U.N. LEGAL OPINION
ON RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT
Under the authoritative 2002 U.N. Legal Opinion on resource development in the territory commissioned by the Security Council, Morocco is viewed as the de facto administering power of Western Sahara. The U.N. Legal Opinion treats the issue of economic development as distinct from the U.N.-led political process, and focuses on the U.N. Charter Article 73 requirement that “the interests of the inhabitants” of the territory be treated as “paramount.” It concluded that exploration and development of resources in non-self-governing territories are consistent with international law if they are in the best interests of people in those territories.
The U.N. views resource development as distinct from the political negotiations between Morocco and the Frente Polisario. The Secretary-General’s most recent report on Western Sahara noted the increased interest in natural resources there and highlighted the continuing authority of the 2002 U.N. Legal Opinion, calling upon “all relevant actors to recognize the principle that the interests of the inhabitants of these territories are paramount.”
The 2013 EU-Morocco Fisheries Agreement is founded upon the 2002 U.N. Legal Opinion, and the Opinion submitted by the European Parliament’s Legal Services emphasizes that the key test against which the Agreement must be judged is the extent to which it benefits the people of the territory.
Kosmos believes that economic development of the territory can and should proceed in parallel with the U.N.-led mediation process, without adversely affecting its progress or outcome. Kosmos has always maintained that it would only proceed with activities offshore Western Sahara in-line with international law, established good practices, and the company’s Business Principles. Kosmos concluded a Joint Declaration of Principles with ONHYM in December 2013, which made clear that both parties are committed to the implementation of the principles of the U.N. Charter and the terms of the 2002 U.N. Legal Opinion, namely that local populations will be consulted about and benefit from any hydrocarbon development.