The Council on Ethics of the AP Funds analysis of 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 to be violating 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.
Background Western Sahara conflict
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.
The International Court of Justice’s advisory opinions and statements by 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.
Guidance for the Council on Ethics’ analysis of the Western Sahara conflict is also provided by the statement from 2002 by the then UN Secretary-General for Justice, Hans Corell. The statement states 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.”
Exploration and extraction of mineral resources is in violation of international law
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.