Ban the bomb and ban the bombmakers, starting in Amsterdam!

The city council of Amsterdam supports a motion calling on the Dutch government to join the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. This recognises the historic role the city has played in resisting nuclear weapons, in the Netherlands, in Europe and beyond. Deputy Mayor Rutger Groot Wassink signed the ICAN City appeal on the day the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons became official international law.

The city council will make their support for the motion official in their next voting meeting. There are two main parts to the motion. Firstly, the city of Amsterdam is calling on the Dutch government to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Secondly, the motion calls for an investigation into whether or not arms manufactures are benefitting in any way from tax avoidance facilitated by the Netherlands.

Same slogan, new opportunities

The motion also recalls the anti-nuclear slogans of the 1980s “Help kernwapens de wereld uit, om te beginnen in Nederland.” (Eliminate nuclear weapons, starting with the Netherlands). It reflects that this slogan is just as current today as it was in 1981 when more than 400,000 people gathered against nuclear weapons in Amsterdam.  The motion goes on to reflect the power of the people, whose demonstrations across Europe prevented the placement of new nuclear weapons across Europe in the 80s and set the stage for the removal of thousands of nuclear bombs from the continent in the 90s. As there is now a treaty making nuclear weapons illegal, when the Dutch government joints the UN nuclear ban treaty, it will indeed help end nuclear weapons, starting in the Netherlands.

The motion also recognises that, unfortunately, the Netherlands is not nuclear free. Recalling the confirmation by former Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers in 2013 of nuclear weapons at Volkel.  It is also noteworthy that while the official policy is not to confirm or deny their presence, NATO and Dutch leadership have both implied that the weapons are there during a series of nuclear weapons exercises this past October. At the time, Dutch Defence Minister Ank Bijleveld said that “if you practice it, you must also have the weapons there”, prompting questioning from parliament.

The power of cities

The initiative reinforces the importance of cities speaking out against nuclear weapons. Recognising that cities are the most likely target of any nuclear weapon use, and will feel the consequences, there is an obligation for cities to speak out. Recognising the importance of cities in educating the public, and forging alliance with social movements against nuclear weapons- like ICAN or Mayors for Peace, Amsterdam’s city council cannot remain silent.

Netherlands as a tax haven

The motion also reflects concerns about companies that use the Netherlands as a tax haven. Noting 30 of the top 100 arms companies in the world- including several involved in nuclear weapon production (Lockheed Martin, Boeing, BAE Systems, General Dynamics) have registered in the country for its favourable tax rates, even if some (like Boeing) don’t even have a doorbell to ring at their registered addresses.

In 2016, the city council passed another initiative to prevent these so-called “letterbox” companies, but this time around, the focus is on the weapons manufacturers, with the aim to end the financial facilitation of the immoral arms trade.

Amsterdam joins hundreds of other cities around the globe- from Sydney to Washington, DC, Arnhem to Groningen, in calling on their governments to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.