Dutch pensions helping human rights abusers

Image: Foto Fahd Sadi

November 28, 2019

Of the ten largest Dutch pension funds, nine invest a total of more than one billion euros in dubious weapons manufacturers.

These companies supply weapon systems to countries that violate human rights. Three of the pension funds ABP, PFZW and PME, invested the most in these companies, together accounting for 927 million euros. These are some of the findings of a new study by the Fair Pension Guide.

“Some of most Dutch people’s retirement money is invested in arms companies that, for instance, keep Saudi Arabia’s jet fighters in the air,” says PAX’s Cor Oudes. “These planes drop bombs that kill and maim civilians in Yemen.”

War and human rights violations

The study looks at the largest companies supplying weapons to around fifty countries either currently involved in an armed conflict or which violate human rights. This is at odds with an EU directive that a country should not supply weapons if there is a risk that they will be used in war or to commit human rights violations. Nevertheless, European companies continue to supply weapons to countries such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, India, Pakistan and Chad. As a result of the war in Yemen, the Dutch government has restricted arms exports to Saudi Arabia. Nonetheless, nine of the ten pension funds looked at in the study still invest in 14 companies that supply weapon systems to these countries.

Major arms manufacturers

Of those 14 companies, two receive the most investment from Dutch pension funds: United Technologies Corporation and General Electric. They are two of the largest arms manufacturers in the world and provide and maintain aircraft engines to the air forces of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Only one Dutch pension fund, PMT, which serves the metal sector, has no investments in the arms companies selected for the study.

Policy is lacking

The pension funds have virtually no policy regarding the arms trade. Therefore, these funds do not take into account the risks associated with certain companies that supply weapons systems to countries that violate human rights. Hence, they run a high risk of investing in the wrong companies. The Fair Pension Guide calls on all pension funds to quickly develop good arms trade policies. The current study recommends that pension funds actively encourage these arms manufacturers to stop selling arms to dubious regimes. If the manufacturers fail to take action, pension funds should exclude these companies from their investments.

Download the report Controversial Arms Trade and investments of Dutch Pension Funds


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