Arms conference at Dam Square

25 May, 2010  [Alex van Veen] – Next week, a military arms trade conference will take place in the heart of Amsterdam.

During the Netherlands Offset Conference, compensation orders will be traded. Opponents of the arms trade call for a protest.
On Thursday 3 June, representatives of dozens of arms producers will meet at the Industrieele Groote Club, located at Dam Square in Amsterdam. A representative of the Ministry of Economic Affairs will be among the guest speakers. The Netherlands Offset Conference is about so-called compensation orders, that is, orders foreign defence corporations are obliged to place with Dutch companies when the Dutch military buys something from them.

Five of the ten largest arms producers of the world will attend the conference: BAe, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, L-3 Communications and Thales. These corporations sell arms to countries in conflict areas, countries with internal conflicts and poverty-stricken countries that can spend their money in better ways. Further, all these companies are involved in the production of nuclear arms or cluster munitions. In addition, Lockheed Martin is the major contractor of the controversial JSF programme.

Another attendant will be the Israeli company Elbit, which in various ways contributes to the repression of the Palestinians. For example, it provides the technology and cameras for the separation wall between Israel and the Palestine area. The company has been awarded a similar contract for the gate between the US and Mexico, intended to deal with ‘illegal’ immigration. Of course, Dutch companies will also be present, hoping to win more compensation orders.

The conference is organised by Finca Defence Marketing, which has its office at the Veemkade in Amsterdam. FDM is a private company specialising in defence and security. The company is helping Dutch corporations to participate in the compensation-related defence market. Finca Consulting provides the bulk of the marketing activities.

The Campaign against Arms Trade (CtW) is angry with the Amsterdam Municipality, which is once again making room for the arms trade, after the controversial ITEC conference in 2005. In response to the commotion over ITEC, former mayor Cohen told the city council that he was unhappy with ITEC. He thought that the arms trade conference was at odds with the Amsterdam policy to fight aggression and violence in the city.

“Arms traders earn big money from the death or mutilation of countless people”, CtW says. “With their help, wars, other violent conflicts and repression are maintained. The Netherlands, being the world’s fifth largest arms exporter, plays an important part in this. The billions that are spent on arms can be put to far better use contributing to a more liveable, fair and peaceful world for all.”

To protest against the Netherlands Offset Conference, CtW will organise a picket line in front of the Industrieele Groote Club. Participants are requested to report to the building, on Damrak 27, on Thursday 3 June around 9 am. The participants in the conference will be awaited with banners, protest signs and slogans.

This article originally appeared on Ravage. Photo US Air Force / Wikimedia

UPDATE 28 May – Acting Mayor Lodewijk Asscher has announced that he will have investigated what the conference is exactly about, Het Parool reports.