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Western Sahara: does Norway contribute to the occupation?

While the Sahrawi is fighting for independence in Western Sahara, the Oil Fund continues to have interests in the occupied areas. 

"No one can meet you in Marrakech. My friend agreed to meet you in secret, but withdrew because he was afraid of the consequences. ”The text message from my contact in the Moroccan capital Rabat ticks in during the first breakfast in a riad in Marrakech, not far from the well-known square of Djemaa El Fna, where tourists, sellers and visitors alike flock to each other. "He is afraid that the police are extra attentive to what happened to the Norwegian delegation," I read on the screen.
Djemaa El Fna Square is a magnet, both for foreign tourists and for locals. When darkness falls, they gather here, shoulder to shoulder on narrow benches. They eat and chatter in the scent of steaming mint tea mixed with us of tangine and couscous from the many food stalls that open as soon as it gets dark. At Djemaa El Fna holds. . .

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Carima Tirillsdottir Heinesen
Former journalist for MODERN TIMES.


  1. Inaccurate about Western Sahara
    Hans Morten Haugen, Dr.Jur., Professor VID University College (formerly Diakonhjemet University College); member of the Council of the Western Sahara Support Committee

    In an interesting report on Western Sahara ('Does Norway contribute to the occupation?) In Ny Tid no. 2-16, there is an interview with the head of the Council on Ethics in the Government Pension Fund – Global, Johan H. Andresen. He reaffirms that Western Sahara is a "non-autonomous territory", which is further regulated in Chapter XI of the UN Charter. In the same sentence, however, he continues with the following: "without any known administrator."

    This is wrong. The reality is that the former colonial power Spain has been appointed by the UN as an administrative state, just as the former colonial power Portugal was an administrative state over East Timor until the referendum in 1999, when the UN took over until independence in 2002.

    The problem in Western Sahara is that Spain does not exercise this authority as an administrative state. Most recently in 2015, the UN General Assembly pointed out that being a non-self-governing area without an administrative state that actually exercises its mandate means that the Sahrawi people end up in a "legal limbo".

    The UN itself states on its website that Spain, in a letter dated 26 February 1976, considers itself "exempt from any responsibility of any international nature in connection with the administration of the Territory." This letter was a unilateral action by Spain that has no force in international law. At the same time, it is obvious that the UN has failed when Western Sahara for 40 years has not had an administrative state that takes responsibility.

    Western Sahara is without an administrative state that exercises its mandate. It is completely correct when Andresen says that there are no other non-autonomous areas – there are 17 in all – that are in such a situation.

    Andresen also points out that "there are no clear rules for the utilization of natural resources here." This is wrong. General binding wording can be found in Article 1.3 of the UN Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. More specific regulation can be found in annual UN resolutions entitled "Economic and other activities which affect the interests of the peoples of the Non Self-Governing Territories", the latest (A / RES / 70/95) from December 2015.

    Section 9 in particular is important, namely to "secure and guarantee the inalienable right" and "property right" that the people in non-autonomous areas have over their natural resources. The responsibility for this lies with the state of administration. A similar invitation is given to all states in section 8.

    Andresen says that the Council on Ethics «has assumed that the business can be acceptable if… it takes place in accordance with the wishes and interests of the local population…» This formulation is in line with the Norwegian discouragement of Norwegian business involvement in Western Sahara («A political solution for Western -Sahara »). This has – with some minor adjustments – been fixed since 2002. The advice is discussed in The Future in Our Hands report Failed advice and forgotten words from 2011.

    After the Support Committee for Western Sahara and Sjøvik AS reached a settlement in a complaint to the OECD National Contact Point in 2013, the lawyer for Sjøvik, Hugo Matre, stated: […] Sjøvik believes that activities that contribute positively… should be encouraged and developed… »

    Emphasis is thus on the «interests of the local population». Norwegian companies can undoubtedly promote business and development in Western Sahara. The crucial thing is whether this happens in ways that undermine the right to self-determination for the Sahrawis – in that Morocco benefits greatly from retaining control.

    In the joint statement from the Support Committee for Western Sahara and Sjøvik AS from 2013, the parties ask the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to "specify what kind of activities are covered" by the dissuasion.

    The following changes must be made in the dissuasion to avoid that it can be used to legitimize activities contrary to international law: 1) The term "situation" used in the dissuasion must be replaced by a clear reference to the UN resolution mentioned above. 2) The term "local population" must be replaced by "the Sahrawi people", in order to clarify who the licensee is. 3) The wording "interests" must be replaced by "rights, interests and expressed wishes", all of which are used in the UN resolution.

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