After the Guardian story broke, the United Nations DPI was inundated with many requests for information on the matter, especially from former Jehovah's Witnesses. Hence, Paul Hoeffel, the chief of the DPI's NGO section wrote an open letter on the matter to anyone who is interested in the subject.
Many persons refer to this letter as further “proof” that the Society's NGO relationship was inappropriate, and that the Society lied about the situation. Is this true? What does the letter say, and just why is it important? Let us examine this letter closely and find out for ourselves.
It begins with:
“4 March 2004
To Whom It May Concern,
Recently the NGO Section has been receiving numerous inquiries regarding the association of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York with the Department of Public Information (DPI). This organization applied for association with DPI in 1991 and was granted association in 1992. By accepting association with DPI, the organization agreed to meet criteria for association, including support and respect of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations and commitment and means to conduct effective information programmes with its constituents and to a broader audience about UN activities.”
This seems like pretty damning evidence. However, we must remember that these statements were made in 2004 and after the fact. As we saw earlier, in no place on any of the forms signed by the Society was anything said about “support and respect of the principles” of the UN charter. Those statements simply are not there on the original forms. Some may deny it, but the facts speak for themselves.
Of course, now the UN is suddenly being very clear about their requirements — over ten years too late. Therefore it begs the question, why did Mr Hoeffel not make it plain and state that the 1991 forms did not include such requirements? We wonder if the DPI is trying to cover-up their own ineptness for not putting such a statement on the original form when it, perhaps, should have been.
To illustrate, imagine you join a video-rental store, such as Blockbusters. The membership form you completed when you join is simple and straightforward, entitling you to access any of the videos you wish. Strangely, it doesn't even require a signature. Then, 10 years later, the video store turns around and says, “Oh, by the way, although it wasn't on your membership form, and you haven't signed anything to this effect, you have agreed to rent pornographic videos on a regular basis.” Say what? No, that cannot be. No one can turn around and say “you agreed to this, you agreed to that” a decade later — especially since you never signed any form stating such things. Yet this is the exact scenario with the Watchtower Society found itself in with the DPI and their changing requirements.
The chief of the DPI is being misleading — either by intentionally trying to cover his department's failings or from simply making an honest mistake. He is quoting the then-current 2004 requirements for a DPI NGO. Notice how he fails to say those were the requirements back in the early 1990's. Why does he not make it clear that the original applications said nothing about supporting the UN charter, as we can see for ourselves today? Who really is being untrustworthy and trying to “hide the facts”? Is it the Watchtower Society, whose explanation agrees with the 1991 evidence? Or is it not the DPI, who has wrongly insinuated that the criteria to support the UN as a DPI NGO was on the original application — when we know for a fact that it was not?
Mr Hoeffel's letter continues:
“In October 2001, the Main Representative of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York to the United Nations, Giro Aulicino, requested termination of its association with DPI. Following this request, the DPI made a decision to disassociate the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York as of 9 October 2001.
Please be informed that it is the policy of the Department of Public Information of the United Nations to keep correspondence between the United Nations and NGOs associated with DPI confidential. However, please see below the paragraph included in all letters sent to NGOs approved for association in 1992:
“The principal purpose of association of non-governmental organizations with the United Nations Department of Public Information is the redissemination of information in order to increase public understanding of the principles, activities and achievements of the United Nations and its Agencies. Consequently, it is important that you should keep us informed about your organization's information programme as it relates to the United Nations, including sending us issues of your relevant publications.””
Notice how he now quotes from 1992 requirements. He quotes the part that the “principle purpose of ... [DPI NGOs] is the re-dissemination of information in order to increase public understanding ... of the United Nations”. The Watchtower Society was already interested in doing exactly that — and had been doing so for decades, ever since the UN was formed.
During World War II the League of Nations had, for all intents and purposes, ceased to function in any practical or meaningful way. However, The Watchtower magazine reckoned on the re-emergence of the League of Nations in a new form, after interpreting the contents of the prophecies in Revelation. Yes — the Watchtower Society was interested in educating the public on the United Nations and how it will play a part in Bible prophecy — even before it was formed! Ultimately the Society has been interested in educating the public on how the UN, along with all other governments, will be replaced by God's Kingdom under the rule of Christ. Yet the UN and it's activities are still not very well-known by the General Public. Hence, the Society is very interested in educating the public about the “principles, activities and achievements of the United Nations and its Agencies.” Hence, we know the Society would be happy to continue to do something it was already doing.
As for the rest of this part of the letter, it is more interesting when we look at what it does not say — or what it should say if the critics were correct — rather than what it actually does say. What do we mean?
Mr Hoeffel is happy to quote that particular fact from the 1992 form, so why does he not quote from it more often? Why does he not quote from a part which says the DPI NGO application required support of the UN and it's charter? This would have been definitive proof that the Watchtower Society knew what they were doing. Yet he cannot make such a quote from the 1992 requirements because no such statement exists. Instead, he quotes from the 2004 requirements, then selectively quotes from the 1992 requirements afterwards. This gives the wrong impression that the current criteria was in place in 1992 — when we know it was not. Incidentally, we also notice that Mr Hoeffel got the name of Bethel's representative wrong.
Returning to the letter, we read:
“We are enclosing a brochure on the “The United Nations and Non-Governmental Organizations”, which will give you some information regarding the NGO relationship.”
Why does Mr Hoeffel not enclose a copy of the 1992 brochure, clearly showing that there was criteria to support the UN and it's charter in that year? Why did he not take the opportunity to confirm the point? Perhaps it is because the 1992 brochure said nothing of the sort. We know the 1994 brochure does not say such a thing, and therefore have no basis for thinking it was in the 1992 brochure either, if one was even sent.
Finally, Mr Hoeffel outlines the criteria for organizations who wish to become DPI NGOs:
“In addition, the criteria for NGOs to become associated with DPI include the following:
* that the NGO share the ideals of the UN Charter;
* operate solely on a not-for-profit basis;
* have a demonstrated interest in United Nations issues and a proven ability to reach large or specialized audiences, such as educators, media representatives, policy makers and the business community;
* have the commitment and means to conduct effective information programmes about UN activities by publishing newsletters, bulletins and pamphlets, organizing conferences, seminars and round tables; and enlisting the cooperation of the media.
We expect that you will share this information with your concerned colleagues, as we are unable to address the scores of duplicate requests regarding the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society that are being directed to our offices. Thank you for your interest in the work of the United Nations.
Department of Public Information”
Much of the criteria listed above is, again, not found in the initial application, nor the annual forms for representative passes. In other words, not in anything we are aware that the Watchtower Society was sent or signed during it's DPI NGO tenure. So here we have another misleading statement from the DPI.
Notice the statement that the NGO must “share the ideals of the UN Charter”. We discussed this briefly in a previous chapter, however it might now be appropriate to again ask, ‘In what way can true Christians share the ideals of the UN charter, and if the Society did agree to support the UN, would that compromise our beliefs?’