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The Watchtower Society as a United Nations NGO

a critical look at the conspiracy theory

In October 2001 the British newspaper The Guardian reported that the Watchtower Society was registered with the United Nations (UN) Department of Public Information (DPI) as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). As Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that the UN is the “disgusting thing” in Bible prophecy, the newspaper accused us of hypocrisy.

The brothers at Bethel explained that when they became registered with the UN as a NGO in 1992, the requirements were different from today. Also, that we registered simply to access the UN’s library facilities. They explained that the application form did not even require a signature, nor did it say anything compromising our Christian beliefs. However, recently the requirements changed, so the brothers ended the NGO status, and thanked The Guardian for bringing it to their attention.

Our critics, however, claim that the Watchtower Society lied and were secretly supporting the UN, printing pro-UN “propaganda”, and lying to cover it up. What really happened?

The facts about NGOs

To prove their case, apostates quote from UN resolutions which show that NGOs must support the work and charter of the United Nations. However, they are being dishonest. There are two types of NGOs at the UN. The first type are NGOs registered with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The other type of NGO is registered with the Department of Public Information (DPI). The Watchtower Society was of the latter. There is a big difference between the two.

A UN resolution states that ECOSOC NGOs must support the UN and it’s charter, however DPI NGOs do not have this requirement. Apostates lie and pretend that the resolution did apply to DPI NGOs when we can see it did not.

The paperwork

Most apostates lie and quote from the current version of the application form as “proof” that the Society agreed to support the UN. However, the form changed over the years. In Appendix A you can see an English copy of the old application form from 1991. You can see that the brothers were telling the truth. There is no place for a signature, and there is no mention of supporting the UN.

So, the apostates then started claiming that the Society had to “renew” their membership each year. Therefore, the Society must have completed the newer version of the application form in later years, which eventually did state that NGOs must support the UN – complete with a signature. Is this true?

No, they are lying again. The United Nations DPI did not start the yearly renewal process until one year after our registration ended, in 2002. The Society could not have signed the new version of the application form.

However, there was one other form that the Society did have to complete and sign every year. This is called the Accreditation Form. This form states its own purpose in these words:

“This form should be used to confirm your currently accredited representative and/or to authorize newly appointed representatives.”

The form was used to grant access passes to representatives of each NGO to gain entry to the UN’s library facilities. It also asked what subjects they are interested in researching. The Society usually answered with subjects such as Human Rights, varying from year to year.

In 2002 this form was changed to become the renewal form. Many apostates lie and use copies of the current 2005 form. However, before 2002 the form was only to declare the names of NGO representatives and areas of interest. It said nothing about renewing the application, nor of supporting the UN. You can see a copy, in English, of this original form in Appendix B.

Changing world of NGOs

Despite the evidence that changes happened, apostates lie and pretend that the requirements for NGOs did not change during the 1990s. Yet, this is not what the United Nations says.

In 1994 the UN published a brochure for new NGOs. In part, it states:

“A new relationship between the UN and NGOs is now being created. We have seen this new relationship begin to mature. NGOs are taking on important new responsibilities.”

Also the 53rd General Assembly of the United Nations which gathered in 1998 said:

“the United Nations has entered a new era in its relations with NGOs” In 1999 The Global Policy Forum said:

“The [DPI & ECOSOC] NGO world is changing very fast, in terms of activities and needs, and UN offices that relate to NGOs must be change-oriented and flexible.” Contrary to claims of apostates, it is widely known that the NGO world changed considerably.

Why become an NGO?

The brothers said that their reason for becoming a DPI NGO was to use “the extensive library of the United Nations”. This was to access “research material available on heath, ecological, and social problems”.

Some claim these are lies, that anyone could access the UN’s library before September 2001. The brothers acknowledge this, saying:

“Although critics may claim that access to the libraries could have been obtained without the need to register as an NGO, that is not what our research personnel were told at the time. They found it necessary to present an authorized pass to gain access to those specific areas, which were off limits to the public.”

Indeed, the brochure published in 1994 for new DPI NGOs (mentioned earlier) states that NGO status allows:

“use of the Dag Hammarskjold Library.”

This is the main library of UN. According to the UN, this library and others offer the following facilities:

As the brothers correctly state, to access all of these “specific areas” which are “off limits to the public” it is “necessary to present an authorized pass”. The brothers did not lie. They never claimed it was necessary to be a DPI NGO to access the library itself, but only to specific areas and facilities. We even have records of the brothers attending a conference on the Holocaust held for DPI NGOs. The Society did not claim they applied for a mere “library card” as apostates claim. The brothers were telling the truth.

Letter from the UN

The UN complicated matters by writing a vague and misleading open letter about the Watchtower Society’s DPI NGO status. In part it said:

“...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 programs ... about UN activities.”

This seems very clear. However, this statement is misleading because it talks of current NGO requirements. As we saw earlier, the original forms said nothing about “support and respect of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations”.

Imagine you join a Video-rental store. You completed a membership form, entitling you to rent any video you wish, and it doesn’t even require a signature. Then, 10 years later, the video store says “By the way, even though it wasn’t on your membership form, and you haven’t signed anything, you have agreed to rent pornographic videos regularly.” Pardon? No, nobody can claim you agreed to do anything if you did not do so. Yet this is exactly the situation the Watchtower Society finds itself in with the UN’s DPI and their changing requirements.

The letter continues, saying:

“The principal purpose of [DPI NGOs] is the redissemination of information in order to increase public understanding of the principles, activities and achievements of the United Nations and its Agencies.”

Now the UN quotes 1992 requirements. Why do they not do so more often? Why do they not quote the part that says DPI NGOs must support the UN and it’s charter? The answer is simple - no such words exist in the 1992 requirements. Instead, the UN stitches together 2004 and 1992 requirements to give a false impression. The Watchtower Society has no problem with the original requirements, because we have tried to “increase public understanding of ... the United Nations” for decades. The UN plays an important role in the fulfillment of Bible prophecy. Even during the 1940s, before the UN was formed, the Watchtower magazine taught that the former League of Nations would return in a new form. We have spread information about the UN for over six decades!

Why the UN should write a misleading letter about its own documents is unknown. Perhaps it was simply a mistake. Interestingly, the Global Policy Forum published a report on the DPI and ECOSOC offices which stated:

“...its management of documents in the NGO Resource Center tends to be chaotic. Serious problems exist in both offices... NGOs also find the application procedures for new accreditation in both offices tend to be bureaucratic and paper-bound. Staff have lost or mislaid accreditation folders and have been inflexible in applying rules for evaluation.”

A Christian view of the UN

The Watchtower of October 1st, 1995 clearly describes how we should view the United Nations:

“In Bible prophecy, human governments are often symbolized by wild beasts. (Daniel 7:6, 12, 23; 8:20-22) Hence, for many decades the Watchtower magazine has identified the wild beasts of Revelation chapters 13 and 17 with today’s worldly governments. This includes the United Nations, which is depicted in Revelation chapter 17 as a scarlet-colored beast with seven heads and ten horns.

“However, this Scriptural position does not condone any form of disrespect toward governments or their officials. The Bible clearly states: “Let every soul be in subjection to the superior authorities, for there is no authority except by God; the existing authorities stand placed in their relative positions by God. Therefore he who opposes the authority has taken a stand against the arrangement of God; those who have taken a stand against it will receive judgment to themselves.”–Romans 13:1, 2.

“Accordingly, Jehovah’s Witnesses, who are maintaining strict political neutrality, do not interfere with human governments. They never foment revolution or participate in acts of civil disobedience. Rather, they recognize that some form of government is necessary to maintain law and order in human society.–Romans 13:1-7; Titus 3:1.

“Jehovah’s Witnesses view the United Nations organization as they do other governmental bodies of the world. They acknowledge that the United Nations continues to exist by God’s permission. In harmony with the Bible, Jehovah’s Witnesses render due respect to all governments and obey them as long as such obedience does not require that they sin against God.–Acts 5:29.”

Propaganda?

Some apostates claim that articles published in the Awake! in the 1990s were published as part of the “secret deals” with the UN. Indeed, the Awake! did publish articles about the UN during the time of the NGO membership. They claim these were “propaganda” pieces to promote the UN and their agenda. Is this really true? The following quotes are from the very articles it is claimed are propaganda which promotes the UN as a world government. Is that what they really say?

From an article on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

“Just as the Bible shows that the Creator is the source of the faculties that underlie human rights, it also informs us that he is the source of a world government that ensures them. This heavenly government is invisible but real. In fact, millions of people, perhaps unwittingly, pray for this world government when saying in what is commonly called the Lord’s Prayer: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.” (Matthew 6:10) The God-appointed Head of that Kingdom government is the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.–Isaiah 9:6. This world government will succeed in creating a truly global and lasting human rights culture by, among other things, eliminating war forever.

From an article on Religious Intolerance:

“The Bible promises that soon mankind will be united in pure worship of the one true God. This unity will result in a true worldwide fraternity, or brotherhood, where respect for others will prevail. Humans will no longer be plagued by ignorance, as God’s Kingdom will teach people Jehovah’s ways, thus satisfying their intellectual, emotional, and spiritual needs. (Isaiah 11:9; 30:21; 54:13) Real equality and liberty will cover the earth. (2 Corinthians 3:17) By acquiring an accurate understanding of God’s purposes for mankind, you can counter ignorance and intolerance.”

From an article on Drugs:

“But will the governments of the world band together to eradicate this global scourge? The results so far have not been encouraging. The Bible, however, points to a heavenly government that will transcend national boundaries as the definitive solution. The Bible assures us that God’s Kingdom, ruled by Jesus Christ, will last “forever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15) Hence, under God’s Kingdom, divine education will ensure that the demand for drugs will disappear. (Isaiah 54:13) And the social and emotional problems that now provide fertile soil for drug abuse will be gone forever.–Psalm 55:22; 72:12; Micah 4:4.

Without exception, every article featuring the UN shows how God’s Kingdom will succeed where the UN has failed. Furthermore, the Awake! has featured articles on the UN before the NGO status and has featured such articles after the NGO status ended. Twelve years before the NGO status began, an article said the “goals of the United Nations organization are commendable”, and that “a long list of conciliation and mediation measures shows that the United Nations have been successful in cases where the ‘super powers’ have not been directly involved.” Additionally, “Much has been done in the way of disaster relief” and a “committee on Crime Prevention and Control has also done fine work.” Then in 1974 an article reported that underdeveloped “countries sponsored a special session of the [UN] General Assembly” and then quoted from the Secretary-General.

Likewise, four years after the NGO status ended, an article talked of the UN’s International Year of Mountains. Another article of the same year stated “world leaders have made commendable efforts to curb pollution... Starting with the UN Conference on Human Development”. In 2003 an article talked of the World Food Summit and stated, “Commendably, some progress has been made.” One issue even featured a picture of Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary-General along with his quote about the role of mothers as educators.

No doubt if these articles had been published between 1992 and 2001 when the Society was an NGO, apostates would be claiming they are “proof” of us printing “pro-UN propaganda”. The real answer is that the Awake! is simply keeping Jehovah’s Witnesses and the public informed of international issues, while showing how God’s Kingdom is the only permanent solution to Mankind’s problems. Why mention the UN at all?

Many apostates from the USA ask, that if there is no conspiracy, then why have mentions of the UN increased in the literature? The reason for the increase is that the Awake! has become the most international magazine on earth. Back in the 1970s there were between 400 and 600 references to America and American organizations every year in the Awake. In 2001, that number had fallen to just over 200 per year. Meanwhile, references to other countries and international organizations increased from about 1,500 to about 2,250 per year. This includes an increase in references to the United Nations from about 20 or 30 per year, to around 80.

Do not forget that of all the times the Awake! mentioned the UN, some of those times were negative, other times trivial. However, every one of the more than 2,000 times the Awake mentioned God’s Kingdom between 1970 and 2001, it was showing it to be mankind’s only hope for peace.

Self-Condemnation?

One argument is that the Watchtower Society has condemned itself by becoming an NGO. Apostates compare the situation to joining the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), which is a gymnasium and lodging place popular in many countries. The Society says joining such a place amounts to becoming an integral part of that organization, which means interfaith and apostasy. Thus, some argue that if membership of a mere gymnasium run by the YMCA is apostasy, then becoming a NGO must be apostasy too.

Is this true? No. The United Nations itself states:

“association of NGOs with the DPI does not constitute their incorporation into the United Nations system”

So while joining the YMCA incorporates you into that organization, becoming an NGO does not do the same – no, not even if the Society wanted to be, they could not become part of the UN.

Also, the YMCA is a false religious organization. The Bible says to “get out from among” false religion, but advises us to “legally establish” the good news with governments and be in subjection to them. Using government facilities to further the preaching work cannot be compared to associating ourselves with false religions. However, some have pointed out that an old issue of the Watchtower condemned the Catholics for having 24 NGOs at the UN. What they fail to mention, though, is that these are ECOSOC NGOs which actively promote the UN through politics and consult the UN on it’s policies. They are not NGOs registered with the DPI, as was the Society.

The Verdict

Some proud individuals have twisted the facts surrounding Bethel’s association with the UN’s Department of Public Information (DPI). Their goal is to discredit Jehovah’s Witnesses and draw away weaker ones through doubt. Their arguments are deeply flawed and rely on much of the evidence being hidden.

We are not guilty of printing “propaganda” for the UN. We are not guilty of agreeing to “support the UN”, nor did we become “part of the UN” or a “UN member”. We signed nothing that conflicts with our Christian beliefs. At the time, our DPI NGO status was entirely appropriate until the requirements changed and we withdrew. Jehovah’s Witnesses as an organization are not guilty of spiritual adultery, nor of lying and scheming to hide it. Those who promote this crazy conspiracy theory are dishonest, use selective evidence, and hide the facts they don't want you to know.

More detailed information on this subject is available on our website, in English, at www.jehovahsjudgment.co.uk/watchtower-un-ngo


Appendix A: The 1991 DPI NGO application form

Page 1 of 4 Page 2 of 4 Page 3 of 4 Page 4 of 4

Appendix B: Year 2000 DPI NGO accreditation form

2000 Accreditation Form, page 1 of 2 2000 Accreditation Form, page 2 of 2


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