Fisheries and fish processing in Western Sahara
Lead NCPNorway
Supporting NCP(s)Morocco
DescriptionSpecific instance notified by the NGO Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara regarding the activities of Sjovik A.S., a multinational operating in the Western Sahara.
Theme(s)Human rights
Date5 Dec 2011
Host country(ies)Western Sahara
Industry sectorAgriculture, forestry and fishing

Read the initial assessment issued by the Norwegian NCP

Read the final statement issued by the Norwegian NCP on 2 July 2013

In December 2011, the Norwegian NCP received a request for review by the NGO Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara alleging that Sjovik A.S., which fishes and operates a fish processing plant in the Non-Self-Governing territory of Western Sahara through its subsidiairies Sjovk Africa AS and Sjovik Morocco S.A, has failed to respect the Sahrawi right to self-determination, thereby violating the human rights provisions of the Guidelines.

The company denies that the human rights provisions of the Guidelines are being violated, and underlines that the request seems to be politically motivated and maintained that its investment benefits the Saharawis.

As the Norwegian NCP was the recipient of the request concerning the headquarter policies of a Norwegian-registered multinational enterprise group from the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara. Western Sahara is claimed by Morocco, while no UN organ has recognised Moroccan sovereignty or status as rightful administering power. Western Sahara is recognised as a Non-Self-Governing Territory under the UN. Morocco is committed to following the Guidelines and has established an NCP. The unresolved territorial issues and the fact that the request concerned a Norwegian company favoured the acceptance of the complaint by the Norwegian NCP. The Moroccan NCP was notified about and contributed with information concerning this specific instance.

Joint Statement
After the initial assessment where the NCP found the complaint to be substantiated and sufficiently linked to the Guidelines, both parties initially rejected the NCP’s offer to facilitate mediation. However, they both reverted on 27 May 2012 to accept the offer. The parties reached an agreement after mediation conducted by former Supreme Court judge and former director of the Norwegian National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime, Lars Oftedal Broch, on behalf of NCP Norway. The parties’ board chairmen signed the joint statement on 2 July in Molde, Norway. As a consequence the complaint was withdrawn.

The joint statement refers to the parties’ disagreement on whether Sjøvik AS should operate in Western Sahara. The parties agree to request Norwegian authorities to give unambiguous advice to businesses operating in conflict areas. They also agree that Sjøvik AS shall carry out environmental and social impact assessment for its activities based on the principles set out in the new OECD Guidelines and UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and publish content in the report in accordance with the OECD Guidelines, chapter III (Disclosure). Sjøvik will also publish “codes of conduct” and make sure that its internal grievance mechanism meets the Guidelines’ requirements by the end of 2013.

Since the mediation in this specific instance reached a successful conclusion, the NCP has not examined the merits of the claims in the complaint. The NCP nevertheless underscores on a general basis that there is a heightened due diligence requirement for business in relation to human rights violations when operating in or from areas in conflict. The NCP also encourages the company to draw on human rights expertise on how to conduct the human rights impact assessment for Sjøvik’s activities in Western Sahara. The NCP furthermore recommends that the parties continue their dialogue, and invites both parties to a follow-up meeting tentatively on 15 May 2014.