Conspiracy theorists claim that the Watchtower Society agreed to meet special criteria to “become an NGO”. They say this was part of the application process and included the requirement that they must “print articles praising the UN” to “keep their NGO status”. Is this true? Did the Society have to do anything special or agree to do certain things, to be registered with the DPI?
First of all, because the accusers don’t really know what they’re talking about, we must clear up a mistake they all make. We did not agree to “become an NGO” because we already were an NGO. A Non-Governmental Organization (“NGO”) is simply a name for an organization which is not part of a government. The name “NGO” is not only used by the UN. It is a term used all over the world by many different governments. There are an estimated 2 million NGOs in the United States alone, for example. So the Watchtower Society was already an NGO, always has been an NGO, and always will be an NGO.
Therefore the accusation, when properly phrased, is: Did the Watchtower Society agree to meet any special criteria to become associated with the DPI?
The DPI website describes the application process for NGOs to become associated with their office. Must NGOs, like the Watchtower Society, agree to a special list of criteria? Let us see.
I. For NGOs that are currently NOT associated with DPI:
The association process takes three to six months. The DPI Committee on NGOs that decides on association and disassociation meets twice a year, in June/July and December. Interested NGOs that meet the criteria should follow the steps:
Send an official letter of request to be associated with DPI, provide a brief description of the organization and at least six samples of recent information materials.”
...upon receipt of [these] documents, [we] will determine whether the formal application process for association can proceed. If the NGO Section finds that the NGO meets the criteria, the application form... will be sent to the NGO.”
Notice that the first thing an NGO must do to be associated is surprising. They do not fill out an application form. No, the first thing they must do is send them “at least six samples of recent information materials”.
Next, the DPI examines the material and decides whether the NGO meets their criteria. In other words, no NGO can say “I agree to meet your criteria”, or “if we are allowed to be associated with you, we will sign a statement agreeing to your criteria.” They can’t, because no such agreement exists. That is not how the application process works.
Note that this is the process as of late 2007. So when the DPI has said in recent years that associated NGOs must “support the UN charter” or “share the ideals of the UN”, whether an NGO does this or not is determined by the DPI itself, and no one else. An NGO cannot state they agree to those terms, the DPI itself has the job of deciding if the NGO supports the same ideals as the UN and it’s charter, such as support for human rights, freedom of worship, etc.
Only if the DPI decides that the NGO falls within the DPI’s criteria, do they send out an application form and a list of other required materials (such as proof of non-profit status). Evidently, the DPI must have determined that Jehovah’s Witnesses did meet the criteria because of our support for human rights and freedom of religion. So, we could not have “agreed to meet the UN’s criteria” because it doesn’t work that way. It seems, in fact, that an NGO does not have to “agree” to do anything, because the DPI itself examines the NGO and decides whether they meet the criteria or not.
Therefore the accusation that the Society had made some sort of legal agreement to “write articles praising the UN” is nonsense. No such agreement exists, nor can it exist. Besides, we published balanced articles on the UN decades before we became DPI associated, and continue to do so, six years after ending the association (see the chapter Awake to Propaganda for more information). If Jehovah’s Witnesses had, for some reason, suddenly stopped writing anything about the UN, the DPI would simply have cancelled the association, like they have with other NGOs. In this case it would be because we would no longer be using the DPI’s facilities, and there would be no point in keeping us on the register.
This is the association process as we understand it from looking at the DPI’s own website:
Step 1: An NGO sends copies of their printed articles to the DPI proving they are interested in UN issues and would make good use of their extensive library facilities to educate the public on UN issues.
Step 2: A few months later, the DPI will examine the articles and decide whether the NGO appears to share the ideals of the UN charter, that it isn’t racist, etc. They probably also decide whether the NGO is big and important enough to make good and proper use of their facilities, such as their conferences and film screenings, etc, which would be wasted resources on insignificant NGOs.
Step 3: Upon deciding that the NGO is suitable for association, the DPI sends the NGO an application form to complete and return, along with a list of any other materials they need.
Step 4: The NGO completes the application form. This did not require a signature back in 1991 when the Watchtower Society became associated, nor did it mention anything about “supporting the UN charter”, etc. (the scans sections has a copy of this form)
Step 5: The DPI receives the completed application form and related materials back (like proof of non-profit status, etc). Once processed, the DPI issues library access passes to the NGO’s representatives.
This completes the application process. There is no “agreement” or contract stipulating what the NGO has to do from that point onwards. Provided the NGO remains within the DPI’s guidelines for associated NGOs, then the association will continue. That is why no signature was needed on the old 1991 application form, nor on the old accreditation forms.
Later, however, it becomes time to complete a new accreditation form (a copy of this is in the scans section) and to supply articles to the UN as proof that they have indeed used the DPI’s facilities. If the NGO cannot produce any such proof, they would be removed from the DPI’s NGO association register due to lack of use. No agreement to do anything was necessary or required.
We can compare this situation to a man applying for a job in a company. The company might have criteria that has to be met. For example, lets say the criteria states that the man must be married, between the ages of 21 and 35, be a law-abiding citizen, and have a valid drivers license.
So a man could submit his drivers license, birth certificate, marriage license, and whatever other documents are needed. The company then decides he meets their criteria. If they decide that he does meet the criteria, then an application is sent to him. He can’t say, “I agree to meet the criteria”, or “I am willing to sign a statement saying that I agree to meet the criteria.” The company determines if he meets their criteria or not.
The company may discover that he once received a speeding ticket, and decides that they cannot view him as “a law abiding citizen”, so he does not meet their criteria. On the other hand, the company might reason that even though he has received a speeding ticket in the past, they still consider him “a law abiding citizen”, and thus he does meet their criteria. Perhaps he is married, but in the process of getting a divorce. The company would have to then determine whether he still met the criteria based on that information. That is for the company to determine.
In our case, it was the DPI who determined that Jehovah’s Witnesses met their standards, or criteria. Why? Because we are non-profit. We are for civil liberties and religious freedom. We are not racist. We have the means to disseminate information to a wide audience, so we wouldn’t be time-wasters taking up their resources, we would be important researchers for popular international publications. The DPI is the one who determined all this.
Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watchtower Society never said, “I agree to meet your criteria” because they could not. They never signed something saying “We will meet your criteria”, because no NGO can determine that for themselves, only the DPI office can. Further, we never agreed to publish articles praising the UN. That is just comical.
We have more proof of this. One opposer of Jehovah’s Witnesses was so determined to find damning evidence against us that he contacted the UN’s DPI via telephone. He talked to information officer Oleg Dzioubinski. Unfortunately for him, the conversation backfired on him and proved that Jehovah’s Witnesses are telling the truth. Here is part of his conversation which he admits:
Question: Some friends of mine are concerned over the Watchtower not saying nice things about the UN. Is this a problem?
Answer: You can criticize the UN. But, we would take offence if they were using the UN name to raise money or they were saying they were a UN organization when they really are not.
Clearly, complete agreement with the UN was never a requirement of DPI NGOs, and is not today. It was not part of their criteria. It is the DPI who decides whether NGOs meet their criteria based on what they say. Never does an NGO have to agree to only say good things about the UN, or publish articles praising the UN, or other such nonsense. No such “agreements” or “secret back room deals” (as one crackpot apostate tried to characterize it) have ever existed.
Some conspiracy theorists say that the Watchtower Society’s “real motive” was to gain prominence in the eyes of the UN and other governments, particularly where there is persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses. However, is it not a ridiculous idea that having DPI passes to access the UN’s research materials could have such a benefit?
Speculation that governments like that of France would stop persecuting our religion, because our staff have access to UN book, audio and film libraries in New York, is just crazy.
Besides, if we wanted to gain legal status and recognition, we would do it via the courts as we have successfully done for decades. Considering France again, exactly what legal baring would our registration with the UN’s public information office have on the dispute with interpretations of French tax laws? None!
The claim that the DPI association was to gain political influence is a laughable accusation – and usually spouted by persons on Internet message boards who obviously do not understand what NGOs are, and are not in a position to know any of the facts.
This is what we believe happened in the Society’s application process:
The Watchtower Society wanted access passes to the full extent of the DPI’s library facilities. They thought, “Hey, we’re big publishers on UN-related issues, we could make good use of their full library facilities! Why shouldn't we have access when other publishing houses do?” So, they sent copies of their articles to the DPI and requested that the DPI put the Society on their register of associated NGOs.
Then, it was the DPI who determined whether the Society met the criteria. “Yes, it looks like these guys do write a lot about us, and could make good use of our facilities. Sometimes it’s negative, but that’s allowed. They’re not racist, they’re pro-human rights and pro-religious freedom, and they publish millions of magazines. They would really benefit from using all of our library facilities. After all, we want to make it easier for people to write about the UN to help educate the public about what we do here. I see no reason why they can’t be associated and be given access passes.” Thus, they decided the Society did fall within their criteria, and so issued an application form.
The Society read the form and saw that it had nothing on it which conflicts with our Christian beliefs. They completed and returned the form (which needed no signature) and was accepted, proving that complete agreement with the UN was obviously never a requirement.
The Society could not have signed any agreement to meet the criteria, because no such agreement existed. If the Society had chosen to stop printing articles on the UN (and hence stopped using the UN’s library facilities), the DPI would have simply removed us from the register, as they have done with other NGOs. “Hey, it looks like the Jehovah’s Witnesses aren’t using our libraries any more. We might as well remove them from our register of associated NGOs.”
Hence, opposers who make the bizarre claim that we agreed to “write articles praising the UN” to keep our “NGO status” so we can gain “political influence”, are speaking out of total ignorance. These people are, in fact, teaching a paranoid conspiracy theory. –See the box “DPI association to gain political prominence?”
The truth is simple. If we made good use of the UN’s library facilities to write about the UN (including criticism of the UN), we could be on the DPI’s register of NGOs to get access passes. If we stopped writing about the UN, however, then there’s no point in us staying on the register, since we’re obviously not using our passes. No agreements, no “back room deals”, end of story.
At the start of this chapter we asked, “Did the Watchtower Society agree to meet any special criteria to become associated with the DPI?” The answer is no.
We now move on to a related important subject – the forms themselves. We mentioned earlier that the Society did have to complete an application form. What did that form say? Does it’s contents corroborate with the Watchtower Society’s version of events?