Holding Norwegian companies accountable: the case of Western Sahara : an exploration of the Norwegian government's approach to dealing with Norwegian companies' complicity in violations of human rights abroad
Morocco illegally occupies the non-self-governing territory of Western Sahara, and they are strategically exploiting the natural resources rightfully belonging to the local Saharawi people. Both of these actions are in violation of international law and fundamental human rights. Norwegian companies have been complicit in Morroco‟s trade in natural resources thereby legitimising the occupation and exploitation in political, legal, moral and economic terms. In this context this thesis investigates the approach of the Norwegian government, companies and civil society organisations to Western Sahara, exploring how effective these approaches have been in practice. The dichotomy between voluntary and regulatory approaches has steered the Norwegian approach, giving human rights a mainly normative role within the discourse of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). This thesis seeks to challenge the dichotomy apparent in the Norwegian system, by opting for a more interrelated view on legal and normative ways to regulate businesses. It shows that the Norwegian government‟s policy of discouraging business activities in Western Sahara is passive and ambiguous. Furthermore, the Norwegian policy-apparatus‟ understanding of CSR prevents it from seeking alternative and effective measures. The government is also overlooking the indirect effects policies generally understood as outside the purview of CSR have on the situation in Western Sahara. This study discusses how civil society has played an innovative role in changing corporate behavior and business ethics, by drawing public attention to corporate actions in the context of emerging norms and social expectations. However, the government should not leave the important task of holding companies accountable solely to the voluntary sector, but enhance, strengthen and reinforce both legal and normative incentives. To solve the situation in Western Sahara, the world community must seek to break the link between occupation and economic gain, and governments must proactively engage companies to go beyond compliance with human rights.
ForlagUniversitetet i Tromsø
University of Tromsø
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