In the case of international conflicts the AP-funds’ Council on Ethics (The Council on Ethics) adheres to the positions of the EU and the UN. Not acting in line with international law during international conflicts may be a reason for the Council on Ethics to recommend exclusion of a company. Below, the Council on Ethics has detailed its position on the Israel-Palestine conflict, and the conflict in Western Sahara.
The Israel-Palestine conflict
Actively and consciously offering tailor-made products and services
The EU’s and Sweden’s position on the Israel-Palestine conflict guides the Council on Ethics’ analysis. In the analysis, the Council on Ethics has focused on companies that actively and consciously, by offering tailor-made products and services, contribute to permanent settlements or to maintaining the separation barrier in occupied territory. These companies are by the Council on Ethics considered to be acting out of line with international law, which may form the basis for a recommendation of exclusion.
International conventions and positions
A number of resolutions in the UN General Assembly, international agreements as well as the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice have sought to provide guidance on how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be resolved.
The EU’s and Sweden’s position provides guidance
Guiding the Council on Ethics’ analysis of the Israel-Palestine conflict is the European Union’s and Sweden’s position on the issue:
“The EU considers that the future Palestinian state will require secure and recognised borders. These should be based on a withdrawal from the territory occupied in 1967 with minor modifications mutually agreed, if necessary, in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242, 338, 1397, 1402 and 1515 and the principles of the Madrid Process.
Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory: the EU has repeatedly confirmed its deep concern about accelerated settlement expansion in the West Bank including East Jerusalem. This expansion prejudges the outcome of final status negotiations and threatens the viability of an agreed two-state solution. The EU considers that settlement building anywhere in the occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, is illegal under international law, constitutes an obstacle to peace and threatens to make a two-state solution impossible.”
The Council on Ethics view of companies that actively and consciously offer tailor-made products and services
The Council on Ethics believes that companies which actively and consciously, by offering tailor-made products and services, contribute to permanent settlements or to maintaining the separation barrier in occupied territory, defy international law. This may form the basis for a recommendation for exclusion.
The conflict in Western Sahara
The Council on Ethics’ analysis of the conflict in Western Sahara is based on a UN statement that exploration and extraction of mineral resources in Western Sahara is in violation of international law, the UN Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Companies that practice exploration and extraction of mineral resources in Western Sahara are thus considered by the UN to be defying international law, which may form the basis for a recommendation on exclusion. The Council on Ethics does not consider that renewable raw materials are covered by the UN statement.
Western Sahara has been on the UN list of non-autonomous territories to be decolonised and enjoying the right to self-determination since the early 1960s. A conflict between Morocco and the Western Saharan liberation movement Polisario arose in 1975 in connection with Morocco claiming Western Sahara when the former colonial power Spain was getting ready to leave. Morocco has since de facto controlled the area. A significant group of Moroccan settlers has moved into Western Sahara since 1975, which is not compatible with international law. This has probably changed the demographics of Western Sahara in such a way that people of Moroccan origin today make up a majority of the population. Within the framework of the UN-led process of reaching a political solution, the parties, Morocco and Polisario, met in direct talks on two occasions, which are the first meetings in almost a decade. However, the trial came to a halt after the UN Secretary – General’s personal envoy for Western Sahara left office at the end of May 2019.1
Advisory statements from the International Court of Justice and statements from the UN
In an advisory opinion from 1975, the International Court of Justice ruled that the people of Western Sahara have the right to self-determination and the UN Security Council confirmed this. Despite this guidance and other contributions from the international community, Western Sahara conflict has not been resolved.
A statement from 2002 by the then UN Secretary-General for Justice, Hans Corell also provides guidance. The statement suggests that the extraction of mineral resources from Western Sahara is in violation of international law, the UN Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Hans Corell’s statement concludes with “… if further exploration and extraction are carried out without regard to the interests and wishes of the people of Western Sahara, they would be in violation of the principles of international law for activities involving mineral resources in non-autonomous territories.”2
The Council on Ethics’ view is that exploration and extraction of mineral resources in Western Sahara goes against international law. Renewable resources are not covered in UN’s statement
In its analysis, the Council on Ethics has focused on companies that in various ways can be linked to the extraction of mineral resources from Western Sahara. The aim of the Council on Ethics’ dialogues is to get companies to stop extracting or purchasing mineral resources from Western Sahara, or to demonstrate that the extraction or purchase of mineral resources is carried out in accordance with the interests and wishes of the people of Western Saharan, in line with the UN statement from 2002 Western Sahara. The Council on Ethics does not consider renewable resources to be included in UN’s statement.
The Council on Ethics engages in dialogue with international corporations that can be linked to actions which defy international conventions that Sweden has ratified. The purpose of the dialogues is partly to get the companies to remediate the issues, and partly that the company should adopt policies and processes to avoid future actions that go against these conventions.The Council on Ethics uses direct dialogue with companies as its most important tool to work for change. Cooperating with other investors and voting at annual general meetings to add more pressure to the dialogues are other examples of how the Council on Ethics works. If a dialogue does not lead to the desired changes the Council on Ethics may, as a last resort, recommend for the AP-funds to exclude the company.
(1) Västsahara – Mänskliga rättigheter, demokrati och rättsstatens principer: situationen per den 30 juni 2019, report from Utrikesdepartementet, www.regeringen.se
(2) Western Sahara: UN Legal Counsel renders opinion on oil prospecting contracts | | UN News