade with Morocco of natural resources emanating from Western Sahara is a violation of the Saharawi’s right to permanent sovereignty over their resources.
Businesses around the world have realized their ethical obligations and have stopped exploring, exploiting or importing natural resources from occupied Western Sahara.
WSRW knows that Morocco’s plunder of Western Sahara is an increasing concern among the ethical investor community worldwide. In 2005, the Norwegian Government Pension Fund, for instance, divested from the US energy company Kerr-McGee for ethical reasons. Kerr-McGee then held the same Boujdour block that is now held by Kosmos Energy. The Pension Fund stated that such oil operations constituted “an especially gross breach of fundamental ethical norms because, among other things, this can contribute to legitimising Morocco’s sovereignty claims and thus undermine the UN peace process”. A number of other investors chose to divest from Kerr-McGee due to ethical reasons. We believe ethically minded investors will today agree with the statements issued by former owners of Kerr-McGee eight years ago.
Therefore, we appeal to Chevron to demonstrate its attachment to international legality, human rights and its own standards of corporate social responsibility by tackling Kosmos’s involvement in oil exploration in occupied Western Sahara, if acquiring the company.
We urge Chevron to issue a statement that, if it acquires Kosmos Energy, the oil licence it holds with Moroccan state oil company ONHYM offshore occupied Western Sahara will be immediately terminated. We hope to hear from you whether this is something that your firm intends to do.
We thank you for considering this matter and look forward to your reply.
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.
It's not easy keeping up with all the different legal proceedings relating to Western Sahara. For the sake of clarity, here's an overview of the five different cases at the Court of Justice of the European Union.