PAX: Europe, include arms industry under corporate social responsibility law

March 13, 2023

The EU is preparing legislation on mandatory human rights due diligence. The law would require companies to do business responsibly. However, European government leaders want to exclude the arms industry from this legislation. PAX and more than 40 other civil society organizations are now calling on the European Parliament to undo that.  

Four EU member states are among the ten largest arms exporters in the world: France (3rd), Germany (5th), Italy (6th) and Spain (9th). Together they were responsible for 21% of global arms exports in the period 2017-2021. PAX research shows time and again that major European arms companies supply arms to countries that seriously violate human rights or the law of war.  

CSDD Directive 

The legislation in question is the draft Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD). This law should oblige companies at the European level to investigate whether they are involved in human rights violations. Such legislation is also being worked on in the Netherlands. The European law, if properly drafted, can help fill important gaps regarding the accountability of European arms companies. These companies have evaded oversight for too long and hide behind member states’ arms licensing procedures. 

Own responsibility 

Arms manufacturers must apply to governments for a license to export their products. Arms companies regularly say this obligation replaces their commitment to human rights standards of the United Nations and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In practice, however, arms companies do not sufficiently consider the risks of their arms supplies in terms of violations of international law. For example, major arms manufacturers sell arms to the regimes of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Both countries are actively involved in the war in Yemen, where there have been numerous civilian casualties in recent years. Human rights standards have stated for years that all companies, including arms companies, have an independent responsibility to respect human rights.  

The ball is in the European Parliament’s court 

The European CSDD law is currently being debated by the European Parliament. In the draft version of the European Commission, arms companies would fall under the law, but the heads of European governments want to exclude companies that must apply for an arms export license. This would exempt the arms industry. PAX, along with more than 40 other organizations, is therefore calling on the European Parliament to make sure the arms industry is included in the legislation as a high-risk sector. The statement is open for signature until March 31.  

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