Kosmos Energy fundamentally disagrees with the Norwegian Council on Ethics’ assessment of our activities offshore Western Sahara and its divestment recommendation. The Council’s decision is disappointing coming as it does after several years of engagement between Kosmos and the Council.
We are dedicated to operating ethically, transparently and in a manner consistent with international law and industry best practice across our business operations. From the beginning of our exploration offshore Western Sahara, we have viewed the 2002 U.N. Legal Opinion as our touchstone and continue to adhere to its principles. We urge all stakeholders to read our response to the Council’s decision in full before reaching judgment on our activities.
We believe the Council’s decision is flawed in several ways:
1. The Council has failed to explain its ethical case for divestment.
Over the last five years, we have spent considerable time in Western Sahara working directly with local people to understand their views of oil and gas exploration and bring early benefits to them in the form of sustainable social investment projects. In addition, we have worked with the Government of Morocco to ensure that the people of Western Sahara will benefit in an transparent and equitable manner from any future hydrocarbon development and will be consulted in the process.
In April 2016, a former Legal Adviser to the U.S. Department of State wrote in a letter to the Council that its decision “cannot be justified under international law or fundamental ethical norms.” We have asked the Council for clarification of how our activities – which are aimed at bringing economic opportunity to Western Sahara – amount to a “serious violation of fundamental ethical norms.” The Council has not responded.
2. The decision to divest is based on an outdated geopolitical and local understanding.
The Council remains fixed on a position it adopted in 2005 and appears unwilling to change its view, despite the many positive developments since then concerning Western Sahara. The Council’s decision fails to recognize that people in Western Sahara – whom we have met in hundreds of face-to-face conversations – want the economic opportunities that come from increased foreign investment. In our experience, this desire cuts across demographics and political affiliations.
3. The Council has made a fundamental error in its legal interpretation.
Our exploration activities comply with the 2002 U.N. Legal Opinion, which determined, among other things, that Morocco has the right to enter into agreements for hydrocarbon exploration offshore Western Sahara. The 2002 U.N. Legal Opinion distinguishes between economic development and the U.N.-led political process aimed at resolving the territory’s status and supports the view that economic development of the territory can and should proceed in parallel with the U.N. mediation process without adversely affecting its progress or outcome. Furthermore, the 2002 U.N. Legal Opinion permits exploration as it does not remove resources. Development activities conducted “for the benefit of the peoples … on their behalf or in consultation with their representatives…” are considered compatible with the U.N. Charter. In his most recent reports on the status of Western Sahara, the U.N. Secretary-General does not condemn, nor seek to halt or delay, our exploration activities.
While we are disappointed in the Council’s decision, we remain optimistic about Western Sahara and committed to the region and its people for the long term. We intend to continue our transparent dialogue with the range of stakeholders interested in the territory’s future.
Correspondence between Kosmos Energy and the Council on Ethics:
June 2, 2016 – Email from Kosmos Chairman and CEO to the Chairman of the Council on Ethics expressing concern regarding the Council on Ethic’s process and reiterating an offer to meet face-to-face
May 24, 2016 – Email from Council on Ethics Chief Advisor to Kosmos Chairman and CEO declining a request from Kosmos to meet the Chairman of the Council on Ethics
May 18, 2016 – Letter from Kosmos Chairman and CEO to the Chairman of the Council on Ethics expressing concern regarding the Council on Ethic’s process and requesting a face-to-face meeting
April 22, 2016 – Letter from Abraham Sofaer, George P. Schultz Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University and former Legal Advisor to the U.S. State Department, to the Chairman of the Council on Ethics questioning the Council’s interpretation of international law, the application of its guidelines, and position on Western Sahara
January 14, 2016 – Kosmos’ detailed response to the Council on Ethics’ Draft Recommendation to exclude Kosmos Energy from the Government Pension Fund Global
November 10, 2015 – Council on Ethics’ Draft Recommendation to exclude Kosmos from the Government Pension Fund Global
November 10, 2015 – Letter from the Council on Ethics Secretariat requesting comments on the Draft Recommendation to exclude Kosmos from the Government Pension Fund Global
April 16, 2014 – Letter from Kosmos Chairman and CEO to the Secretariat and Chief Advisor of the Council on Ethics acknowledging a request for information and offering to meet
April 10, 2014 – Letter from the Council on Ethics Secretariat and Senior Advisor requesting information from Kosmos regarding the company’s activities offshore Western Sahara